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Dante's Purgatorio: Canto XIV
Guido del Duca and Renier da Calboli. Cities of the Arno Valley. Denunciation of Stubbornness.
Sender’s note: Sorry for the error in the last email subject! I blame the unlucky canto number.
"Who is this one that goes about our mountain,
Or ever Death has given him power of flight,
And opes his eyes and shuts them at his will?"
"I know not who, but know he's not alone;
Ask him thyself, for thou art nearer to him, 5
And gently, so that he may speak, accost him."
Thus did two spirits, leaning tow'rds each other,
Discourse about me there on the right hand;
Then held supine their faces to address me.
And said the one: "O soul, that, fastened still 10
Within the body, tow'rds the heaven art going,
For charity console us, and declare
Whence comest and who art thou; for thou mak'st us
As much to marvel at this grace of thine
As must a thing that never yet has been." 15
And I: "Through midst of Tuscany there wanders
A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;
From thereupon do I this body bring.
To tell you who I am were speech in vain, 20
Because my name as yet makes no great noise."
"If well thy meaning I can penetrate
With intellect of mine," then answered me
He who first spake, "thou speakest of the Arno."
And said the other to him: "Why concealed 25
This one the appellation of that river,
Even as a man doth of things horrible?"
And thus the shade that questioned was of this
Himself acquitted: "I know not; but truly
'Tis fit the name of such a valley perish; 30
For from its fountain-head (where is so pregnant
The Alpine mountain whence is cleft Peloro
That in few places it that mark surpasses)
To where it yields itself in restoration
Of what the heaven doth of the sea dry up, 35
Whence have the rivers that which goes with them,
Virtue is like an enemy avoided
By all, as is a serpent, through misfortune
Of place, or through bad habit that impels them;
On which account have so transformed their nature 40
The dwellers in that miserable valley,
It seems that Circe had them in her pasture.
'Mid ugly swine, of acorns worthier
Than other food for human use created,
It first directeth its impoverished way. 45
Curs findeth it thereafter, coming downward,
More snarling than their puissance demands,
And turns from them disdainfully its muzzle.
It goes on falling, and the more it grows,
The more it finds the dogs becoming wolves, 50
This maledict and misadventurous ditch.
Descended then through many a hollow gulf,
It finds the foxes so replete with fraud,
They fear no cunning that may master them.
Nor will I cease because another hears me; 55
And well 'twill be for him, if still he mind him
Of what a truthful spirit to me unravels.
Thy grandson I behold, who doth become
A hunter of those wolves upon the bank
Of the wild stream, and terrifies them all. 60
He sells their flesh, it being yet alive;
Thereafter slaughters them like ancient beeves;
Many of life, himself of praise, deprives.
Blood-stained he issues from the dismal forest;
He leaves it such, a thousand years from now 65
In its primeval state 'tis not re-wooded."
As at the announcement of impending ills
The face of him who listens is disturbed,
From whate'er side the peril seize upon him;
So I beheld that other soul, which stood 70
Turned round to listen, grow disturbed and sad,
When it had gathered to itself the word.
The speech of one and aspect of the other
Had me desirous made to know their names,
And question mixed with prayers I made thereof, 75
Whereat the spirit which first spake to me
Began again: "Thou wishest I should bring me
To do for thee what thou'lt not do for me;
But since God willeth that in thee shine forth
Such grace of his, I'll not be chary with thee; 80
Know, then, that I Guido del Duca am.
My blood was so with envy set on fire,
That if I had beheld a man make merry,
Thou wouldst have seen me sprinkled o'er with pallor.
From my own sowing such the straw I reap! 85
O human race! why dost thou set thy heart
Where interdict of partnership must be?
This is Renier; this is the boast and honour
Of the house of Calboli, where no one since
Has made himself the heir of his desert. 90
And not alone his blood is made devoid,
'Twixt Po and mount, and sea-shore and the Reno,
Of good required for truth and for diversion;
For all within these boundaries is full
Of venomous roots, so that too tardily 95
By cultivation now would they diminish.
Where is good Lizio, and Arrigo Manardi,
Pier Traversaro, and Guido di Carpigna,
O Romagnuoli into bastards turned?
