Part 5 out of 8
behind, but it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it
sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory; of great riches there
is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but
conceit. ... The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to
feel great riches: there is a custody of them; or a power of dole
and donative of them; or a fame of them; but no solid use to the
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of the Avaricious
and the Prodigal, with Plutus as their jailer. His outcry of alarm is
differently interpreted by different commentators, and by none
very satisfactorily. The curious student, groping among them for
a meaning, is like Gower's young king, of whom he says, in his
"Of deepe ymaginations
And strange interpretations,
Problems and demaundes eke
His wisdom was to finde and seke,
Whereof he wholde in sondry wise
Opposen hem, that weren wise;
But none of hem it mighte bere
Upon his word to give answere."
But nearly all agree, I believe, in construing the strange words
into a cry of alarm or warning of Lucifer, that his realm is
invaded by some unusual apparition.
Of all the interpretations given, the most amusing is that of
Benvenuto Cellini, in his description of the Court of Justice in
Paris, Roscoe's Memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini, Chap, XXII.: -- "I
stooped down several times to observe what passed: the words
which I heard the judge utter, upon seeing two gentlemen who
wanted to hear the trial, and whom the porter was endeavoring to
keep out, were these: `Be quite, be quite, Satan, get hence, and
leave off disturbing us.' The terms were, Paix, paix, Satan,
allez, paix. As I had by this time thoroughly learnt the French
language, upon hearing these words, I recollected what Dante
said, when he with his master, Virgil, entered the gates of hell;
for Dante and Giotto the painter were together in France, and
visited Paris with particular attention, where the court of
justice may be considered as hell. Hence it is that Dante, who
was likewise perfect master of the French, made use of that
expression; and I have often been surprised, that it was never
understood in that sense; so that I cannot help thinking, that
the commentators on this author have often made him say things
which he never so much as dreamed of. "
Dante himself hardly seems to have understood the meaning of the
words, though he suggests that Virgil did.
11. The overthrow of the Rebel Angels. St. Augustine says,
"Idolatria et quaelibet noxia superstitio fornicatio est. "
24. Must dance the Ridda, a round dance of the olden time. It was
a Roundelay, or singing and dancing together. Boccaccio's Monna
Belcolore "knew better than any one how to play the tambourine
and lead the Ridda."
27. As the word honor resounds in Canto IV., and the word love in
Canto V., so here the words rolling and turning are the burden
of the song, as if to suggest the motion of Fortune's wheel, so
beautifully described a little later.
39. Clerks, clerics, or clergy. Boccaccio, Comento, remarks upon
this passage: "Some maintain, that the clergy wear the tonsure in
remembrance and reverence of St. Peter, on whom, they say, it was
made by certain evil-minded men as a mark of madness; because not
comprehending and not wishing to comprehend his holy doctrine,
and seeming him feverently preaching before princes and people,
who held that doctrine in detestation, they thought he acted as
one out of his senses. Others maintain that the tonsure is worn
as a mark of dignity, as a sign that those who wear it are more
worthy than those who do not; and they call it corona, because,
all the rest of the head being shaven, a single circle of hair
should be left, which in form of a crown surrounds the whole
58. In like manner Chaucer, Persones Tale pp. 227, 337, reproves
ill-keeping and ill-giving.
"Avarice, after the description of Seint Augustine, is a
likerousnesse in herte to have erthly things. Som other folk
sayn, that avarice is for to purchase many earthly things, and
nothing to yeve to hem that han nede. And understond wel, that
avarice standeth not only in land ne catel, but som time in
science and in glorie, and in every maner outrageous thing is
"But for as moche as som folk ben unmesurable, men oughten for to
avoid and eschue fool-large, the whiche men clepen waste. Certes,
he that is fool-large, he yeveth not his catel, but he leseth his
catel. Sothly, what thing that he yeveth for vaine-glory, as to
minstrals, and to folk that bere his renome in the world, he hath
do sinne thereof, and non almesse: certes, he leseth foule his
good, that ne seketh with the yefte of his good nothing but
sinne. He is like to an hors that seketh rather to drink drovy or
troubled water, than for to drink water of the clere well. And
for as moche as they yeven ther as they shuld nat yeven, to hem
apperteineth thilke malison, that Crist shal yeve at the day of
dome to hem that shul be dampned."
68. The Wheel of Fortune was one of the favorite subjects of art
and song in the Middle Ages. On a large square of white marble set in
the pavement of the nave of the Cathedral at Siena, is the
representation of a revolving wheel. Three boys are climbing and
clinging at the sides and below; above is a dignified figure with
a stern countenance, holding the sceptre and ball. At the four
corners are inscriptions from Seneca, Euripides, Aristotle, and
Epictetus. The same symbol may be seen also in the
wheel-of-fortune windows of many churches; as, for example, that
of San Zeno at Verona. See Knight, Ecclesiastical Architecture,
II. plates v., vi.
In the following poem Guido Cavalcanti treats this subject in
very much the same way that Dante does; and it is curious to
observe how at particular times certain ideas seem to float in
the air, and to become the property of every one who chooses to
make use of them. From the similarity between this poem and the
lines of Dante, one might infer that the two friends had
discussed the matter in conversation, and afterwards that each
had written out their common thought.
Cavalcanti's Song of Fortune, as translated by Rossetti, Early
Italian Poets, p. 366, runs as follows:--
"Lo! I am she who makes the wheel to turn;
Lo! I am who gives and takes away;
Blamed idly, day by day,
In all mine acts by you, ye humankind.
For whoso smites his visage and doth mourn,
What time he renders back my gifts to me,
Learns then that I decree
No state which mine own arrows may not find.
Who clomb must fall:--this bear ye well in mind,
Nor say, because, he fell, I did him wrong.
Yet mine is a vain song:
For truly ye may find out wisdom when
King Arthur's resting-place is found of men.
"Ye make great marvel and astonishment
What time ye see the sluggard lifted up
And the just man to drop,
And ye complain on God and on my sway.
O humankind, ye sin in your complaint:
For He, that Lord who made the world to live,
Lets me not take or give
By mine own act, but as he wills I may.
Yet is the mind of man so castaway,
That it discerns not the supreme behest.
Alas! ye wretchedest,
And chide ye at God also? Shall not He
Judge between good and evil righteously?
"Ah! had ye knowlege how God evermore,
With agonies of soul and grievous heats,
As on an anvil beats
On them that in this earth hold hight estate,--
Ye would choose little rather than more store,
And solitude than spacious palaces;
Such is the sore disease
Of anguish that on all their days doth wait.
Behold if they be not unfortunate,
When oft the father dares not trust the son!
O wealth, with thee is won
A worm to gnaw forever on his soul
Whose abject life is laid in thy control!
"If also ye take note what piteous death
They oftimes make, whose hoards were manifold,
Who cities had and gold
And multitudes of men beneath their hand;
Then he among you that most angereth
Shall bless me saying, `Lo! I worship thee
That I was not as he
Whose death is thus accurst throughout the land.'
But now your living souls are held in band
Of avarice, shutting you from the true light
Which shows how sad and slight
Are this world's treasured riches and array
That still change hands a hundred times a day.
"For me,--could envy enter in my sphere,
Which of all human taint is clean and quit,--
I well might harbor it
When I behold the peasant at his toil.
Guiding his team, untroubled, free from fear,
He leaves his perfect furrow as he goes,
And gives his field repose
From thorns and tares and weeds that vex the soil:
Thereto he labors, and without turmoil
Entrusts his work to God, content if so
Such guerdon from it grow
That in that year his family shall live:
Nor care nor thought to other things will give.
"But now ye may no more have speech of me,
For this mine office craves continual use:
Ye therefore deeply muse
Upon those things which ye have heard the while:
Yea, and even yet remember heedfully
How this my wheel a motion hath so fleet,
That in an eyelid's beat
Him whom it raised it maketh low and vile.
None was, nor is, nor shall be of such guile,
Who could, or can, or shall, I say, at length
Prevail against my strenght.
But still those men that are my questioners
In bitter torment own their hearts perverse.
"Song, that wast made to carry high intent
Dissembled in the garb of humbleness,--
With fair and open face
To Master Thomas let they course be bent.
Say that a great thing scarcely may be pent
In little room: yet always pray that he
Commend us, thee and me,
To them that are more apt in lofty speech:
For truly one must learn ere he can teach."
