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Dante's Purgatorio: Canto VI
Dante’s Inquiry on Prayers for the Dead. Sordello. Italy.
Whene'er is broken up the game of Zara,
He who has lost remains behind despondent,
The throws repeating, and in sadness learns;
The people with the other all depart;
One goes in front, and one behind doth pluck him, 5
And at his side one brings himself to mind;
He pauses not, and this and that one hears;
They crowd no more to whom his hand he stretches,
And from the throng he thus defends himself.
Even such was I in that dense multitude, 10
Turning to them this way and that my face,
And, promising, I freed myself therefrom.
There was the Aretine, who from the arms
Untamed of Ghin di Tacco had his death,
And he who fleeing from pursuit was drowned. 15
There was imploring with his hands outstretched
Frederick Novello, and that one of Pisa
Who made the good Marzucco seem so strong.
I saw Count Orso; and the soul divided
By hatred and by envy from its body, 20
As it declared, and not for crime committed,
Pierre de la Brosse I say; and here provide
While still on earth the Lady of Brabant,
So that for this she be of no worse flock!
As soon as I was free from all those shades 25
Who only prayed that some one else may pray,
So as to hasten their becoming holy,
Began I: "It appears that thou deniest,
O light of mine, expressly in some text,
That orison can bend decree of Heaven; 30
And ne'ertheless these people pray for this.
Might then their expectation bootless be?
Or is to me thy saying not quite clear?"
And he to me: "My writing is explicit,
And not fallacious is the hope of these, 35
If with sane intellect 'tis well regarded;
For top of judgment doth not vail itself,
Because the fire of love fulfils at once
What he must satisfy who here installs him.
And there, where I affirmed that proposition, 40
Defect was not amended by a prayer,
Because the prayer from God was separate.
Verily, in so deep a questioning
Do not decide, unless she tell it thee,
Who light 'twixt truth and intellect shall be. 45
I know not if thou understand; I speak
Of Beatrice; her shalt thou see above,
Smiling and happy, on this mountain's top."
And I: "Good Leader, let us make more haste,
For I no longer tire me as before; 50
And see, e'en now the hill a shadow casts."
"We will go forward with this day" he answered,
"As far as now is possible for us;
But otherwise the fact is than thou thinkest.
Ere thou art up there, thou shalt see return 55
Him, who now hides himself behind the hill,
So that thou dost not interrupt his rays.
But yonder there behold! a soul that stationed
All, all alone is looking hitherward;
It will point out to us the quickest way." 60
We came up unto it; O Lombard soul,
How lofty and disdainful thou didst bear thee,
And grand and slow in moving of thine eyes!
Nothing whatever did it say to us,
But let us go our way, eying us only 65
After the manner of a couchant lion;
Still near to it Virgilius drew, entreating
That it would point us out the best ascent;
And it replied not unto his demand,
But of our native land and of our life 70
It questioned us; and the sweet Guide began:
"Mantua,"--and the shade, all in itself recluse,
Rose tow'rds him from the place where first it was,
Saying: "O Mantuan, I am Sordello
Of thine own land!" and one embraced the other. 75
Ah! servile Italy, grief's hostelry!
A ship without a pilot in great tempest!
No Lady thou of Provinces, but brothel!
That noble soul was so impatient, only
At the sweet sound of his own native land, 80
To make its citizen glad welcome there;
And now within thee are not without war
Thy living ones, and one doth gnaw the other
Of those whom one wall and one fosse shut in!
Search, wretched one, all round about the shores 85
Thy seaboard, and then look within thy bosom,
If any part of thee enjoyeth peace!
What boots it, that for thee Justinian
The bridle mend, if empty be the saddle?
Withouten this the shame would be the less. 90
Ah! people, thou that oughtest to be devout,
And to let Caesar sit upon the saddle,
If well thou hearest what God teacheth thee,
Behold how fell this wild beast has become,
Being no longer by the spur corrected, 95
Since thou hast laid thy hand upon the bridle.
O German Albert! who abandonest
Her that has grown recalcitrant and savage,
And oughtest to bestride her saddle-bow,
May a just judgment from the stars down fall 100
Upon thy blood, and be it new and open,
That thy successor may have fear thereof;
Because thy father and thyself have suffered,
By greed of those transalpine lands distrained,
The garden of the empire to be waste. 105
Come and behold Montecchi and Cappelletti,
Monaldi and Fillippeschi, careless man!
Those sad already, and these doubt-depressed!
Come, cruel one! come and behold the oppression
Of thy nobility, and cure their wounds, 110
And thou shalt see how safe is Santafiore!