When in Bologna will a Fabbro rise? 100
When in Faenza a Bernardin di Fosco,
The noble scion of ignoble seed?
Be not astonished, Tuscan, if I weep,
When I remember, with Guido da Prata,
Ugolin d' Azzo, who was living with us, 105
Frederick Tignoso and his company,
The house of Traversara, and th' Anastagi,
And one race and the other is extinct;
The dames and cavaliers, the toils and ease
That filled our souls with love and courtesy, 110
There where the hearts have so malicious grown!
O Brettinoro! why dost thou not flee,
Seeing that all thy family is gone,
And many people, not to be corrupted?
Bagnacaval does well in not begetting 115
And ill does Castrocaro, and Conio worse,
In taking trouble to beget such Counts.
Will do well the Pagani, when their Devil
Shall have departed; but not therefore pure
Will testimony of them e'er remain. 120
O Ugolin de' Fantoli, secure
Thy name is, since no longer is awaited
One who, degenerating, can obscure it!
But go now, Tuscan, for it now delights me
To weep far better than it does to speak, 125
So much has our discourse my mind distressed."
We were aware that those beloved souls
Heard us depart; therefore, by keeping silent,
They made us of our pathway confident.
When we became alone by going onward, 130
Thunder, when it doth cleave the air, appeared
A voice, that counter to us came, exclaiming:
"Shall slay me whosoever findeth me!"
And fled as the reverberation dies
If suddenly the cloud asunder bursts. 135
As soon as hearing had a truce from this,
Behold another, with so great a crash,
That it resembled thunderings following fast:
"I am Aglaurus, who became a stone!"
And then, to press myself close to the Poet, 140
I backward, and not forward, took a step.
Already on all sides the air was quiet;
And said he to me: "That was the hard curb
That ought to hold a man within his bounds;
But you take in the bait so that the hook 145
Of the old Adversary draws you to him,
And hence availeth little curb or call.
The heavens are calling you, and wheel around you,
Displaying to you their eternal beauties,
And still your eye is looking on the ground; 150
Whence He, who all discerns, chastises you."
1 - 1
The subject of the preceding canto is here continued. Compare the introductory lines with those of Canto V.
7 - 7
These two spirits prove to be Guido del Duca and Rinieri da Calboli.
17 - 17
A mountain in the Apennines, northeast of Florence, from which the Arno takes its rise. Ampère, Voyage Dantesque, p. 246, thus describes this region of the Val d'Arno.
“Farther on is another tower, the tower of Porciano, which is said to have been inhabited by Dante. From there I had still to climb the summits of the Falterona. I started towards midnight in order to arrive before sunrise. I said to myself, How many times the poet, whose footprints I am following, has wandered in these mountains! It was by these little alpine paths that he came and went, on his way to friends in Romagna or friends in Urbino, his heart agitated with a hope that was never to be fulfilled. I figured to myself Dante walking with a guide under the light of the stars, receiving all the impressions produced by wild and weather-beaten regions, steep roads, deep valleys, and the accidents of a long and difficult route, impressions which he would transfer to his poem. It is enough to have read this poem to be certain that its author has travelled much, has wandered much. Dante really walks with Virgil. He fatigues himself with climbing, he stops to take breath, he uses his hands when feet are insufficient. He gets lost, and asks the way. He observes the height of the sun and stars. In a word, one finds the habits and souvenirs of the traveller in every verse, or rather at every step of his poetic pilgrimage.