74. This old Rabbinical tradition of the "Regents of the Planets"
has been painted by Raphael, in the Capella Chigiana of the Church of
Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. See Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and
Legendary Art, I. She says: "As a perfect example of grand and
poetical feeling I may cite the angels as `Regents of the
Planets' in the Capella Chigiana. The Cupola represents in a circle
creation of the solar system, according to the theological (or rather
astrological) notions which then prevailed,--a hundred years
before `the starry Gailileo and his woes.' In the centre is the
Creator; around, in eight compartments, we have, first, the angel
of the celestial sphere, who seems to be listening to the divine
mandate, `Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven'; then
follow, in their order, the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars,
Jupiter, and Saturn. The name of each planet is expressed by its
mythlogical representative; the Sun by Apollo, the Moon by Diana;
and over each presides a grand, colossal winged spirit, seated or
reclining on a portion of the zodiac as on a throne."
The old tradition may be found in Stehelin, Rabbinical
Literature, I, 157. See Cabala, end of Vol III.
98. Past midnight.
103. |Perse, purple-black. See Canto V., Note 89.
115. "Is not this a cursed vice?" says Chaucer in The Persones
Tale, p. 202, speaking of wrath."Yes, certes. Alas! it benimmeth fro
man his witte and his reson, and all his debonaire lif spirituel,
that shulde keepe his soule. Certes it benimmeth also Goddes due
lordship (and that is mannes soule) and the love of his
neighbours; it reveth him the quiet of his herte, and subverteth
his soule. "
And farther on he continues: "After the sinne of wrath, now wolle
I speke of the sinne of accidie, or slouth; for envie blindeth
the herte of a man, and ire troubleth a man, and accidie maketh
him hevy, thoughtful, and wrawe. Envie and ire maken bitterness
in herte, which bitternesse is mother of accidie, and benimmeth
him the love of alle goodnesse, than is accidie the anguish of a
And Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, I. 3. i. 3, speaking of that
kind of melancholy which proceeds from "humors adust," says: "For
example, if it proceeds from flegm (which is seldom, and not so
frequent as the rest) it stirs up dull symptomes, and a kind of
stupidity, or impassionate hurt; they are sleepy, saith
Savanarola, dull, slow, cold, blockish, ass-like, asininam
melancholiam Melancthon calls it they are much given to weeping,
and delight in waters, ponds, pools, rivers, fishing, fowling,
&c. They are pale of color, slothful, apt to sleep, heavy, much
troubled with the head- ache, continual meditation and muttering
to themselves, they dream of waters, that they are in danger of
drowning, and fear such things."
See also Purg. 17. 085.
1. Boccaccio and some other commentators think the words "I say,
continuing," are a confirmation of the theory that the first
seven cantos of the Inferno were written before Dante's
banishment from Florence. Others maintain that the words suggest
only the continuation of the subject of the last canto in this.
4. These two signal fires announce the arrival of two persons to
be ferried over the wash, and the other in the distance is on the
watch-tower of the City of Dis, answering these.
19. Phlegyas was the father of Ixion and Coronis. He was king of
the Lapithae, and burned the temple of Apollo at Delphi to avenge the
wrong done by the god to Coronis. His punishment in the infernal
regions was to stand beneath a huge impending rock, always about
to fall upon him. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., says of him: "Phlegyas,
most wretched, is a monitor to all and with loud voice proclaims
through the shades, `Being warned, learn righteousness, and not
to contemn the gods.'"
27. Virgil, Aeneid, VI.:"The boat of sewn hide groaned under the
weight, and, being leaky, took in much water from the lake."
49. Mr. Wright here quotes Spenser, Ruins of Time:--
"How many great ones may remembered be,
Who in their days most famously did flourish,
Of whom no word we have, nor sign now see,
But as things wiped out with a sponge do perish."
51. Chaucer's "sclandre of his diffame."
61. Of Philippo Argenti little is known, and nothing to his
credit. Dante seems to have an especial personal hatred of him, as if
memory of some disagreeable passage between them in the streets
of Florence. Boccaccio says of him in his Comento: "This Philippo
Argenti, as Coppo di Borghese Domenichi de' Cavicciuli was wont
to say, was a very rich gentleman, so rich that he had the horse
he used to ride shod with silver, and from this he had his
surname; he was in person large, swarthy, muscular, of marvellous
strength, and at the slightest provocation the most irascible of
men; nor are any more known of his qualities than these two, each
in itself very blameworthy." He was of the Adimari family, and of
the Neri faction; while Dante was of the Bianchi party, and in
banishment. Perhaps this fact may explain the bitterness of his
This is the same Philippo Argenti who figures in Boccaccio's
tale. See Inf. VI., note 52. The Ottimo Comento says of him: "He
was a man of great pomp, and great ostentation, and much
expenditure, and little virtue and worth; and therefore the
author says, `Goodness is none that decks his memory.'" And this
is all that is known of the "Fiorentino spirito bizzaro,"
forgotten by history, and immortalized in song. "What a barbarous
strength and confusion of ideas," exclaims Leigh Hunt, Italian
Poets, p. 60, " is there in this whole passage about him!
Arrogance punished by arrogance, a Christian mother blessed for
the unchristian disdainfulness of her son, revenge boasted of and
enjoyed, passion arguing in a circle."
70. The word "mosques" paints at once to the imagination the City
78. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., Davidson's Translation:--Aeneas on a
sudden looks back, and under a rock on the left sees vast prisons
inclosed with a triple wall, which Tartarean Phlegethon's rapid
flood environs with torrents of flame, and whirls roaring rocks
along. Fronting is a huge gate, with columns of solid adamant,
that no strength of men, nor the gods themselves, can with steel
demolish. An iron tower rises aloft; and there wakeful
Tisiphone, with her bloody robe tucked up around her, sits to
watch the vestibule both night and day."
124. This arrogance of theirs; tracotanza, oltracotanza ;
Brantome's outrecuidance; and Spenser's surquedrie.
125. The gate of the Inferno.
130. The coming of the Angel, whose approach is described in the
next canto, beginning at line 64.
1. flush of anger passes from Virgil's cheek on seeing the
pallor of Dante's, and he tries to encourage him with assurances
of success; but betrays his own apprehensions in the broken
phrase, "If not, " which he immediately covers with words of
8. Such, or so great a one, is Beatrice, the "fair and saintly
Lady" of Canto II. 53.
9. The Angel who will open the gates of the City of Dis.
16. Dnte seems to think that he has already reached the bottom of
the infernal conch, with its many convolutions.
52. Gower, Confessio Amantis, I.:--
"Cast nought thin eye upon Meduse
That thou be turned into stone."
Hawthorne has beautifully told the story of "The Gorgon's Head, "
as well as many more of the classic fables, in his Wonder-Book.
54. The attempt which Theseus and Pirithous made to rescue
Proserpine from the infernal regions.
62. The hidden doctrine seems to be, that Negation or Unbelief is
the Gorgon's head which changes the heart to stone; after which there
is "no more returning upward." The Furies display it from the
walls of the City of Heretics.
112. At Arles lie buried, according to old tradition, the Peers
of Charlemagne and their ten thousand men at arms. Archbishop
Turpin, in his famous History of Charles the Great, XXX., Rodd's
Translation, I. 52, says:--
"After this the King and his army proceeded by the way of Gascony
and Thoulouse, and came to Arles, where we found the army of
Burgundy, which had left us in the hostile valley, bringing their
dead by the way of Morbihan and Thoulouse, to bury them in the
plain of Arles. Here we performed the rites of Estolfo, Count of
Champagne; of Solomon; Sampson, Duke of Burgundy; Arnold of
Berlanda; Alberic of Burgundy; Gumard, Esturinite, Hato, Juonius,
Berard, Berengaire, and Naaman, Duke of Bourbon, and of ten
thousand of their soldiers. "
Boccacio comments upon these tombs as follows:--
"At Arles, somewhat out of the city, are many tombs of stone,
made of old for sepulchres, and some are large, and some are
small, and some are better sculptured, and some not so well,
peradventure according to the means of those who had them made;
and upon some of them appear inscriptions after the ancient
custom, I suppose in indication of those who are buried within.
The inhabitants of the country repeat a tradition of them,
affirming that in that place there was once a great battle
between William of Orange, or some other Christian prince, with
his forces on one side, and infidel barbarians for Africa [on the
other]; and that many Christians were slain in it; and that on
the following night, by divine miracle, those tombs were brought
there for the burial of the Christians, and so on the following
morning all the dead Christians were buried in them."
113. Pola is a city in Istria. "Near Pola," says Benvenuto da
Imola, "are seen many tombs, about seven hundred, and of
various forms." Quarnaro is a gulf of the northern extremity
of the Adriatic.
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of Heretics.
Brunetto Latini, Tesoretto, XIII.:--
"Or va mastro Brunetto
Per lo cammino stretto."