Come and behold thy Rome, that is lamenting,
Widowed, alone, and day and night exclaims,
"My Caesar, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Come and behold how loving are the people; 115
And if for us no pity moveth thee,
Come and be made ashamed of thy renown!
And if it lawful be, O Jove Supreme!
Who upon earth for us wast crucified,
Are thy just eyes averted otherwhere? 120
Or preparation is 't, that, in the abyss
Of thine own counsel, for some good thou makest
From our perception utterly cut off?
For all the towns of Italy are full
Of tyrants, and becometh a Marcellus 125
Each peasant churl who plays the partisan!
My Florence! well mayst thou contented be
With this digression, which concerns thee not,
Thanks to thy people who such forethought take!
Many at heart have justice, but shoot slowly, 130
That unadvised they come not to the bow,
But on their very lips thy people have it!
Many refuse to bear the common burden;
But thy solicitous people answereth
Without being asked, and crieth: "I submit." 135
Now be thou joyful, for thou hast good reason;
Thou affluent, thou in peace, thou full of wisdom!
If I speak true, the event conceals it not.
Athens and Lacedaemon, they who made
The ancient laws, and were so civilized, 140
Made towards living well a little sign
Compared with thee, who makest such fine-spun
Provisions, that to middle of November
Reaches not what thou in October spinnest.
How oft, within the time of thy remembrance, 145
Laws, money, offices, and usages
Hast thou remodelled, and renewed thy members?
And if thou mind thee well, and see the light,
Thou shalt behold thyself like a sick woman,
Who cannot find repose upon her down, 150
But by her tossing wardeth off her pain.
1 - 1
Zara was a game of chance, played with three dice.
13 - 13
Messer Benincasa of Arezzo, who, while Vicario del Podestà, or Judge, in Siena, sentenced to death a brother and a nephew of Ghino di Tacco for highway robbery. He was afterwards an Auditor of the Ruota in Rome, where, says Benvenuto, “one day as he sat in the tribunal, in the midst of a thousand people, Ghino di Tacco appeared like Scaevola, terrible and nothing daunted; and having seized Benincasa, he plunged his dagger into his heart, leaped from the balcony, and disappeared in the midst of the crowd stupefied with terror.”
14 - 14
This terrible Ghino di Tacco was a nobleman of Asinalunga in the territory of Siena; one of those splendid fellows, who, from some real or imaginary wrong done them, take to the mountains and highways to avenge themselves on society. He is the true type of the traditionary stage bandit, the magnanimous melodramatic hero, who utters such noble sentiments and commits such atrocious deeds.
Benvenuto is evidently dazzled and fascinated by him, and has to throw two Romans into the scale to do him justice. His account is as follows: –
“Reader, I would have thee know that Ghino was not, as some write, so infamous as to be a great assassin and highway robber. For this Ghino di Tacco was a wonderful man, tall, muscular, black-haired, and strong; as agile as Scaevola, as prudent and liberal as Papirius Cursor. He was of the nobles of La Fratta, in the county of Siena; who, being forcibly banished by the Counts of Santafiore, held the noble castle of Radicofani against the Pope. With his marauders he made many and great prizes, so that no one could go safely to Rome or elsewhere through those regions. Yet hardly any one fell into his hands, who did not go away contented, and love and praise him..... If a merchant were taken prisoner, Ghino asked him kindly how much he was able to give him; and if he said five hundred pieces of gold, he kept three hundred for himself, and gave back two hundred, saying, 'I wish you to go on with your business and to thrive.' If it were a rich and fat priest, he kept his handsome mule, and gave him a wretched horse. And if it were a poor scholar, going to study, he gave him some money, and exhorted him to good conduct and proficiency in learning.”
Boccaccio, Decameron, X. 2, relates the following adventure of Ghino di Tacco and the Abbot of Cligni.