”Dante has certainly climbed the top of the Falterona. It is upon this summit, from which all the Valley of the Arno is embraced, that one should read the singular imprecation which the poet has uttered against this whole valley. He follows the course of the river, and as he advances marks every place he comes to with fierce invective. The farther he goes, the more his hate redoubles in violence and bitterness. It is a piece of topographical satire, of which I know no other example.“
32 - 32
The Apennines, whose long chain ends in Calabria, opposite Cape Peloro in Sicily. AEneid, III. 410, Davidson's Tr.: –
”But when, after setting out, the wind shall waft you to the Sicilian coast, and the straits of narrow Pelorus shall open wider to the eye, veer to the land on the left, and to the sea on the left, by a long circuit; fly the right both sea and shore. These lands, they say, once with violence and vast desolation convulsed, (such revolutions a long course of time is able to produce,) slipped asunder; when in continuity both lands were one, the sea rushed impetuously between, and by its waves tore the Italian side from that of Sicily; and with a narrow frith runs between the fields and cities separated by the shores. Scylla guards the right side, implacable Charybdis the left, and thrice with the deepest eddies of its gulf swallows up the vast billows, headlong in, and again spouts them out by turns high into the air, and lashes the stars with the waves.“
And Lucan, Phars., II.: –
”And still we see on fair Sicilia's sands Where part of Apennine Pelorus stands.“
And Shelley, Ode to Liberty: –
”O'er the lit waves every AEolian isle From Pithecusa to Pelorus Howls, and leaps, and glares in chorus.“
40 - 40
When Dante wrote this invective against the inhabitants of the Val d'Arno, he probably had in mind the following passage of Boëthius, Cons. Phil., IV. Pros. 3, Ridpath's Tr.:–
”Hence it again follows, that everything which strays from what is good ceases to be; the wicked therefore must cease to be what they were; but that they were formerly men, their human shape, which still remains, testifies. By degenerating into wickedness, then, they must cease to be men. But as virtue alone can exalt a man above what is human, so it is on the contrary evident, that vice, as it divests him of his nature, must sink him below humanity; You ought therefore by no means to consider him as a man whom vice has rendered vicious. Tell me, What difference is there betwixt a wolf who lives by rapine, and a robber whom the desire of another's wealth stimulates to commit all manner of violence? Is there anything that bears a stronger resemblance to a wrathful dog who barks at passengers, than a man whose dangerous tongue attacks all the world? What is liker to a fox than a cheat, who spreads his snares in secret to undermine and ruin you? to a lion, than a furious man who is always ready to devour you? to a deer, than a coward who is afraid of his own shadow? to an ass, than a mortal who is slow, dull, and indolent? to the birds of the air, than a man volatile and inconstant? and what, in fine, is a debauchee who is immersed in the lowest sensual gratifications, but a hog who wallows in the mire? Upon the whole, it is an unquestionable truth that a man who forsakes virtue ceases to be a man; and, as it is impossible that he can ascend in the scale of beings, he must of necessity degenerate and sink into a beast.“
43 - 43
The people of Casentino. Forsyth, Italy, p. 126: –
”On returning down to the Casentine, we could trace along the Arno the mischief which followed a late attempt to clear some Apennines of their woods. Most of the soil, which was then loosened from the roots and washed down by the torrents, lodged in this plain; and left immense beds of sand and large rolling stones on the very spot where Dante describes
'Li ruscelletti che de' verdi colli Del Casentin discendon giuso in Arno, Facendo i lor canali e freddi e molli.'
“I was surprised to find so large a town as Bibbiena in a country devoid of manufactures, remote from public roads, and even deserted by its landholders; for the Niccolini and Vecchietti, who posses most of this district, prefer the obscurrer pleasures of Florence to their palaces and pre- eminence here. The only commodity with the Casentines trade in is pork. Signore Baglione, a gentleman at whose house I slept here, ascribed the superior flavor of their hams, which are esteemed the best in Italy and requires no cooking, to the dryness of the air, the absence of stagnant water, and the quantity of chestnuts given to their hogs. Bibbiena has been long renowned for its chestnuts, which the peasants dry in a kiln, grind into a sweet flour, and then convert into bread, cakes, and polenta.”
46 - 46
The people of Arezzo. Forsyth, Italy, p. 128: –
“The Casentines were no favorites with Dante, who confounds the men with their hogs. Yet, following the divine poet down the Arno, we came to a race still more forbidding. The Aretine peasants seem to inherit the coarse, surly visages of their ancestors, whom he styles Bottoli. Meeting one girl, who appeared more cheerful than her neighbors, we asked her how far it was from Arezzo, and received for answer, 'Quanto c'e.'