14. Sir Thomas Browne, Urn Burial, Chap. IV., says:"They may sit
in the orchestra and noblest seats of heaven who have held up
shaking hands in the fire, and humanly contended for glory.
Meanwhile Epicurus lies deep in Dante's hell, wherein we meet
with tombs enclosing souls, which denied their immortalities. But
whether the virtuous heathen, who lived better than he spake, or,
erring in the principles of himself, yet lived above philosophers
of more specious maxims, lie so deep as he is placed, at least so
low as not to rise against Christians, who, believing or knowing
that truth, have lastingly denied it in their practice and
conversation, -- were a query too sad to insist on."
Also Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part II. Sec. 2. Mem. 6.
Subs. I, thus vindicates the memory of Epicurus: "A quiet mind is
that voluptas, or summum bonum of Epicurus; non dolere, curis
vacare, animo tranquillo esse, not to grieve, but to want cares,
and have a quiet soul, is the only pleasure of the world, as
Seneca truly recites his opinion, not that of eating and
drinking, which injurious Aristotle maliciously puts upon him,
and for which he is still mistaken, mala audit et vapulat,
slandered without a cause, and lashed by all posterity."
32. Farinata degli Uberti was the most valiant and renowned
leader of the Ghibellines in Florence. Boccacio, Comento, says: "He was
the opinion of Epicurus, that the soul dies with the body, and
consequently maintained that human happiness consisted in
temporal pleasures; but he did not follow these in the way that
Epicurus did, that is by making long fasts to have afterwards
pleasure in eating dry bread; but was fond of good and delicate
viands, and ate them without waiting to be hungry; and for this
sin he is damned as a Heretic in this place."
Farinata led to Ghibellines at the famous battle of Monte Aperto
in 1260, where the Guelfs were routed, and driven out of
Florence. He died in 1264.
46. The ancestors of Dante, and Dante himself, were Guelfs. He
did not become a Ghibelline till after his banishment. Boccaccio in
his Life of Dante makes the following remarks upon his party
spirit. I take the passage as given in Mrs. Bunbury's translation
of Balbo's Life and Times of Dante, II. 227.
"He was," says Boccaccio, "a most excellent man, and most
resolute in adversity. It was only on a one subject that he
showed himself, I do not know whether I ought to call it
impatient, or spirited, -- it was regarding anything relating to
Party; since in his exile he was more violent in this respect
than suited his circumstances, and more than he was willing that
others should believe. And in order that it may be seen for what
party he was thus violent and pertinacious, it appears to me I
must go further back in my story. I believe that it was the just
anger of God that permitted, it is a long time ago, almost all
Tuscany and Lombardy to be divided into two parties; I do not
know how they acquired those names, but one party was called
Guelf and the other party Ghibelline. And these two names were so
revered, and had such an effect on the folly of many minds, that,
for the sake of defending the side any one had chosen for his own
against the opposite party, it was not considered hard to lose
property, and even life, if it were necessary. And under these
names the Italian cities many times suffered serious grievences
and changes; and among the rest our city, which was sometimes at
the head of one party, and sometimes of the other, according to
the citizens in power; so much so that Dante's ancestors, being
Guelfs, were twice expelled by the Ghibellines from their home,
and he likewise under the title of Guelf held the reins of the
Florentine Republic, from which he was expelled, as we have
shown, not by the the Ghibellines, but by the Guelfs; and seeing
that he could not return, he so much altered his mind that there
never was a fiercer Ghibelline, or a bitterer enemy to the
Guelfs, than he was. And that which I feel most ashamed at for
the sake of his memory is, that it was a well-known thing in
Romagna, that if any boy or girl, talking to him on party
matters, condemned the Ghibelline side, he would become frantic,
so that if they did not be silent he would have been induced to
throw stones at them; and with this violence of party feeling he
lived until his death. I am certainly ashamed to tarnish with any
fault the fame of such a man; but the order of my subject in some
degree demands it, because if I were silent in those things in
which he was to blame, I should not be believed in those things I
have already related in his praise. Therefore I excuse myself to
himself, who perhaps looks down from heaven with a disdainful eye
on me writing."
51. The following account of the Guelfs and Ghibellines is from
the Pecorone of Giovanni Fiorentino, a writer of the fourteenth
century. It forms the first Novella of the Eight Day, and will be
found in Roscoe's Italian Novelists, I. 322.
"There formerly resided in Germany two wealthy and well-born
individuals, whose names were Guelfo and Ghibellino, very near
neighbors, and greatly attached to each other. But returning
together one day from the chase, there unfortunately arose some
difference of opinion as to the merits of one of their hounds,
which was maintained on both sides so very warmly, that, from
being almost inseparable friends and companions, they became each
other's deadliest enemies. This unlucky division between them
still increasing, they on either side collected parties of their
followers, in order more effectually to annoy each other. Soon
extending its malignant influence among the neighboring lords and
barons of Germany, who divided, according to their motives,
either with the Guelf or the Ghibelline, it not only produced
many serious affrays, but several persons fell victims to its
rage. Ghibellino, finding himself hard pressed by his enemy, and
unable longer to keep the field against him, resolved to apply
for assistance to Frederick the First, the reigning Emperor. Upon
this, Guelfo, perceiving that his adversary sought the alliance
of this monarch, applied on his side to Pope Honorius II., who
being at variance with the former, and hearing how the affair
stood, immediately joined the cause of the Guelfs, the Emperor
having already embraced that of the Ghibellines. It is thus the
apostolic see became connected with the former, and the empire
with the latter faction; and it was thus that a vile hound became
the origin of a deadly hatred between the two noble families. Now
it happened that in the year of our dear Lord and Redeemer 1215,
the same pestiferous spirit spread itself into parts of Italy, in
the following manner.
Messer Guido Orlando being at that time chief magistrate of
Florence, there likewise resided in that city a noble and valiant
cavalier of the family of Buondelmonti, one of the most
distinguished houses in the state. Our young Buondelmonte having
already plighted his troth to a lady of the Amidei family, the
lovers were considered as betrothed, with all the solemnity
usually observed on such occasions. But this unfortunate young
man, chancing one day to pass by the house of the Donati, was
stopped and accosted by a lady of the name of Lapaccia, who moved
to him from her door as he went along, saying: `I am surprised
that a gentleman of your appearance, Signor, should think of
taking for his wife a woman scarcely worthy of handing him his
boots. There is a child of my own, whom, to speak sincerely, I
have long intended for you, and whom I wish you would just
venture to see.' And on this she called out for her daughter,
whose name was Ciulla, one of the prettiest and most enchanting
girls in all Florence. Introducing her to Messer Buondelmonte,
she whispered, `This is she whom I had reserved for you'; and the
young Florentine, suddenly becoming enamored of her, thus replied
to her mother, `I am quite ready, Madonna, to meet your wishes';
and before stirring from the spot he placed a ring upon her
finger, and, wedding her, received her there as his wife. "The
Amidei, hearing that young Buondelmonte had thus espoused
another, immediately met together, and took counsel with other
friends and relations, how they might best avenge themselves for
such an insult offered to their house. There were present among
the rest Lambertuccio Amidei, Schiatta Ruberti, and Mosca
Lamberti, one of whom proposed to give him a box on the ear,
another to strike him in the face; yet they were none of them
able to agree about it among themselves. On observing this, Mosca
hastily rose, in a great passion, saying, `Cosa fatta capo ha,'
wishing it to be understood that a dead man will never strike
again. It was therefore decided that he should be put to death, a
sentence which they proceeded to execute in the following manner.
"M. Buondelmonte returning one Easter morning from a visit to the
Casa Bardi, beyond the Arno, mounted upon a snow white steed, and
dressed in a mantle of the same color, had just reached the foot
of the Ponte Vecchio, or old bridge, where formerly stood a
statue of Mars, whom the Florentines in their Pagan state were
accustomed to worship, when the whole party issued out upon him,
and, dragging him in the scuffle from his horse, in spite of the
gallant resistance he made, despatched him with a thousand
wounds. The tidings of this affair seemed to throw all Florence
into confusion; the chief prsonages and noblest families in the
place everywhere meeting, and dividing themselves into parties in
consequence; the one party embracing the cause of the
Buondelmonti, who placed themselves at the head of the Guelfs;
and the other taking part with the Amidei, who supported the
"In the same fatal manner, nearly all the seigniories and cities
of Italy were involved in the original quarrel between these two
German families: the Guelfs still supporting the interest of the
Holy Church, and the Ghibellines those of the Emperor. And thus I
have made you acquainted with the origin of the Germanic faction,
between two noble houses, for the sake of a vile cur, and have
shown how it afterwards disturbed the peace of Italy for the sake
of a beautiful woman."
53. Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, father of Dante's friend, Guido
Cavalcanti. He was of the Guelf party; so that there are Guelf
and Ghibelline buried in the same tomb.
60. This question recalls the scene in the Odyssey, where the
shade of Agamemnon appears to Ulysses and asks for Orestes.
Book XI. in Chapman's translation, line 603:--
"Doth my son yet survive
In Orchomen or Pylos? Or doth live
In Sparta with his uncle? Yet I see
Divine Orestes is not here with me."
63. Guido Cavalcanti, whom Benvenuto da Imola calls "the other
eye of Florence,"-- alter oculus Florentiae tempore Dantis. It is this
Guido that Dante addresses the sonnet, which is like the breath of
"Guido, I wish that Lapo, thou, and I
Could be by spells conveyed, as it were now,
Upon a barque, with all the winds that blow,
Across all seas at our good will to hie."
He was a poet of decided mark, as may be seen by his "Song of
Fortune," quoted in Note 68, Canto VII., and the Sonnet to Dante,
Note 136, Purgatorio XXX.
But he seems not to have shared Dante's admiration for Virgil,
and to have been more given to the study of philosophy than of
poetry. Like Lucentio in "The Taming of the Shrew" he is
"So devote to Aristotle's ethics
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured."
Boccaccio, Decameron, VI. 9, praises him for his learning and
other good qualities; "for over and beside his being one of the
best Logitians, as those times not yielded a better," so runs the
old translation, "he was also a most absolute Natural
Philosopher, a very friendly Gentleman, singularly well spoken,
and whatsoever else was commendable in any man was no way wanting
in him." In the same Novella he tells this anecdote of him:-- "It
chanced upon a day that Signior Guido, departing from the Church
of Saint Michael d'Horta, and passing along by the
Adamari, so far as to Saint John's Church, which evermore was his
customary walk: many goodly Marble Tombs were then about the said
Church, as now adays are at Saint Reparata, and divers more
beside. He entring among the Columns of Porphiry, and the other
Sepulchers being there, because the door of the Church was shut:
Signior Betto and his Company came riding from Saint Reparata,
and espying Signior Guido amont the Graves and Tombs, said,
`Come, let us go make some jests to anger him.' so putting the
Spurs to their Horses they rode apace towards him; and being upon
him before he perceived them, one of them said, `Guido, thou
refusest to be one of our society, and seekest for that which
never was: when thou hast found it, tell us, what wilt thou do
"Guido seeing himself round engirt with them, suddenly thus
`Gentlemen, you may use me in your own House as you please.' And
setting his hand upon one of the Tombs (which was somewhat great)
he took his rising, and leapt quite over it on the further side,
as being of an agile and springhtly body, and being thus freed
from them, he went away to his own lodging.
"They stood all like men amazed, strangely looking one upon
another, and began afterward to murmur among themselves: That
Guido was a man without any understanding, and the answer which
he had made unto them was to no purpose, neither savoured of any
discretion, but meerly came from an empty Brain, because they had
no more to do in the place where now they were, than any of the
other Citizens, and Signior Guido (himself) as little as any of
them; whereto Signior Betto thus replyed: `Alas, Gentlemen, it is
you your selves that are void of understanding: for, if you had
but observed the answer which he made unto us: he did honestly,
and (in very few words) not only notably express his own wisdom,
but also deservedly reprehend us. Because, if we observe things
as we ought to do, Graves and Tombs are the Houses of the dead,
ordained and prepared to be the latest dwellings. He told us
moreover that although we have here (in this life) our
habitations and abidings, yet these (or the like) must at last be
our Houses. To let us know, and all other foolish, indiscreet,
and unlearned men, that we are worse than dead men, in comparison
of him, and other men equal to him in skill and learning. And
therefore, while we are here among the Graves and Monuments, it
may be well said, that we ar not far from our own Houses, or how
soon we shall be possessors of them, in regard of the frailty
attending on us.'"
Napier, Florentine History, I. 368, speaks of Guido as "a bold,
melancholy man, who loved solitude and literature; but generous,
brave, and courteous, a poet and philosopher, and one that seems
to have had the respect and admiration of his age." He then adds
this singular picture of the times:--
"Corso Donati, by whom he was feared and hated, would have had
him murdered while on a pilgrimage to Saint James of Galicia; on
his return this became known and gained him many supporters
amongst the Cerchi and other youth of Florence; he took no
regular measures of vengeance, but accidentally meeting Corso in
the street, rode violently towards him, casting his javelin at
the same time; it missed by the tripping of his horse and he
escaped with a slight wound from one of Donati's attendants."
Sacchetti, Nov. 68, tells a pleasant story of Guido's having his
cloak nailed to the bench by a roguish boy, while he was playing
chess in one of the streets of Florence, which is also a curious
picture of Italian life.
75. Farinata pays no attention to this outburst of paternal
tenderness on the part of his Guelfic kinsman, but waits, in
stern indifference, till it is ended, and then calmly resumes his
80. The moon, called in the heavens Diana, on earth Luna, and in
the infernal regions Proserpina.
86. In the great battle of Monte Aperto. The river Arbia is a few
miles south of Siena. The traveller crosses it on his way to
Rome. In this battle the banished Ghibellines of Florence,
joining the Sienese, gained a victory over the Guelfs, and retook
the city of Florence. Before the battle Buonaguida, Syndic of
Siena, presented the keys of the city to the Virgin Mary in the
Cathedral, and made a gift to her of the city and the neighboring
country. After the battle the standard of the vanquished
Florentines, together with their battle-bell, the Martinella, was
tied to the tail of a jackass and dragged in the dirt. See
Ampere, Voyage Dantesque, 254.
94. After the battle of Monte Aperto a diet of the Ghibellines
was held at Empoli, in which the deputies from Siena and Pisa,
prompted no doubt by provincial hatred, urged the demolition of
Florence. Farinata vehemently opposed the project in a speech,
thus given in Napier, Florentine History, I. 257:--
"`It would have been better,' he exclaimed, `to have died on the
Arbia, than survive only to hear such a proposition as that which
they were then discussing. There is no happiness in victory
itself, that must ever be sought for amongst the companions who
helped us to gain the day, and the injury we receive from an
enemy inflicts a far more trifling wound than the wrong that
comes from the hand of a friend. If I now complain, it is not
that I fear the destruction of my native city, for as long as I
have life to wield a sword Florence shall never be destroyed; but
I cannot suppress my indignation at the discourses I have just
been listening to: we are here assembled to discuss the wisest
means of maintaining our influence in Florence, not to debate on
its destruction, and my country would indeed be unfortunate, and
I and my companions miserable, mean-spirited creatures, if it
were true that the fate of our city depended on the fiat of the
present assembly. I did hope that all former hatred would have
been banished from such a meeting, and that our mutual
destruction would not have been treacherously aimed at from under
the false colors of general safety; I did hope that all here were
convinced that counsel dictated by jealousy could never be
advantageous to the general good! But to what does your hatred
attach itself? To the ground on which the city stands? To its
houses and insensible walls? To the fugitives who have abandoned
it? Or to ourselves that now possess it? Who is he that thus
advises? Who is the bold bad man that dare thus give voice to the
malice he hath engendered in his soul? It is meet then that all
your cities should exist unharmed, and ours alone be devoted to
destruction? That you should return in triumph to your hearths,
and we with whom you have conquered should have nothing in
exchange but exile and the ruin of our country? Is there on of
you who can believe that I could even hear such things with
patience? Are you indeed ignorant that if I have carried arms, if
I have persecuted my foes, I still have never ceased to love my
country, and that I never will allow what even our enemies have
respected to be violated by your hands, so that posterity may
call them the saviours, us the destroyers of our country? Here
then I declare, that, although I stand alone amongst the
Florentines, I will never permit my native city to be destroyed,
and if it be necessary for her sake to die a thousand deaths, I
am ready to meet them all in her defence. '
"Farinata then rose, and with angry gestures quitted the
assembly; but left such an impression on the mind of his audience
that the project was instantly dropped, and the only question for
the moment was how to regain a chief of such talent and
119. Frederick II., son of the Emperor Henry VI., surnamed the
Severe, and grandson of Barbarossa. He reigned from 1220 to 1250, not
only as Emperor of Germany, but also as King of Naples and
Sicily, where for the most part he held his court, one of the
most brilliant of the Middle Ages. Villani, Cronica, V. I, thus
sketches his character: "This Frederick reigned thirty years as
Emperor, and was a man of great mark and great worth, learned in
letter and of natural ability, universal in all things; he knew
the Latin language, the Italian, the German, French, Greek, and
Arabic; was copiously endowed with all virtues, liberal and
courteous in giving, valiant and skilled in arms, and was much
feared. And he was dissolute and voluptuous in many ways, and had
many concubines and mamelukes, after the Saracenic fashion; he
was addicted to all sensual delights, and led an Epicurean life,
taking no account of any other; and this was one principal reason
why he was an enemy to the clergy and the Holy Church."