“Ghino di Tacco was a man famous for his bold and insolent robberies, who being banished from Siena, and at utter enmity with the Counts di Santa Fiore, caused the town of Radicofani to rebel against the Church, and lived there whilst his gang robbed all who passed that way. Now when Boniface the Eighth was Pope, there came to court the Abbot of Cligni, reputed to be one of the richest prelates in the world, and having debauched his stomach with high living, he was advised by his physicians to go to the baths of Siena, as a certain cure. And, having leave from the Pope, he set out with a goodly train of coaches, carriages, horses, and servants, paying no respect to the rumors concerning this robber. Ghino was apprised of his coming, and took his measures accordingly; when, without the loss of a man, he enclosed the Abbot and his whole retinue in a narrow defile, where it was impossible for them to escape. This being done, he sent one of his principal fellows to the Abbot with his service, requesting the favor of him to alight and visit him at his castle. Upon which the Abbot replied, with a great deal of passion, that he had nothing to do with Ghino, but that his resolution was to go on, and he would see who dared to stop him. 'My Lord,' quoth the man, with a great deal of humility, 'you are now in a place where all excommunications are kicked out of doors; then please to oblige my master in this thing; it will be your best way.' Whilst they were talking together, the place was surrounded with highwaymen, and the Abbot, seeing himself a prisoner, went with a great deal of ill will with the fellow to the castle, followed by his whole retinue, where he dismounted, and was lodged, by Ghino's appointment, in a poor, dark little room, whilst every other person was well accommodated according to his respective station, and the carriages and all the horses taken exact care of. This being done, Ghino went to the Abbot, and said, 'My Lord, Ghino, whose guest you are, requests the favor of you to let him know whither you are going, and upon what account?' The Abbot was wise enough to lay all his haughtiness aside for the present, and satisfied him with regard to both. Ghino went away at hearing this, and, resolving to cure him without a bath, he ordered a great fire to be kept constantly in his room, coming to him no more till next morning, when he brought him two slices of toasted bread, in a fine napkin, and a large glass of his own rich white wine, saying to him, 'My lord, when Ghino was young, he studied physic, and he declares that the very best medicine for a pain in the stomach is what he has now provided for you, of which these things are to be the beginning. Then take them, and have a good heart.' The Abbot, whose hunger was much greater than was his will to joke, ate the bread, though with a great deal of indignation, and drank the glass of wine; after which he began to talk a little arrogantly, asking many questions, and demanding more particularly to see this Ghino. But Ghino passed over part of what he said as vain, and the rest he answered very courteously, declaring that Ghino meant to make him a visit very soon, and then left him He saw him no more till next morning, when he brought him as much bread and wine as before, and in the same manner. And thus he continued during many days, till he found the Abbot had eaten some dried beans, which he had left purposely in the chamber, when he inquired of him, as from Ghino, how he found his stomach? The Abbot replied, 'I should be well enough were I out of this man's clutches. There is nothing I want now so much as to eat, for his medicines have had such an effect upon me, that I am fit to die with hunger.” Ghino, then, having furnished a room with the Abbot's own goods, and provided an elegant entertainment, to which many people of the town were invited, as well as the Abbot's own domestics, went the next morning to him, and said, 'My Lord, now you find yourself recovered, it is time for you to quit this infirmary.' So he took him by the hand, and led him into the chamber, leaving him there with his own people; and as he went out to give orders about the feast, the Abbot was giving an account how he had led his life in that place, whilst they declared that they had been used by Ghino with all possible respect. When the time came, they sat down and were nobly entertained, but still without Ghino's making himself known. But after the Abbot had continued some days in that manner, Ghino had all the goods and furniture brought into a large room, and the horses were likewise led into the court-yard which was under it, when he inquired how his Lordship now found himself, or whether he was yet able to ride. The Abbot made answer that he was strong enough, and his stomach perfectly well, and that he only wanted to quit this man. Ghino then brought him into the room where all his goods were, showing him also to the window, that he might take a view of his horses, when he said, 'My Lord, you must understand it was no evil disposition, but his being driven a poor exile from his own house, and persecuted with many enemies, that forced Ghino di Tacco, whom I am, to be a robber upon the highways, and an enemy to the court of Rome. You seem, however, to be a person of honor; as, therefore, I have cured you of your pain in your stomach, I do not mean to treat you as I would do another person that should fall into my hands that is, to take what I please, but I would have you consider my necessity, and then give me what you will yourself. Here is all that belongs to you; the horses you may see out of the window: take either part or the whole, just as you are disposed, and go or stay, as is most agreeable to you.“ The Abbot was surprised to hear a highwayman talk in so courteous a manner, which did not a little please him; so, turning all his former passion and resentment into kindness and goodwill, he ran with a heart full of friendship to embrace him: 'I protest solemnly, that to procure the friendship of such an one as I take you to be, I would undergo more than what you have already made me suffer. Cursed be that evil fortune which has thrown you into this way of life!” So, taking only a few of his most necessary things, and also of his horses, and leaving all the rest, he came back to Rome. The Pope had heard of the Abbot's being a prisoner, and though he was much concerned at it, yet, upon seeing him, he inquired what benefit he had received from the baths? The Abbot replied, with a smile, 'Holy Father, I found a physician much nearer, who has cured me excellently well'; and he told him the manner of it, which made the Pope laugh heartily, when, going on with his story, and moved with a truly generous spirit, he requested of his Holiness one favor. The Pope, imagining he would ask something else, freely consented to grant it. Then said the Abbot, 'Holy Father, what I mean to require is, that you would bestow a free pardon on Ghino di Tacco, my doctor, because, of all people of worth that I ever met with, he certainly is most to be esteemed, and the damage he does is more the fault of fortune than himself. Change but his condition, and give him something to live upon, according to his rank and station, and I dare say you will have the same opinion of him that I have.' The Pope, being of a noble spirit, and a great encourager of merit, promised to do so, if he was such a person as he reported, and, in the mean time, gave letters of safe-conduct for his coming thither. Upon that assurance, Ghino came to court, when the Pope was soon convinced of his worth, and reconciled to him, giving him the priory of an hospital, and creating him a knight. And there he continued as a friend and loyal servant to the Holy Church, and to the Abbot of Cligni, as long as he lived.“
15 - 15
Cione de' Tarlati fo Pietramala, who, according to the Ottimo, after the fight at Bibbiena, being pursued by the enemy, endeavored to ford the Arno, and was drowned. Others interpret the line differently, making him the pursuing party. But as he was an Aretine, and the Aretines were routed in this battle, the other rendering is doubtless the true one.