”The valley widened as we advanced, and when Arezzo appeared, the river left us abruptly, wheeling off from its environs at a sharp angle, which Dante converts into a snout, and points disdainfully against the currish race......
“On entering the Val di Chiana, we passed through a peasantry more civil and industrious than their Aretine neighbors. One poor girl, unlike the last whom we accosted, was driving a laden ass, bearing a billet of wood on her hand, spinning with the rocca, and singing as she went on. Others were returning with their sickles from the fields which they had reaped in the Maremma, to their own harvest on the hills. That contrast which struck me in the manners of two cantons so near as Cortona to Arezzo, can only be a vestige of their ancient rivality while separate republics. Men naturally dislike the very virtues of their enemies, and affect qualities as remote from theirs as they can well defend.”
50 - 50
53 - 53
57 - 57
At the close of these vituperations, perhaps to soften the sarcasm by making it more general, Benvenuto appends this note: “What Dante says of the inhabitants of the Val d'Arno might be said of the greater part of the Italians, nay, of the world. Dante, being once asked why he had put more Christians than Gentiles into Hell, replied, 'Because I have known the Christians better.'”
58 - 58
Messer Fulcieri da Calboli of Forlì, nephew of Rinieri. He was Podestà of Florence in 1302, and, being bribed by the Neri, had many of the Bianchi put to death.
64 - 64
Florence, the habitation of these wolves, left so stripped by Fulcieri, on his retiring from office, that it will be long in recovering its former prosperity.
81 - 81
Guido del Duca of Brettinor, near Forlì, in Romagna; nothing remains but the name. He and his companion Rinieri were “gentlemen of worth, if they had not been burned up with envy.”
87 - 87
On worldly goods, where selfishness excludes others; in contrast with the spiritual, which increase by being shared. See Canto XV. 45.
88 - 88
Rinieri da Calboli.“He was very famous,” says the Ottimo, and history says no more. In the Cento Novelle Antiche, Nov. 44, Roscoe's Tr., he figures thus: –
“A certain knight was one day entreating a lady whom he loved to smile upon his wishes, and among other delicate arguments which he pressed upon her was that of his own superior wealth, elegance, and accomplishments, especially when compared with the merits of her own liege-lord, 'whose extreme ugliness, madam,' he continued, 'I think I need not insist upon.' Her husband, who overheard this compliment from the place of his concealment, immediately replied, 'Pray, sir, mend your own manners, and do not vilify other people.' The name of the plain gentleman was Lizio di Valbona, and messer Rinieri da Calvoli that of the other.
92 - 92
In Romagna, which is bounded by the Po, the Apennines, the Adriatic, and the river Reno, that passes near Bologna.
93 - 93
For study and pleasure.
97 - 97
Of Lizio and Manardi the Ottimo says: ”Messer Lizio di Valbona, a courteous gentleman, in order to give a dinner at Forlì, sold half his silken bedquilt for sixty florins. Arrigo Manardi was of Brettinoro; he was a gentleman full of courtesy and honour, was fond of entertaining guests, made presents of robes and horses, loved honourable men, and all his life was devoted to largess and good living.“
The marriage of Riccardo Manardi with Lizio's daughter Caterina is the subject of one of the tales of the Decameron, V. 4. Pietro Dante says, that, when Lizio was told of the death of his dissipated son, he replied, ”It is no news to me, he never was alive.“
98 - 98
Of Pier Traversaro the Ottimo says: ”He was of Ravenna, a man of most gentle blood“; and of Guido di Carpigna: ”He was of Montefeltro. ....Most of the time he lived at Brettinoro, and surpassed all others in generosity, loved for the sake of loving, and lived handsomely.“
100 - 100
”This Messer Fabbro,“ says the Ottimo, ”was born of low parents, and lived so generously that the author (Dante) says there never was his like in Bologna.“
101 - 101
The Ottimo again: ”This Messer Bernardino, son of Fosco, a farmer, and of humble occupation, became so excellent by his good works, that he was an honor to Faenza; and he was named with praise, and the old grandees were not ashamed to visit him, to see his magnificence, and to hear his pleasant jests.“
104 - 104
Guido da Prata, from the village of that name, between Faenza and Forlì, and Ugolin d'Azzo of Faenza, according to the same authority, though ”of humble birth, rose to such great honor, that, leaving their native places, they associated with the noblemen before mentioned.“
106 - 106
Frederick Tignoso was a gentleman of Rimini, living in Brettinoro. ”A man of great mark,“ says Buti, ”with his band of friends.“ According to Benvenuto, ”he had beautiful blond hair, andwas called tignoso (the scurvy fellow) by way of antiphrase.“ The Ottimo speaks of him as follows: ”He avoided the city as much as possible, as a place hostile to gentlemen, but when he was in it, he kept open house.“
107 - 107
Ancient and honorable families of Ravenna. There is a story of them in the Decameron, Gior. V. Nov. 8, which is too long to quote. Upon this tale is founded Dryden's poem of Theodore and Honaria.