Milman, Lat. Christ., B. X., Chap. iii., says of him:
"Frederick's predilection for his native kingdom, for the bright cities
reflected in the blue Mediterranean, over the dark barbaric towns
of Germany, of itself characterizes the man. The summer skies,
the more polished manners, the more elegant luxuries, the
knowledge, the arts, the poetry, the gayety, the beauty, the
romance of the South, were throughout his life more congenial to
his mind, than the heavier and more chilly climate the feudal
barbarism, the ruder pomp, the coarser habits of his German
liegemen..... And no doubt that delicious climate and lovely
land, so highly appreciated by the gay sovereign, was not without
influence on the state, and even the manners of his court, to
which other circumstances contributed to give a peculiar and
romantic character. It resembled probably (though its full
splendor was of a later period) Grenada in its glory, more than
any other in Europe, though more rich and picturesque from the
variety of races, of manners, usages, even dresses, which
prevailed within it." Gibbon also, Decline and Fall, Chap. lix.,
gives this graphic picture:--
"Frederick the Second, the grandson of Barbarossa, was
successively the pupil, the enemy, and the victim of the Church.
At the age of twenty-one years, and in obedience to his guardian
Innocent the Third, he assumed the cross; the same promise was
repeated at his royal and imperial coronations; and his marriage
with the heiress of Jerusalem forever bound him to defend the
kingdom of his son Conrad. But as Frederick advanced in age and
authority, he repented of the rash engagements of his youth: his
liberal sense and knowledge taught him to despise the phantoms of
superstition and the crowns of Asia: he no longer entertained the
same reverence for the successors of Innocent; and his ambition
was occupied by the restoration of the Italian monarchy, from
Sicily to the Alps. But the success of this project would have
reduced the Popes to their primitive simplicity; and, after the
delays and excuses of twelve years, they urged the Emperor, with
entreaties and threats, to fix the time and place of his
departure for Palestine. In the harbors of Sicily and Apulia he
prepared a fleet of one hundred galleys, and of one hundred
vessels, that were famed to transport and land two thousand five
hundred knights, with horses and attendants; his vassals of
Naples and Germany formed a powerful army; and the number of
English crusaders was magnified to sixty thousand by the report
of frame. But the inevitable, or affected, slowness of these
mighty preparations consumed the strength and provisions of the
more indigent pilgrims; the multitude was thinned by sickness and
desertion, and the sultry summer of Calabria anticipated the
mischiefs of a Syrian campaign. At length the Emperor hoisted
sail at Brundusium with a fleet and army of forty thousand men;
but he kept the sea no more than three days; and his hasty
retreat, which was ascribed by his friends to a grievous
indisposition, was accused by his enemies as a voluntary and
obstinate disobedience. For suspending his vow was Frederick
excommunicated by Gregory the Ninth; for presuming, the next
year, to accomplish his vow, he was again excommunicated by the
same Pope. While he served under the banner of the cross, a
crusade was preached against him in Italy; and after his return
he was compelled to ask pardon for the injuries which he had
suffered. The clergy and military orders of Palestine were
previously instructed to renounce his communion and dispute his
commands; and in his own kingdom the Emperor was forced to
consent that the orders of the camp should be issued in the name
of God and of the Christian republic. Frederick entered Jerusalem
in triumph; and with his own hands (for no priest would perform
the office) he took the crown from the alter of the holy
Matthew Paris, A. D. 1239, gives a long letter of Pope Gregory
IX. in which he calls the Emperor some very hard names; "a beast,
full of the words of blasphemy," "a wolf in sheep's clothing, "
"a son lies," "a staff of the impious," and "hammer of the
earth"; and finally accuses him of being the author of a work De
Tribus Impostoribus, which, if it ever existed, is no longer to
be found. "There is one thing," he says in conclusion, "at which,
although we ought to mourn for a lost man, you ought to rejoice
greatly, and for which you ought to return thanks to God, namely,
that this man, who delights in being called a forerunner of
Antichrist, by God's will, no longer endures to be veiled in
darkness; not expecting that his trial and disgrace are near, he
with his own hands undermines the wall of his abominations, and,
by the said letters of his, brings his works of darkness to the
light, boldly setting forth in them, that he could not be
excommunicated by us, although the Vicar of Christ; thus
affirming that the Church had not the power of binding and
loosing, which was given by our Lord to St. Peter and his
successors.....But as it may not be easily believed by some
people that he has ensnared himself by the words of his own
mouth, proofs are ready, to the triumph of the faith; for this
king of pestilence openly asserts that the whole world was
deceived by three, namely Christ Jesus, Moses, and Mahomet; that,
two of them having died in glory, the said Jesus was suspended on
the cross; and he, moreover, presumes plainly to affirm (or
rather to lie), that all are foolish who believe that God, who
created nature, and could do all things, was born of the Virgin."
120. This is Cardinal Ottaviano delgi Ubaldini, who is accused of
saying, "If there be any soul, I have lost mine for the
Ghibellines." Dante takes him at his word.
8. Some critics and commentators accuse Dante of confounding Pope
Anastasius with the Emperor of that name. It is however highly
probable that Dante knew best whom he meant. Both were accused of
heresy, though the heresy of the Pope seems to have been of a
mild type. A few years previous to his time, namely, in the year
484, Pope Felix III. and Acacius, Bishop of Constantinople,
mutually excommunicated each other. When Anastasius II. became
Pope in 496, "he dared," says Milman, Hist. Lat. Christ., I. 349,
"to doubt the damnation of a bishop excommunicated by the See of
Rome: `Felix and Acacius are now both before a higher tribunal;
leave them to that unerring judgment.' He would have the name of
Acacius passed over in silence, quietly dropped, rather than
publicly expunged from the diptychs. This degenerate successor of
St. Peter is not admitted to the rank of a saint. The Pontifical
book (its authority on this point is indignantly repudiated)
accuses Anastasius of having communicated with a deacon of
Thessalonica, who had kept up communion with Acacius; and of
having entertained secret designs of restoring the name of
Acacius in the services of the Church."
9. Photinus is the deacon of Thessalonica alluded to in the
preceding note. His heresy was, that the Holy Ghost did not
proceed from the Father, and that the Father was greater than the
Son. The writers who endeavor to rescue the Pope at the expense
of the Emperor say that Photinus died before the days of Pope
50. Cahors is the cathedral town of the Department of the Lot, in
the South of France, and the birthplace of the poet Clement Marot
and of the romance-writer Calprenede. In the Middle Ages it
seems to have been a nest of usurers. Matthew Paris, in his
Historia Major, under date of 1235, has a chapter entitled, Of
the Usury of the Caursines, which in the translation of Rev. J.
A. Giles runs as follows:--
"In these days prevailed the horrible nuisance of the Caursines
to such a degree that there was hardly any one in all England,
especially among the bishops, who was not caught in their net.
Even the king himself was held indebted to them in an
uncalculable sum of money. For they circumvented the needy in
their necessities, cloaking their usury under the show of trade,
and pretending not to know that whatever is added to the
principal is usury, under whatever name it may be called. For it
is manifest that their loans lie not in the path of charity,
inasmuch as they do not hold out a helping hand to the poor to
relieve them, but to deceive them; not to aid others in their
starvation, but to gratify their own covetousness; seeing that
the motive stamps our every deed. "
70. Those within the fat lagoon, the Irascible, Canto VII., VIII.
71. Whom the wind drives, the Wanton, Canto V., and whom the rain
doth beat, the Gluttonous, Canto VI.
72. And who encounter with such bitter tongues, the Prodigal and
Avaricious, Canto VIII.
80. The Ethics of Aristotle, VII. i. "After these things, making
another beginning, it must be observed by us that there are three
species of things which are to be avoided in manners, viz.
Malice, Incontinence, and Bestiality."
101. The Physics of Aristotle, Book II.
107. Genesis, i. 28: "And God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it."
109. Gabrielle Rossetti, in the Comento Analitico of his edition
of the Divina Commedia, quotes here the lines of Florian:--
"Nous ne recevons l'existence
Qu'afin de travailler pour nous, ou pour autrui:
De ce devoir sacre quiconque se dispense
Est puni par la Providence,
Par le besoin, ou par l'ennui."