17 - 17
Federigo Novello, son of Ser Guido Novello of Casentino, slain by one of the Bostoli.”A good youth,“ says Benvenuto, ”and therefore Dante makes mention of him.“
The Pisan who gave occasion to Marzucco to show his fortitude was Marzucco's own son, Farinata degli Scoringiani. He was slain by Beccio da Caproni, or, as Benvenuto asserts, declaring that Boccaccio told him so, by Count Ugolino. His father, Marzucco, who had become a Franciscan friar, showed no resentment at the murder, but went with the other friars to his son's funeral, and in humility kissed the hand of the murderer, extorting from him the exclamation, ”Thy patience overcomes my obduracy.“ This was an example of Christian forgiveness which even that vindictive age applauded.
19 - 19
Count Orso was a son of Napoleone d'Acerbaja, and was slain by his brother-in-law (or uncle) Alberto.
22 - 22
Pierre de la Brosse was the secretary of Philip de Bel of France, and suffered at his hands a fate similar to that which befell Pier della Vigna at the court of Frederick the Second See Inf. XIII. Note 58. Being accused by Marie de Brabant, the wife of Philip, of having written love-letters to her, he was condemned to death by the King in 1276. Benvenuto thinks that during his residence in Paris Dante learned the truth of the innocence of Pierre de la Brosse.
30 - 30
In AEneid, VI.: ”Cease to hope that the decrees of the gods are to be changed by prayers.“
37 - 37
The apex juris, or top of judgment; the supreme decree of God. Measure for Measure, II. 2: –
”How would you be, If He who is the top of judgment should But judge you as you are?“
51 - 51
Virgil's Bucolics, Eclogue I.: ”And now the high tops of the villages smoke afar, and larger shadows fall from the lofty mountains.“
74 - 74
This has generally been supposed to be Sordello the Troubadour. But is it he? Is it Sordello the Troubadour, or Sordello the Podestà@ of Verona? or are they one and the same person? After much research, it is not easy to decide the question, and to
”Single out Sordello, compassed murkily about With ravage of six long sad hundred years.“
Yet as far as it is possible to learn it from various conflicting authorities,
Who will may hear Sordello's story told.”
Dante, in his treatise De Volgari Eloquio, I. 15, speaks of Sordello of Mantua as “a man so choice in his language, that not only in his poems, but in whatever way he spoke, he abandoned the dialect of his province.” But here there is no question of the Provençal in which Sordello the Troubadour wrote, but only of Italian dialects in comparison with the universal and cultivated Italian, which Dante says “belongs to all the Italian cities, and seems to belong exclusively to none.” In the same treatise, II. 13, he mentions a certain Grotto of Mantua as the author of many good songs; and this Gotto is supposed to be Sordello as Sordello was born at Goïto in the province of Mantua. But would Dante in the same treatise allude to the same person under different names? Is not this rather the Sordel de Goi, mentioned by Raynouard, Poésies des Troub., V. 445?