109 - 109
Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, I. 1: –
”The dames, the cavaliers, the arms, the loves, The courtesies, the daring deeds I sing.“
112 - 112
Brettinoro, now Bertinoro, is a small town in Romagna, between Forlì and Cesena, in which lived many of the families that have jut been mentioned. The hills about it are still celebrated for their wines, as its inhabitants were in old times for their hospitality. The following anecdote is told of them by the Ottimo, and also in nearly the same words in the Cento Novelle Antiche, Nov. 89: –
”Among other laudable customs of the nobles of Brettinoro was that of hospitality, and their not permitting any man in the town to keep an inn for money. But there was a stone column in the middle of the town,“ (upon which were rings or knockers, as if all the front-doors were there represented,) ”and to this, as soon as a stranger made his appearance, he was conducted, and to one of the rings hitched his horse or hung his hat upon it; and thus, as chance decreed, he was taken to the house of the gentleman to whom the ring belonged, and honored according to his rank. This column and its rings were invented to remove all cause of quarrel among the noblemen, who used to run to get possession of a stranger, as now-a-days they almost run away from him.“
115 - 115
Towns in Romagna. ”Bagnacavallo, and Castrocaro, and Conio,“ says the Ottimo, ”were all habitations of courtesy and honour. Now in Bagnacavallo the Counts are extinct; and he (Dante) says it does well to produce no more of them because they had degenerated like those of Conio and Castrocaro.
118 - 118
The Pagani were Lords of Faenza and Imola. The head of the family, Mainardo, was surnamed “the Devil.” – See Inf. XXVII. Note 49. His bad repute will always be a reproach to the family.
121 - 121
A nobleman of Faenza, who died without heirs, and thus his name was safe.
132 - 132
Milton, Comus: –
Of calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire, And airy tongues that syllable men's names.“
These voices in the air proclaim examples of envy.
133 - 133
Genesis iv. 13, 14: ”And Cain said unto the Lord,.....Every one that findeth me shall slay me.“
139 - 139
Aglauros through envy opposed the interview of Mercury with her sister Herse, and was changed by the god into stone. Ovid, Metamorph., I., Addison's Tr.: –
'Then keep thy seat forever,' cries the god, And touched the door, wide opening to his rod. Fain would she rise and stop him, but she found Her trunk too heavy to forsake the ground; Her joints are all benumbed, her hands are pale, And marble now appears in every nail. As when a cancer in the body feeds, And gradual death from limb to limb proceeds, So does the chillness to each vital part Spread by degrees, and creeps into her heart; Till hardening everywhere, and speechless grown, She sits unmoved, and freezes to a stone. But still her envious hue and sullen mien Are in the sedentary figure seen.”
147 - 147
The falconer's call or lure, which he whirls round in the air to attract the falcon on the wing.
148 - 148
Ovid, Metamorph., I., Dryden's Tr.: –
“Thus, while the mute creation downward bend Their sight, and their earthly mother tend, Man looks aloft; and with erected eyes Beholds his own hereditary skies.”
150 - 150
Beaumont and Fletcher, The Laws of Candy, IV. 1: –
“Seldom despairing men look up to heaven, Althoug it still speak to 'em in its glories; For when sad thoughts perplex the mind of Man, There is a plummet in the heart that weighs And pulls us, living, to te dust we came from.”