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Dante's Purgatorio: Canto XI
The Humble Prayer. Omberto di Santafiore. Oderisi d’ Agobbio. Provenzan Salvani.
"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 5
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 10
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. 15
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, 20
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 25
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. 30
If there good words are always said for us,
What 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 35
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 40
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." 45
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 50
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 down,
Him, who still lives and does not name himself, 55
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. 60
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, 65
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 70
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, 75
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.
"O," asked I him, "art thou not Oderisi,
Agobbio's honour, and honour of that art 80
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 85
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. 90
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, 95
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 100
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,' 105
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; 110
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 115
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?" 120
"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 125
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,) 130
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; 135
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.
I say no more, and know that I speak darkly;
Yet little time shall pass before thy neighbours 140
Will so demean themselves that thou canst gloss it.
This action has released him from those confines."
3 - 3
The angels, the first creation or effects of the divine power.
6 - 6
Wisdom of Solomon, vii. 25: “For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty.” In the Vulgate: Vapor est enim virtutis Dei.
45 - 45
See Inf. XII. Note 2.
58 - 58
Or Italian. The speaker is Omberto Aldobrandeschi, Count of Santafiore, in the Maremma of Siena. “The Counts of Santafiore were, and are, and almost always will be at war with the Sienese,” says the Ottimo. In one of these wars Omberto was slain, at the village of Campagnatico. “The author means,” continues the same commentator, “that he who cannot carry his head high should bow it down like a bulrush.”
79 - 79
Vasari, Lives of the Painters, Mrs. Foster's Tr., I. 103, says: –
“At this time there lived in Rome – to omit nothing relative to art that may be worthy of commemoration – a certain Oderigi of Agobbio, an excellent miniature-painter of those times, with whom Giotto lived on terms of close friendship; and who was therefore invited by the Pope to illuminate many books for the library of the palace: but these books have in great part perished in the lapse of time. In my book of ancient drawings I have some few remains from the hand of this artist, who was certainly a clever man, although much surpassed by Franco of Bologna, who executed many admirable works in the same manner, for the same Pontiff, (and which were also destined for the library of the palace,) at the same time with those of Oderigi. From the hand of Franco also, I have designs, both in painting and illuminating, which may be seen in my book above cited; among others are an eagle, perfectly well done, and a lion tearing up a tree, which is most beautiful.”
81 - 81
The art of illuminating manuscripts, which was called in Paris alluminare, was in Italy called miniare. Hence Oderigi is called by Vasari a miniatore, or miniaturepainter.
83 - 83
Franco Bolognese was a pupil of Oderigi, who perhaps alludes to this fact in claiming a part of the honor paid to the younger artist.
94 - 94
Of Cimabue, Vasari, Lives of the Painters, Mrs. Foster's Tr., I. 35, says: –
“The overwhelming flood of evils by which unhappy Italy had been submerged and devastated had not only destroyed whatever could properly be called buildings, but, a still more deplorable consequence, had totally exterminated the artists themselves, when, by the will of God, in the year 1240, Giovanni Cimabue, of the noble family of the name, was born, in the city of Florence, to give the first light to the art of painting. This youth, as he grew up, being considered by his father and others to give proof of an acute judgment and a clear understanding, was sent to Santa Maria Novella to study letters under a relation, who was then master in grammar to the novices of that convent. But Cimabue, instead of devoting himself to letters, consumed the whole day in drawing men, horses, houses, and other various fancies, on his books and different papers, – an occupation to which he felt himself impelled by nature; and this natural inclination was favored by fortune, for the governors of the city had invited certain Greek painters to Florence, for the purpose of restoring the art of painting, which had not merely degenerated, but was altogether lost. These artists, among other works, began to paint the Chapel of the Gondi, situate next the principal chapel, in Santa Maria Novella, the roof and walls of which are now almost entirely destroyed by time, – and Cimabue, often escaping from the school, and having already made a commencement in the art he was so fond of, would stand watching those masters at their work, the day through. Judging from these circumstances, his father, as well as the artists themselves, concluded him to be well endowed for painting, and thought that much might be hoped from his future efforts, if he were devoted to that art. Giovanni was accordingly, to his no small satisfaction, placed with those masters. From this time he labored incessantly, and was so far aided by his natural powers that he soon greatly surpassed his teachers both in design and coloring. For these masters, caring little for the progress of art, had executed their works as we now see them, not in the excellent manner of the ancient Greeks, but in the rude modern style of their own day. Wherefore, though Cimabue imitated his Greek instructors, he very much improved the art, relieving it greatly from their uncouth manner, and doing honor to his country by the name he acquired, and by the works which he performed. Of this we have evidence in Florence from the pictures which he painted there; as, for example, the front of the altar of Santa Cecilia, and a picture of the Virgin, in Santa Croce, which was, and is still, attached to one of the pilasters on the right of the choir.”