In the old Provençal manuscript quoted by Raynourard, Poésies des Troub., V. 444, Sordello's biography is thus given: –
“Sordello was a Mantuan of Sirier, son of a poor knight, whose name was Sir El Cort. And he delighted in learning songs and in making them, and rivalled the good men of the court as far as possible, and wrote love-songs and satires. And he came to the court of the Count of Saint Boniface, and the Count honored him greatly, and by way of pastime (a forma de solatz) he fell in love with the wife of the Count, and she with him. And it happened that the Count quarrelled with her brothers, and became estranged from her. And her brothers, Sir Icellis and Sir Albrics, persuaded Sir Sordello to run away with her; and he came to live with them in great content. And afterwards he went into Provence, and received great honor from all good men, and from the Count and Countess, who gave him a good castle and a gentlewoman for his wife.”
Citing this passage, Millot, Hist. Litt. des Troub., II. 80, goes on to say: –
“This is all that our manuscripts tell us of Sordello. According to Agnelli and Platina, historians of Mantua, he was of the house of the Visconti of that city; valiant in deeds of arms, famous in jousts and tournaments, he won the love of Beatrice, daughter of Ezzelin da Romano, Lord of the Macra Trevigian, and married her; he governed Mantua as Podestà and Captain General; and though son-in-law of the tyrant Ezzelin, he always opposed him, being a great lover of justice.
”We find these facts cited by Crescimbeni, who says that Sordello was the lord of Goïto; but as they are not applicable to our poet, we presume they refer to a warrior of the same name, and perhaps of a different family.
“Among the pieces of Sordello, thirty-four in number, there are some fifteen songs of gallantry, though Nostrodamus says that all his pieces turn only upon philosophic subjects.”
Nostrodamus's account, as given by Crescimbeni, Volgar Poesia II. 105, is as follows: –
“Sordello was a Mantuan poet, who surpassed in Provençal song Calvo, Folchetto of Marseilles, Lanfranco Cicala, Percival Doria, and all the other Genoese and Tuscan poets, who took far greater delight in our Provençal tongue, on account of its sweetness, than in their own maternal language. This poet was very studious, and exceeding eager to know all things, and as much as any one of his nation excellent in learning as well as in understanding and in prudence. He wrote several beautiful songs, not indeed of love, for not one of that kind is found among his works, but on philosophic subjects. Raymond Belinghieri, the last Count of Provence of that name, in the last days of his life, (the poet being then but fifteen years of age,) on account of the excellence of his poetry and the rare invention shown in his productions, took him into his service, as Pietro di Castelnuovo, himself a Provençal poet, informs us. He also wrote various satires in the same language, and among others one in which he reproves all the Christian princes; and it is composed in the form of a funeral song on the death of Blancasso.”
In the Hist. Litt. de la France, XIX. 452, Eméric- David, after discussing the subject at length, says: –
“Who then is this Sordello, haughty and superb, like a lion in repose, this Sordello, who, in embracing Virgil, gives rise to this sudden explosion of the patriotic sentiments of Dante? Is it a singer of love and gallantry? Impossible. This Sordello is the old Podestà of Mantua, as decided a Ghibelline as Dante himself; and Dante utters before him sentiments which he well knows the zealous Ghibelline will share. And what still more confirms our judgment is, that Sordello embraces the knees of Virgil, exclaiming, 'o glory of the Latians,' &c. In this admiration, in this love of the Latin tongue, we still se the Podestà, the writer of Latin; we do not see the Troubadour.”
Benvenuto calls Sordello a “noble and prudent knight,” and “a man of singular virtue in the world, though of impenitent life,” and tells a story he has heard of him and Cunizza, but does not vouch for it.“Ezzelino,” he says, “had a sister greatly addicted to the pleasures of love, concerning whom much is said in the ninth Canto of Paradiso. She, being enamored of Sordello, had cautiously contrived that he should visit her at night by a back door near the kitchen of her palace at Verona. And as there was in the street a dirty slough in which the swine wallowed, and puddles of filthy water, so that the place would seem in no way suspicious, he caused himself to be carried by her servant to the door where Cunizza stood ready to receive him. Ezzelino having heard of this, one evening, disguised as a servant, carried Sordello, and brought him back. Which done, he discovered himself to Sordello, and said, 'Enough; abstain in future from doing so foul a deed in so foul a place.' Sordello, terrified, humbly besought pardon; promising never more to return to his sister. But the accursed Cunizza again enticed him into his former error. Wherefore, fearing Ezzelino, the most formidable man of his time, he left the city. But Ezzelino, as some say, afterwards had him put to death.”
He says, moreover, that Dante places Sordello alone and separate from the others, like Saladin in Inf. IV. 129, on account of his superiority, or because he wrote a book entitled “The Treasure of Treasures”; and that Sordello was a Mantuan of the village of Goïto, – “beautiful of person, valiant of spirit, gentle of manner.”