110. The constellation Pisces precedes Aries, in which the sun
now is. This indicates the time to be a little before sunrise. It is
114. The Wain is the constellation Charle's Wain, or Bo,otes; and
Caurus is the Northwest, indicated by the Latin name of the
1. With this Canto begins the Seventh Circle of the Inferno, in
which the Violent are punished. In the first Girone or round are
the Violent against their neighbors, plunged more or less deeply
in the river of boiling blood.
2. Mr. Ruskin, Modern Painters, III. 242, has the following
remarks upon Dante's idea of rocks and mountains.--
"At the top of the abyss of the seventh circle, appointed for the
`violent,' or souls who had done evil by force, we are told,
first, that the edge of it was composed of `great broken stones
in a circle'; then, that the place was `Alpine'; and, becoming
hereupon attentive, in order to hear what an Alpine place is
like, we find that it was `like the place beyond Trent, where the
rock, either by earthquake, or failure of support, has broken
down to the plain, so that it gives any one at the top some means
of getting down to the bottom.' This is not a very elevated or
enthusiastic description of an Alpine scene; and it is far from
mended by the following verses, in which we are told that Dante
`began to go down by this great unloading of stones,' and that
they moved often under his feet by reason of the new weight. The
fact is that Dante, by many expressions throughout the poem,
shows himself to have been a notably bad climber; and being fond
of sitting in the sun, looking at his fair Baptistery, or walking
in a dignified manner on flat pavement in a long robe, it puts
him seriously out of his way when he has to take to his hands and
knees, or look to his feet; so that the first strong impression
made upon him by any Alpine scene whatever is, clearly, that it
is bad walking. When he is in a fright and hurry, and has a very
steep place to go down, Virgil has to carry him altogether."
5. Speaking of the region to which Dante here alludes, Eustace,
Classical Tour, I. 71, says:--"The descent becomes more rapid
between Roveredo and Ala; the river, which glided gently through
the valley of Trent, assumes the roughness of a torrent; the
defiles become narrower; and the mountains break into rocks and
precipices, which occasionally approach the road, sometimes rise
perpendicular from it, and now and then hand over it in terrible
In a note he adds:--
"Amid these wilds the traveller cannot fail to notice a vast
tract called the Slavini di Marco, covered with fragments of rock
torn from the sides of the neighboring mountains by an
earthquake, or perhaps by their own unsupported weight, and
hurled down into the plains below. They spread over the whole
valley, and in some places contract the road to a very narrow
space. A few firs and cypresses scattered in the intervals, or
sometimes rising out of the crevices of the rocks, cast a partial
and melancholy shade amid the surrounding nakedness and
desolation. This scene of ruin seems to have made a deep
impression upon the wild imagination of Dante, as he has
introduced it into the twelfth canto of the Inferno, in order to
give the reader an adequate idea of one of his infernal
12. The Minotaur, half bull, half man. See the infamous story in
all the classical dictionaries.
18. The Duke of Athens is Theseus. Chaucer gives him the same
title in The Knights Tale:--
"Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus.
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
That greter was ther non under the sonne.
Ful many a rich contree had he wonne.
What with his wisdom and his chevalrie,
He conquerd all the regne of Feminie,
That whilom was ycleped Scythia;
And wedded the freshe quene Ipolita,
And brought hire home with him to his contree
With mochel glorie and great solempnitee,
And eke hire yonge suster Emelie.
And thus with victorie and with melodie
Let I this worthy duk to Athenes ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside."
Shakespeare also, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, calls him the
Duke of Athens.
20. Ariadne, who gave Theseus the silken thread to guide him back
through the Cretan labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur.
Hawthorne has beatifully told the old story in his Tanglewood
Tales."Ah, the bull-headed villain!" he says. "And O my good
little people, you will perhaps see, one of these days, as I do
now, that every human being who suffers anything evil to get into
his nature, or to remain there, is a kind of Minotaur, an enemy
of his fellow- creatures, and separated from all good
companionship, as this poor monster was."
39. Christ's descent into Limbo, and the earthquake at the
42. This is the doctrine of Empedocles and other old
See Ritter, History of Ancient Philosophy, Book V., Chap. vi. The
following passages are from Mr. Morrison's translation: --
"Empedocles proceeded from the Eleatic principle of the oneness
of all truth. In its unity it resembles a ball; he calls it the sphere,
wherein the ancients recognized the God of Empedoocles.....
"Into the unity of the sphere all elementary things are combined
by love, without difference or distinction: within it they lead a
happy life, replete with holiness, and remote from discord:
They know no god of war nor the spirit of battles, Nor Zeus, the
sovereign, nor Cronos, nor yet Poseidon, But Cypris the
"The actual separation of the elements one from another is
produced by discord; for originally they were bound together in
the sphere, and therein continued perfectly unmovable. Now in
this Empedocles posits different periods and different conditions
of the world; for, according to the above position, originally
all is united in love, and then subsequently the elements and
living essences are separated. ....
"His assertion of certain mundane periods was taken by the
ancients literally; for they tell us that, according to his
theory, All was originally one by love, but afterwards many and
at enmity with itself through discord."
56. The Centaurs are set to guard this Circle, as symbolizing
violence, with some form of which the classic poets usually
68. Chaucer, The Monkes Tale:--
"A lemman had this noble champion,
That highte Deianire, as fresh as May;
And as thise clerkes maken mention,
She hath him sent a sherte fresh and gay:
Alas! this sherte, alas and wala wa!
Envenimed was sotilly withalle,
That or that he had wered it half a day,
It made his flesh all from his bones falle."
Chiron was a son of Saturn; Pholus, of Silenus; and Nessus, of
Ixion and the Cloud.
71. Homer, Iliad, XI. 832, "Whom Chiron instructed, the most just
of the Centaurs." Hawthorne gives a humorous turn to the fable of
Chiron, in the Tanglewod Tales, p. 273:--
"I have sometimes suspected that Master Chiron was not really
very different from other people, but that, being a kind-hearted
and merry old fellow, he was in the habit of making believe that
he was a horse, and scrambling about the school-room on all
fours, and letting the little boys ride upon his back. And so,
when his scholars had grown up, and grown old, and were trotting
their grandchildren on their knees, they told them about the
sports of their school days; and these young folks took the idea
that their grandfathers had been taught their letters by a
Centaur, half man and half horse.....
"Be that as it may, it has always been told for a fact, (and
always will be told, as long as the world lasts,) that Chiron,
with the head of a schoolmaster, had the body and legs of a
horse. Just imagine the grave old gentleman clattering and
stamping into the school room on his four hoofs, perhaps treading
on some little fellow's toes, flourishing his switch tail instead
of a rod, and, now and them, trotting out of doors to eat a
mouthful of grass!"
77. Mr. Ruskin refers to this line in confirmation of his theory
that "all great art represents something that it sees or believes in;
nothing unseen or uncredited." The passage is as follows, Modern
Painters, III. 83:--
"And just because it is always something that it sees or believes
in, there is the peculiar character above noted, almost
unmistakable, in all high and true ideals, of having been as it
were studies from the life, and involving pieces of sudden
familiarity, and close specific painting which never would have
been admitted or even thought of, had not the painter drawn
either from the bodily life or from the life of faith. For
instance, Dante's Centaur, Chiron, dividing his beard with his
arrow before he can speak, is a thing that no mortal would ever
have thought of, if he had not actually seen the Centaur do it.
They might have composed handsome bodies of men and horses in all
possible ways, through a whole life of pseudo-idealism, and yet
never dreamed of any such thing. But the real living Centaur
actually trotted across Dante's brain, and he saw him do it."
107. Alexander of Thessaly and Dionysius of Syracuse. 51
110. Azzolino, or Ezzolino di Romano, tyrant of Padua, nicknamed
the Son of the Devil. Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, III. 33, describes
"Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman lord,
Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell."
His story may be found in Sismondi's Histoire des Republiques
Italiennes, Chap. XIX. He so outraged the religious sense of the
people by his cruelties, that a crusade was preached against him,
and he died a prisoner in 1259, tearing the bandages from his
wounds, and fierce and defiant to the last.
"Ezzolino was small of stature," says Sismondi, "but the whole
aspect of his person, all his movements, indicated the soldier.
His language was bitter, his countenance proud; and by a single
look, he made the boldest tremble. His soul, so greedy of all
crimes, felt no attraction for sensual pleasures. Never had
Ezzolino loved women; and this perhaps is the reason why in his
punishments he was as pitiless against them as against men. He
was in his sixty- sixth year when he died; and his reign of blood
had lasted thirty- four years." Many glimpses of him are given in
the Cento Novelle Antiche, as if his memory long haunted the
minds of men. Here are two of them, from Novella 83.