95 - 95
Shakespeare, Troil. and Cres., III. 3: –
“The present eye praises the present object: Then marvel not, thou great and complete man, That all the Greeks begin to worship Ajax; Since things in motion sooner catch the eye Than what not stirs. The cry went once on thee; And still it might, and yet it may again, If thou wouldst not entomb thyself alive, And case thy reputation in thy tent.”
Cimabue died in 1300. His epitaph is:
“Credidit ut Cimabos picturae castra tenere, Sic tenuit vivens, nunc tenet astra poli.”
Vasari, Lives of the Painters, I.93: –
“The gratitude which the masters in painting owe to Nature, – who is ever the truest model of him who, possessing the power to select the brightest parts from her best and lovliest features, employs himself unweariedly in the reproduction of these beauties, – this gratitude, I say, is due, in my judgment, to the Florentine painter Giotto, seeing that he alone, – although born amidst incapable artists, and at a time when all good methods in art had long been entombed beneath the ruins of war, – yet, by the favor of Heaven, he, I say, alone succeeded in resuscitating Art, and restoring her to a path that may be called the true one. And it was in truth a great marvel, that from so rude and inapt an age Giotto should have had strength to elicit so much, that the art of design, of which the men of those days had little, if any knowledge, was by his means effectually recalled into life. The birth of this great man took place in the hamlet of Vespignano, fourteen miles from the city of Florence, in the year 1276. His father's name was Bondone, a simple husbandman, who reared the child, to whom he had given the name of Giotto, with such decency as his condition permitted. The boy was early remarked for extreme vivacity in all his childish proceedings, and for extraordinary promptitude of intelligence; so that he became endeared, not only to his father, but to all who knew him in the village and around it. When he was about ten years old, Bondone gave him a few sheep to watch, and with these he wandered about the vicinity, – now here and now there. But, induced by Nature herself to the arts of design, he was perpetually drawing on the stones, the earth, or the sand, some natural object that came before him, or some fantasy that presented itself to his thoughts. It chanced one day that the affairs of Cimabue took him from Florence to Vespignano, when he perceived the young Giotto, who, while his sheep fed around him, was occupied in drawing one of them from the life, with a stone slightly pointed, upon a smooth, clean piece of rock, – and what without any teaching whatever but such as Nature herself had imparted. Halting in astonishment, Cimabue inquired of the boy if he would accompany him to his home, and the child replied, he would go willingly, if his father were content to permit it. Cimabue therefore requesting the consent of Bondone, the latter granted it readily, and suffered the artist to conduct his son to Florence, where, in a short time, instructed by Cimabue and aided by Nature, the boy not only equalled his master in his own manner, but became so good an imitator of Nature that he totally banished the rude Greek manner, restoring art to the better path adhered to in modern times, and introducing the custom of accurately drawing living persons from nature, which had not been used for more than two hundred years. Or, if some had attempted it, as said above, it was not by any means with the success of Giotto. Among the portraits by this artist, and which still remain, is one of his contemporary and intimate friend, Dante Alighieri, who was no less famous as a poet than Giotto as a painter, and whom Messer Giovanni Boccaccio has lauded so highly in the introduction to his story of Messer Forese da Rabatta, and of Giotto the painter himself. This portrait is in the chapel of the palace of the Podestà in Florence; and in the same chapel are the portraits of Ser Brunetto Latini, master of Dante, and of Messer Corso Donati, an illustrious citizen of that day.”