Finally, Quadrio, Storia d'ogni Poesia, II. 130, easily cuts the knot which no one can untie; but unfortunately he does not give his authorities. He writes: –
“Sordello, native of Goïto, (Sordel de Goi,) a village in the Mantuan territory, was born in 1184, and was the son of a poor knight named Elcort.” He then repeats the story of Count Saint Boniface, and of Sordello's reception by Count Raymond in Provence, and adds: “Having afterwards returned to Italy, he governed Mantua with the title of Regent and Captain-General; and was opposed to the tyrant Ezzelino, being a great lover of justice, as Agnelli writes. Finally he died, very old and full of honor, about 1280. He wrote not only in Provençal, but also in our own common Italian tongue; and he was one of those poets who avoided the dialect of his own province, and used the good, choice language, as Dante affirms in his book of Volgar Eloquenza.”
If the reader is not already sufficiently confused, he can easily be come so by turning to Tiraboschi, Storia della Lett. Ital., IV. 360, where he will find the matter thoroughly discussed, in sixteen solid pages, by the patient librarian of Modena, who finally gives up in despair and calls on the Royal Academy for help;
“But that were overbold; – Who would has heard Sordello's story told.”
76 - 76
Before Dante's time Fra Guittone had said, in his famous Letter to the Florentines: “O queen of cities, court of justice, school of wisdom, mirror of life, and mould of manners, whose sons were kings, reigning in every land, or were above all others, who art no longer queen but servant, oppressed and subject to tribute! no longer court of justice, but cave of robbers, and school of all folly and madness, mirror of death and mould of felony, whose great strength is stripped and broken, whose beautiful face is covered with foulness and shame; whose sons are no longer kings but vile and wretched servants, held, wherever they go, in opprobrium and derision by others.”
See also Petrarca, Canzone XVI., Lady Dacre's Tr., beginning: –
O my own Italy! though words are vain The mortal wounds to close, Unnumbered, that thy beauteous bosom stain, Yet may it soothe my pain To sigh for the Tiber's woes, And Arno's wrongs, as on Po's saddened shore Sorrowing I wander and my numbers pour.“
And Filicaja's sonnet: –
”Italy! Italy! thou who'rt doomed to wear The fatal gift of beauty, and possess The dower funest of infinite wretchedness, Written upon thy forehead by despair; Ah! would that thou wert stronger, or less fair, That they might fear thee more, or love thee less, Who in the splendor of thy loveliness Seem wasting, yet to mortal combat dare! Then from the Alps I should not see descending Such torrents of armed men, nor Gallic horde Drinking the wave of Po, distained with gore, Nor should I see thee girded with a sword Not thine, and with the stranger's arm contending, Victor or vanquished, slave forevermore.“
89 - 89
Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. XLIV., says: –
”The vain titles of the victories of Justinian are crumbled into dust; but the name of the legislator is inscribed on a fair and everlasting monument. Under his reign, and by his care, the civil jurisprudence was digested in the immortal works of the Code, the PANDECTS, and the INSTITUTES; the public reason of the Romans has been silently or studiously transfused into the domestic institutions of Europe, and the laws of Justinian still command the respect or obedience of independent nations. Wise or fortunate is the prince who connects his own reputation with the honor and interest of a perpetual order of men.“
92 - 92
Luke xii. 17: ”Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.“
And in the Vision of Piers Ploughman, 563: –
”Reddite Caesari, quod God, That Caesari bifalleth, Et quae sunt Dei Deo, Or ellis ye don ille.“
97 - 97
Albert, son of the Emperor Rudolph, was the second of the house of Hapsburg who bore the title of King of the Romans. He was elected in 1298, but never went to Italy to be crowned. He came to an untimely and violent death, by the hand of his nephew John, in 1308. This is the judgment of Heaven to which Dante alludes.
His successor was Henry of Luxembourg, Dante's ”divine and triumphant Henry,“ who, in 1311, was crowned at Milan with the Iron Crown of Lombardy il Sacro Chiodo as it is sometimes called, from the plate of iron with which the crown is lined, being, according to tradition, made from a nail of the Cross. In 1312, he was again crowned with the Golden Crown at Rome, and died in the following year. ”But the end of his career drew on,“ says Milman, Latin Christ., VI. 520. ”He had now advanced, at the head of an army which his enemies dared not meet in the field, towards Siena. He rode still, seemingly in full vigor and activity. But the fatal air of Rome had smitten his strength. A carbuncle had formed under his knee; injudicious remedies inflamed his vitiated blood. He died at Buonconvento, in the midst of his awe-struck army, on the festival of St. Bartholomew. Rumors of foul practice, of course, spread abroad; a Dominican monk was said to have administered poison in the Sacrament, which he received with profound devotion. His body was carried in sad state, and splendidly interred at Pisa.