"Once upon a time Messer Azzolino da Romano made proclamation,
through his own territories and elsewhere, that he wished to do a
great charity, and therefore that all the beggars, both men and
women, should assemble in his meadow, on a certain day, and to
each he would give a new gown, and abundance of food. The news
spread among the servants on all hands. When the day of
assembling came, his seneschals went among them with the gowns
and the food, and made them strip naked one by one, and then
clothed them with new clothes, and fed them. They asked for their
old rags, but it was all in vain; for he put them into a heap and
set fire to them. Afterwards he found there so much gold and
silver melted, that it more than paid the expense, and then he
dismissed them with his blessing.....
"To tell you how much he was feared, would be a long story, and
many people knew it. But I will recall how he, being one day with
the Emperor on horseback, with all their people, they laid a
wager as to which of them had the most beautiful sword. The
Emperor drew from its sheath his own, which was wonderfully
garnished with gold and precious stones. Then said Messer
Azzolino: `It is very beautiful; but mine, without any great
ornament, is far more beautiful'; -- and he drew it forth. Then
six hundred knights, who were with him, all drew theirs. When the
Emperor beheld this cloud of swords, he said: `Yours is the most
111. Obizzo da Esti, Marquis of Ferrara. He was murdered by Azzo,
"whom he thought to be his son," says Boccaccio, "though he was
not. " The Ottimo Comento remarks: "Many call themselves sons,
and are step-sons."
119. Guido di Monforte, who murdered Prince Henry of England "in
the bosom of God," that is, in the church, at Viterbo. The event is
thus narrated by Napier, Florentine History, I. 283:--
"Another instance of this revengeful spirit occurred in the year
1271 at Viterbo, where the cardinals had assembled to elect a
successor to Clement the Fourth, about whom they had been long
disputing: Charles of Anjou and Philip of France, with Edward and
Henry, sons of Richard, Duke of Cornwall, had repaired there, the
two first to hasten the election, which they finally accomplished
by the elevation of Gregory the Tenth. During these proceedings
Prince Henry, while taking the sacrament in the church of San
Silvestro at Viterbo, was stabbed to the heart by his own cousin,
Guy de Montfort, in revenge for the Earl of Leicester's death,
although Henry was then endeavoring to procure his pardon. This
sacrilegious act threw Viterbo into confusion, but Montfort had
many supporters, one of whom asked him what he had done. `I have
taken my revenge,' said he. ` But your father's body was
trailed!' At this reproach, De Montfort instantly re-entered the
church, walked straight to the altar, and, seizing Henry's body
by the hair, dragged it through the aisle, and left it, still
bleeding, in the open street: he then retired unmolested to the
castle of his father-in-law, Count Rosso of the Maremma, and
there remained in security!" "The body of the Prince," says
Barlow, Study of Dante, p. 125, "was brought to England, and
interred at Hayles, in Gloucestershire, in the Abbey which his
father had there built for monks of the Cistercian order; but his
heart was put into a golden vase, and placed on the tomb of
Edward the Confessor, in Westminster Abbey; most probably, as
stated by some writers, in the hands of a statue. "
123. Violence in all its forms was common enough in Florence in
the age of Dante.
134. Attila, the Scourge of God. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, Chap.
39, describes him thus:--
"Attila, the son of Mundzuk, deduced his noble, perhaps his
regal, descent from the ancient Huns, who had formerly contended
with the monarchs of China. His features, according to the
observation of a Gothic historian, bore the stamp of his national
origin; and the portrait of Attila exhibits the genuine deformity
of a modern Calmuk; a large head, a swarthy complexion, small,
deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a
beard, broad shoulders, and a short, square body, of nervous
strength, though of a disproportioned form. The haughty step and
demeanor of the King of the Huns expressed the consciousness of
his superiority above the rest of mankind; and he had a custom of
fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror
which he inspired. "
135. Which Pyrrhus and which Sextus, the commentators cannot
determine; but incline to Pyrrhus of Epirus, and Sextus Pompey,
the corsair of the Mediterranean.
137. Nothing more is known of these highwaymen than that the
first infested the Roman sea-shore, and that the second was of a noble
family of Florence.
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of those who had
laid violent hands on themselves or their property.
2. Chaucer, Knights Tale, 1977:--
"First on the wall was peinted a forest,
In which ther wonneth neyther man ne best,
With knotty knarry barrein trees old
Of stubbes sharpe and hidous to behold;
In which there ran a romble and a swough
As though a storme shuld bresten every bough."
9. The Cecina is a small river running into the Mediterranean not
many miles south of Leghorn; Corneto, a village in the Papal
States, north of Civita Vecchia. The country is wild and thinly
peopled, and studded with thickets, the haunts of the deer and
the wild boar. This region is the fatal Maremma, thus described
by Forsyth, Italy, p. 156:--
"Farther south is the Maremma, a region which, though now worse
than a desert, is supposed to have been anciently both fertile
and healthy. The Maremma certainly formed part of that Etruria
which was called from its harvests the annonaria. Old Roman
cisterns may still be traced, and the ruins of Populonium are
still visible in the worst part of this tract: yet both nature
and man seem to have conspired against it.
"Sylla threw this maritime part of Tuscany into enormous
latifundia for his disbanded soldiers. Similar distributions
continued to lessen its population during the Empire. In the
younger Pliny's time the climate was pestilential. The Lombards
gave it a new aspect of misery. Wherever they found culture they
built castles, and to each castle they allotted a `bandita' or
military fief. Hence baronial wars which have left so many
picturesque ruins on the hills, and such desolation round them.
Whenever a baron was conquered, his vassals escaped to the
cities, and the vacant fief was annexed to the victorious. Thus
stripped of men, the lands returned into a state of nature: some
were flooded by the rivers, others grew into horrible forests,
which enclose and concentrate the pestilence of the lakes and
"In some parts the water is brackish, and lies lower than the
sea: in others it oozes full of tartar from beds oftravertine. At
the bottom or on the sides of hills are a multitude of hot
springs, which form pools, called Lagoni.
A few of these are said to produce borax: some, which are called
fumache, exhale sulphur; others, called bulicami, boil with a
mephitic gas. The very air above is only a pool of vapors, which
sometimes undulate, but seldom flow off. It draws corruption from
a rank, unshorn, rotting vegetation, from reptiles and fish both
living and dead.
"All nature conspires to drive man away from this fatal region;
but man will ever return to his bane, if it be well baited. The
Casentine peasants still migrate hither in the winter to feed
their cattle: and here they sow corn, make charcoal, saw wood,
cut hoops, and peel cork. When summer returns they decamp, but
often too late; for many leave their corpses on the road, or
bring home the Maremmian disease."
11. Aeneid, III., Davidson's Tr.:--
"The shores of the Strophades first receive me rescued from the
waves. The Strophades, so called by a Greek name, are islands
situated in the great Ionian Sea; which direful Celaeno and the
other Harpies inhabit, from what time Phineus' palace was closed
against them, and they were frightened from his table, which they
formerly haunted. No monster more fell than they, no plague and
scourge of the gods more cruel, ever issued from the Stygian
waves. They are fowls with virgin faces, most loathsome is their
bodily discharge, hands hooked, and looks ever pale with famine.
Hither conveyed, as soon as we entered the port, lo! we observe
joyous herds of cattle roving up and down the plains, and flocks
of goats along the meadows without a keeper. We rush upon them
with our swords, and invoke the gods and Jove himself to share
the booty. Then along the winding shore we raise the couches, and
feast on the rich repast. But suddenly, with direful swoop, the
Harpies are upon us from the mountains, shake their wings with
loud din, prey upon our banquet, and defile everything with their
touch: at the same time, together with a rank smell, hideous
21. His words in the Aeneid, III., Davidson's Tr.:--
"Near at hand there chanced to be a rising ground, on whose top
were young cornel-trees, and a myrtle rough with thick, spear-
like branches. I came up to it, and attempting to tear from the
earth the verdant wood, that I might cover the altars with the
leafy boughs, I observe a dreadful prodigy, and wondrous to
relate. For from that tree which first is torn from the soil, its
rooted fibres being burst asunder, drops of black blood distil,
and stain the ground with gore: cold terror shakes my limbs, and
my chill blood is congealed with fear. I again essay to tear off
a limber bough from another, and thoroughly explore the latent
cause: and from the rind of that other the purple blood descends.
Raising in my mind many an anxious thought, I with reverence
besought the rural nymphs, and father Mars, who presides over the
Thracian territories, kindly to prosper the vision and avert evil
from the omen. But when I attempted the boughs a third time with
a more vigorous effort, and on my knees struggled against the
opposing mould, (shall I speak, or shall I forbear?) a piteous
groan is heard from the bottom of the rising ground, and a voice
sent forth reaches my ears: `Aeneas, why dost thou tear an
unhappy wretch? Spare me, now that I am in my grave; forbear to
pollute with guilt thy pious hands: Troy brought me forth no
stranger to you; nor is it from the trunk this blood distils.'"