Pope Benedict the Ninth, hearing of Giotto's fame, sent one of his courtiers to Tuscany, to propose to him certain paintings for the Church of St. Peter. “The messenger,” continues Vasari, “when on his way to visit Giotto, and to inquire what other good masters there were in Florence, spoke first with may artists in Siena, – then, having received designs from them, he proceeded to Florence, and repaired one morning to the workshop where Giotto was occupied with his labors. He declared the purpose of the Pope, and the manner in which that Pontiff desired to avail himself of his assistance; and, finally, requested to have a drawing, that he might send it to his Holiness. Giotto, who was very courteous, took a sheet of paper and a pencil dipped in a red color, then, resting his elbow on his side, to form a sort of compass, with one turn of the hand he drew a circle, so perfect and exact that it was a marvel to behold. This done, he turned smiling to the courtier, saying, 'Here is your drawing.' 'Am I to have nothing more than this?' inquired the latter, conceiving himself to be jested with. 'That is enough and to spare,' returned Giotto; 'send it with the rest, and you will see if it will be recognized.' The messenger, unable to obtain anything more, went away very ill satisfied, and fearing that he had been fooled. Nevertheless, having despatched the other drawings to the Pope, with the names of those who had done them, he sent that of Giotto also, relating the mode in which he had made his circle, without moving his arm and without compasses; from which the Pope, and such of the courtiers as were well versed in the subject, perceived how far Giotto surpassed all the other painters of his time. This incident, becoming known, gave rise to the proverb, still used in relation to people of dull wits, – Tu sei più tondo che l'O di Giotto; the significance of which consists in the double meaning of the word 'tondo,' which is used in the Tuscan for slowness of intellect and heaviness of comprehension, as well as for an exact circle. The proverb has besides an interest from the circumstance which gave it birth....
”It is said that Giotto, when he was still a boy, and studying with Cimabue, once painted a fly on the nose of a figure on which Cimabue himself was employed, and this so naturally, that, when the master returned to continue his work, he believed it to be real, and lifted his hand more than once to drive it away before he should go on with the painting.“
Boccaccio, Decameron, VI. 5, tells this tale of Giotto: –
”As it often happens that fortune hides under the meanest trades in life the greatest virtues, which has been proved by Pampinea; so are the greatest geniuses found frequently lodged by Nature in the most deformed and misshapen bodies, which was verified in two of our own citizens, as I am now going to relate. For the one, who was called Forese da Rabatta, being a little deformed mortal, with a flat Dutch face, worse than any of the family of the Baronci, yet was he esteemed by most men a repository of the civil law. And the other, whose name was Giotto, has such a prodigious fancy, that there was nothing in Nature, the parent of all things, but he could imitate it with his pencil so well, and draw it so like, as to deceive our very senses, imagining that to be the very thing itself which was only his painting: therefore, having brought that art again to light, which had lain buried for many ages under the errors of such as aimed more to captivate the eyes of the ignorant, than to please the understandings of those who were really judges, he may be deservedly called one of the lights and glories of our city, and the rather as being master of his art, notwithstanding his modesty would never suffer himself to be so esteemed; which honor, though rejected by him, displayed itself in him with the greater lustre, as it was so eagerly usurped by others less knowing than himself, and by many also who had all their knowledge from him. But though his excellence in his profession was so wonderful, yet as to his person and aspect he had no way the advantage of Signor Forese. to come then to my story. These two worthies had each his country-seat at Mugello, and Forese being gone thither in the vacation time, and riding upon an unsightly steed, chanced to meet there with Giotto, who was no better equipped than himself, when they returned together to Florence. Travelling slowly along, as they were able to go no faster, they were overtaken by a great shower of rain, and forced to take shelter in a poor man's house, who was well known to them both; and, as there was no appearance of the weather's clearing up, and each being desirous of getting home that night, they borrowed two old, rusty cloaks, and two rusty hats, and they proceeded on their journey. After they had gotten a good part of their way, thoroughly wet, and covered with dirt and mire, which their two shuffling steeds had thrown upon them and which by no means improved their looks, it began to clear up at last, and they, who had hitherto said but little to each other, now turned to discourse together; whilst Forese, riding along and listening to Giotto, who was excellent at telling a story, began at last to view him attentively from head to foot, and, seeing him in that wretched, dirty pickle, without having any regard to himself he fell a laughing, and said, 'Do you suppose, Giotto, if a stranger were to meet with you now, who had never seen you before, that he would imagine you to be the best painter in the world, as you really are?' Giotto readily replied, 'Yes, sir, I believe he might think so, if, looking at you at the same time, he would ever conclude that you had learned your A, B, C.' At this Forese was sensible of his mistake, finding himself well paid in his own coin.“
Another story of Giotto may be found in Sacchetti, Nov. 75.