“So closed that empire, in which, if the more factious and vulgar Ghibellines beheld their restoration to their native city, their triumph, their revenge, their sole administration of public affairs, the nobler Ghibellinism of Dante foresaw the establishment of a great universal monarchy necessary to the peace and civilization of mankind. The ideal sovereign of Dante's famous treatise on Monarchy was Henry of Luxembourg. Neither Dante nor his time can be understood but through this treatise. The attempt of the Pope to raise himself to a great pontifical monarchy had manifestly ignominiously failed: the Ghibelline is neither amazed nor distressed at this event. It is now the turn of the Imperialist to unfold his noble vision. 'An universal monarchy is absolutely necessary for the welfare of the world'; and this is part of his singular reasoning: 'Peace,' (says the weary exile, the man worn out in cruel strife, the wanderer from city to city, each of those cities more fiercely torn by faction than the last,) 'universal Peace is the first blessing of mankind. The angels sang, not riches or pleasures, but peace on earth: peace the Lord bequeathed to his disciples. For peace One must rule. Mankind is most like God when at unity, for God is One; therefore under a monarchy. Where there is parity there must be strife; where strife, judgment; the judge must be a third party intervening with supreme authority.' Without monarchy can be no justice, nor even liberty; for Dante's monarch is no arbitrary despot, but a constitutional sovereign; he is the Roman law impersonated in the Emperor; a monarch who should leave all the nations, all the free Italian cities, in possession of their rights and old municipal institutions.”
106 - 106
The two noble families of Verona, the Montagues and Capulets, whose quarrels have been made familiar to the English-speaking world by Romeo and Juliet: –
“Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word, By thee, old Capulet and Montague, Have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets, And made Verona's ancient citizens Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments, To wield old partisans, in hands as old, Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate.”
107 - 107
Families of Orvieto.
111 - 111
Santafiore is in the neighborhood of Siena, and much infested with banditti.
112 - 112
The state of Rome in Dante's time is thus described by Mr Norton, Travel and Study, pp. 246-248: –
“On the slope of the Quirinal Hill, in the quiet enclosure of the convent of St. Catherine of Siena, stands a square, brick tower, seven stories high. It is a conspicuous object in any general view of Rome; for there are few other towers so tall, and there is not a single spire or steeple in the city. It is the Torre delle Milizie. It was begun by Pope Gregory the Ninth, and finished near the end of the thirteenth century by his vigorous and warlike successor, Boniface the Eighth. Many such towers were built for the purposes of private warfare, in those times when the streets of Rome were the fighting places of its noble families; but this is, perhaps, the only one that now remains undiminished in height and unaltered in appearance. It was a new building when Dante visited Rome; and it is one of the very few edifices that still preserve the aspect they then presented. The older ruins have been greatly changed in appearance, and most of the structures of the Middle Ages have disappeared, in the vicissitudes of the last few centuries. The Forum was then filled with a confused mass of ruins and miserable dwellings, with no street running through their intricacies. The Capitol was surrounded with uneven battlemented walls, and bore the character and look of an irregular citadel. St. Peter's was a low basilica; the Colosseum had suffered little from the attacks of Popes or princes, neither the Venetian nor the Farnese palace having as yet been built with stones from its walls; and centuries were still to pass before Michael Angelo, Bernini, and Borromini were to stamp its present character upon the face of the modern city. The siege and burning of Rome by Robert Guiscard, in 1084, may be taken as the dividing-line between the city of the Emperors and the city of the Popes, between ancient and modern Rome. ....Rome was in a state of too deep depression, its people were too turbulent and unsettled, to have either the spirit or the opportunity for great works. There was no established and recognized authority, no regular course of justice. There was not even any strong force, rarely any overwhelming violence, which for a time at least could subdue opposition, and organize a steady, and consequently a beneficent tyranny. The city was continually distracted by petty personal quarrels, and by bitter family feuds. Its obscure annals are full of bloody civil victories and defeats, – victories which brought no gain to those who won them, defeats which taught no lesson to those who lost them. The breath of liberty never inspired with life the dead clay of Rome; and though for a time it might seem to kindle some vital heat, the glow soon grew cold, and speedily disappeared. The records of Florence, Siena, Bologna, and Perugia are as full of fighting and bloodshed as those of Rome; but their fights were not mere brawls, nor were their triumphs always barren. Even the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which were like the coming of the spring after a long winter making the earth to blossom, and gladdening the hearts of men, – the centuries which elsewhere in Italy, and over the rest of Europe, gave birth to the noblest mediaevel Art, when every great city was adorning itself with the beautiful works of the new architecture, sculpture, and painting, – even these centuries left scarcely any token of their passage over Rome. The sun, breaking through the clouds that had long hidden it, shone everywhere but here. While Florence was building her Cathedral and her Campanile, and Orvieto her matchless Duomo – while Pisa was showing her piety and her wealth in her Cathedral, her Camposanto, her Baptistery, and her Tower, – while Siena was beginning a church greater and more magnificent in design than her shifting fortune would permit her to complete, – Rome was building neither cathedral nor campanile, but was selling the marbles of her ancient temples and tombs to the builders of other cities, or quarrying them for her own mean uses.”