97 - 97
Probably Dante's friend, Guido Cavalcati, Inf. X. Note 63; and Guido Guinicelli, Purg. XXVI. Note 92, whom he calls
”The father Of me and of my betters, who had ever Practised the sweet and gracious rhymes of love.“
99 - 99
Some commentators suppose that Dante here refers to himself. He more probably is speaking only in general terms, without particular reference to any one.
103 - 103
Ben Johnson, Ode on the Death of Sir H. Morison: –
”It is not growing like a tree In bulk, doth make men better be; Or standing long an oak, three hundred year, To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear; A lily of a day is fairer far in May, Although it fall and die that night; It was the plant and flower of light.“
105 - 105
The babble of childhood; pappo for pane, bread, and dindi for danari, money.
Halliwell, Dic. of Arch. and Prov. Words: ”DINDERS, small coins of the Lower Empire, found at Wroxeter.“
108 - 108
The revolution of the fixed stars, according to the Ptolemaic theory, which was also Dante's, was thirty-six thousand years.
109 - 109
”Who goes so slowly,“ interprets the Ottimo.
112 - 112
At the battle of Monte Aperto. See Inf. X. Note 86.
118 - 118
Henry Vaughan, Sacred Poems: –
”O holy hope and high humility, High as the heavens above; These are your walks, and you have showed them me To kindle my cold love!“
And Milton, Sams. Agon., 185: –
”Apt words have power to swage The tumors of a troubled mind.“
121 - 121
A haughty and ambitious nobleman of Siena, who led the Sienese troops at the battle of Monte Aperto. Afterwards, when the Sienese were routed by the Florentines at the battle of Colle in the Val d'Elsa, (Purg. XIII. Note 115,) he was taken prisoner ”and his head was cut off,“ says Villani, VII. 31, ”and carried through all the camp fixed upon a lance. And well was fulfilled the prophecy and revelation which the Devil had made to him, by means of necromancy, but which he did not understand; for the Devil, being constrained to tell how he would succeed in that battle, mendaciously answered, and said: 'Thou shalt go forth and fight, thou shalt conquer not die in the battle, and thy head shall be the highest in the camp.' And he, believing from these words that he should be victorious, and believing he should be lord over all, did not put a stop after 'not' (vincerai no, morrai, thou shalt conquer not, thou shalt die). And therefore it is great folly to put faith in the Devil's advice. This Messer Provenzano was a great man in Siena after his victory at Mounte Aperto, and led the whole city, and all the Ghibelline party of Tuscany made him their chief, and he was very presumptuous in his will.“
The humility which saved him was his seating himself at a little table in the public square of Siena, called the Campo, and begging money of all passers to pay the ransom of a friend who had been taken prisoner by Charles of Anjou, as here narrated by Dante.
138 - 138
Spenser, Faery Queene, VI. c. 7, st. 22: –
”He, therewith much abashed and affrayd, Began to tremble every limbe and vaine.“
141 - 141
A prophecy of Dante's banishment and poverty and humiliation.