118 - 118
This recalls Pope's Universal Prayer, –
“Father of all! in every age, In every clime, adored, By saint, by savage, and by sage, Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!”
125 - 125
Not the great Roman general who took Syracuse, after Archimedes had defended it so long with his engines and burning-glasses, but a descendant of his, who in the civil wars took part with Pompey and was banished by Caesar. Pope's Essay on Man, Ep. IV. 257: –
“And more true joy Marcellus exiled feels, Than Càe@sar with a senate at his heels.”
127 - 127
Of the state of Florence, Napier writes, Flor. Hist., I. 122: –
“It was not the simple movement of one great body against another; not the force of a government in opposition to the people; not the struggle of privilege and democracy, of poverty and riches, or starvation and repletion; but one universal burst of unmitigated anarchy. In the streets, lanes, and squares, in the courts of palaces and humbler dwellings, were heard the clang of arms, the screams of victims, and the gush of blood: the bow of the bridegroom launched its arrows into the very chambers of his young bride's parents and relations, and the bleeding son, the murdered brother, or the dying husband were the evening visitors of Florentine maids and matrons, and aged citizens. Every art was practised to seduce and deceive, and none felt secure even of their nearest and dearest relatives. In the morning a son left his paternal roof with undiminished love, and returned at evening a corpse, or the most bitter enemy! Terror and death were triumphant; there was no relaxation, no peace by day or night: the crash of the stone, the twang of the bow, the whizzing shaft, the jar of the trembling mangonel from tower and turret, were the dismal music of Florence, not only for hours and days, but months and years. Doors, windows, the jutting galleries and roofs, were all defended, and yet all unsafe: no spot was sacred, no tenement secure: in the dead of night, the most secret chambers, the very hangings, even the nuptial bed itself, were often known to conceal an enemy.
”Florence in those days was studded with lofty towers; most of the noble families possessed one or more, at least two hundred feet in height, and many of them far above that altitude. These were their pride, their family citadels; and jealously guarded; glittering with arms and men, and instruments of war. Every connecting balcony was alive with soldiers; the battle raged above and below, within and without; stones rained in showers, arrows flew thick and fast on every side; the seraglj, or barricades, were attacked and defended by chosen bands armed with lances and boar-spears; foes were in ambush at every corner, watching the bold or heedless enemy; confusion was everywhere triumphant, a demon seemed to possess the community, and public mind, reeling with hatred, was steady only in the pursuit of blood. Yet so accustomed did they at last become to this fiendish life, that one day they fought, the next caroused together in drunken gambols, foe with foe, boasting of their mutual prowess; nor was it until after nearly five years of reciprocal destruction, that, from mere lassitude, they finally ceased thus to mangle each other, and, as it were for relaxation, turned their fury on the neighboring states.“
147 - 147
Upon this subject Napier, Flor. Hist., II. 626, remarks: –
”A characteristic, and, if discreetly handled, a wise regulation of the Florentines, notwithstanding Dante's sarcasms, was the periodical revision of their statutes and ordinances, a weeding out, as it were, of the obsolete and contradictory, and a substitution of those which were better adapted to existing circumstances and the forward movement of man. There are certain fundamental laws necessarily permanent and admitted by all communities, as there are certain moral and theological truths acknowledged by all religions; but these broad frames or outlines are commonly filled up with a thick network of subordinate regulations, that cover them like cobwebs, and often impede the march of improvement. The Florentines were early aware of this, and therefore revised their laws and institutions more or less frequently and sometimes factiously, according to the turbulent or tranquil condition of the times; but in 1394, after forty years' omission, an officer was nominated for that purpose, but whether permanently or not is doubtful.“