40. Chaucer, Knightes Tale, 2339:--
"And as it queinte, it made a whisteling
As don these brondes wet in hir brenning,
And at the brondes ende outran anon
As it were blody dropes many on."
See also Spenser, Faerie Queene, I. ii. 30.
58. Pietro della Vigna, Chancellor of the Emperor Frederick II.
Napier's account of him is as follows, Florentine History, I.
197-- "The fate of his friend and minister, Piero delle Vigne of
Capua, if truly told, would nevertheless impress us with an
unfavorable idea of his mercy and magnanimity: Piero was sent
with Taddeo di Sessa as Frederick's advocate and representative
to the Council of Lyons, which was assembled by his friend
Innocent the Fourth, nominally to reform the Church, but really
to impart more force and solemnity to a fresh sentence of
excommunication and deposition. There Taddeo spoke with force and
boldness for his master; but Piero was silent; and hence he was
accused of being, like several others, bribed by the Pope, not
only to desert the Emperor, but to attempt his life; and whether
he were really culpable, or the victim of court intrigue, is
still doubtful. Frederick, on apparently good evidence, condemned
him to have his eyes burned out, and the sentence was executed at
San Miniato al Tedesco: being afterwards sent on horseback to
Pisa, where he was hated, as an object for popular derison, he
died, as is conjectured, from the effects of a fall while thus
cruelly exposed, and not by his own hand, as Dante believed and
Milman, Latin Christianity, V. 499, gives the story thus:--
"Peter de Vine#a had been raised by the wise choice of Frederick
to the highest rank and influence. All the acts of Frederick were
attributed to his Chancellor. De Vine#a, like his master, was a
poet; he was one of the counsellors in his great scheme of
legislation. Some rumors spread abroad that at the Council of
Lyons, though Frederick had forbidden all his representatives
from holding private intercourse with the Pope, De Vine#a had
many secret conferences with Innocent, and was accused of
betraying his master's interests. Yet there was no seeming
diminution in the trust placed in De Vine#a. Still, to the end
the Emperor's letters concerning the disaster at Parma are by the
same hand. Over the cause of his disgrace and death, even in his
own day, there was deep doubt and obscurity. The popular rumor
ran that Frederick was ill; the physician of De Vine#a prescribed
for him; the Emperor having received some warning, addressed De
Vine#a: `My friend, in thee I have full trust; art thou sure that
this is medicine, not poison?' De Vine#a replied: `How often has
my physician ministered healthful medicines!--why are you now
afraid?' Frederick took the cup, sternly commanded the physician
to drink half of it. The physician threw himself at the King's
feet, and, he fell, overthrew the liquor. But what was left was
administered to some criminals, who died in agony. The Emperor
wrung his hands and wept bitterly: `Whom can I now trust,
betrayed by my own familiar friend? Never can I know security,
never can I know joy more.' By one account Peter de Vine#a was
led ignominiously on an ass through Pisa, and thrown into prison,
where he dashed his brains out against the wall. Dante's immortal
verse has saved the fame of De Vine#a: according to the poet he
was the victim of wicked and calumnious jealousy."
See also Giuseppe de Blasiis, Vita et Opere di Pietro della
112. Iliad, XII. 146: "Like two wild boars, which catch the
coming tumult of men and dogs in the mountains, and, advancing
obliquely to the attack, break down the wood about them, cutting
it off at the roots."
Chaucer, Legende of Goode Women:--
Envie ys lavendere of the court alway;
For she ne parteth neither nyght ne day
Out of the house of Cesar, thus saith Daunte."
120. "Lano," says Boccaccio, Comento, "was young gentleman of
Siena, who had a large patrimony, and associating himself with a
club of other young Sienese, called the Spendthrift Club, they also
being all rich, together with them, not spending but squandering, in
a short time he consumed all that he had and became very poor. "
Joining some Florentine troops sent out against the Aretines, he
was in a skirmish at the parish of Toppo, which Dante calls a
joust; "and notwithstanding he might have saved himself,"
continues Boccaccio, "remembering his wretched condition, and it
seeming to him a grievous thing to bear poverty, as he had been
very rich, he rushed into the thick of the enemy and was slain,
as perhaps he desired to be."
125. Some commentators interpret these dogs as poverty and
despair, still pursuing their victims. The Ottimo Comento calls
them "poor men who, to follow pleasure and the kitchens of other
people, abandoned their homes and families, and are therefore
transformed into hunting dogs, and pursue and devour their masters."
133. Jacopo da St. Andrea was a Paduan of like character and life
as Lano. "Among his other squanderings," says the Ottimo Comento,
"it is said that, wishing to see a grand and beautiful fire, he had one
of his own villas burned."
143. Florence was first under the protection of the god Mars;
afterwards under that of St. John the Baptist. But in Dante's
time the statue of Mars was still standing on a column at the
head of the Ponte Vecchio. It was over thrown by an inundation of
the Arno in 1333. See Canto XV. Note 62.
149. Florence was destroyed by Totila in 450, and never by
Attila. In Dante's time the two seem to have been pretty generally
confounded. The Ottimo Comento remarks upon this point, "Some say
that Totila was one person and Attila another; and some say that
he was one and the same man."
150. Dante does not mention the name of this suicide; Boccaccio
thinks, for one of two reasons; "either out of regard of his
surviving relatives, who peradventure are honorable men, and
therefore he did not wish to stain them with the infamy of so
dishonest a death, or else (as in those times, as if by a
malediction sent by God upon our city, many hanged themselves)
that each one might apply it to either he pleased of these many."
1. In this third round of the seventh circle are punished the
Violent against God,
"In heart denying and blaspheming him,
And by disdaining Nature and her bounty."
15. When he retreated across the Libyan desert with the remnant
of Pompey's army after the battle of Pharsalia. Lucan, Pharsalia,
"Foremost, behold, I lead you to the toil,
My feet shall foremost print the dusty soil."
31. Boccaccio confesses that he does not know where Dante found
this tradition of Alexander. Benvenuto da Imola says it is a letter
which Alexander wrote to Aristotle. He quotes the passage as
follows: "In India ignited vapors fell from heaven like snow. I
commanded my soldiers to trample them under foot."
Dante perhaps took the incident from the old metrical Romance of
Alexander, which in some form or other was current in his time.
In the English version of it, published by the Roxburghe Club, we
find the rain of fire, and a fall of snow; but it is the snow,
and not the fire, and the soldiers trample down. So likewise in
the French version. The English runs as follows, line 4164: --
"Than fandis he furth as I finde five and twenti days,
Come to a velanus vale thare was a vile cheele,
Quare flaggis of the fell snawe fell fra the heven,
That was a brade, sais the buke, as battes ere of wolle.
Than bett he many brigt fire and lest it bin nold,
And made his folk with thaire feete as flores it to trede.
Than fell ther fra the firmament as it ware fell sparkes,
Ropand doune o rede fire, than any rayne thikir."
45. Canto VIII. 83.
56. Mount Etna, under which, with his Cyclops, Vulcan forged the
thunderbolts of Jove.
63. Capaneus was one of the seven kings who besieged Thebes.
Euripides, Phoenissae, line 1188, thus describes his death:--
While o'er the battlements sprung Capaneus,
Jove struck him with his thunder, and the earth
Resounded with the crack; meanwhile mankind
Stood all aghast; from off the ladder's height
His limbs were far asunder hurled, his hair
Flew to'ards Olympus, to the ground his blood,
His hands and feet whirled like Ixion's wheel,
And to the earth his flaming body fell."
Also Gower, Confes. Amant., I.:--
"As he the cite wolde assaile,
God toke him selfe the bataile
Ayen his pride, and fro the sky
A firy thonder sudeinly
He sende and him to pouder smote."
72. Like Hawthorne's scarlet letter, at once an ornament and a
79. The Bulicame or Hot Springs of Viterbo. Villani, Cronica,
Book 1. Ch. 51, gives the following brief account of these springs,
and of the origin of the name of Viterbo:--
The city of Viterbo was built by the Romans, and in old times was
called Vigezia, and the citizens Vigentians. And the Romans sent
the sick there on account of the baths which flow from the
Bulicame, and therefore it was called Vita Erbo, that is, life of
the sick, or city of life."
80. "The building thus appropriated", says Mr. Barlow,
Contributions to the Study of the Divine Comedy, p. 129, "would
appear to have been the large ruined edifice known as the Bagno
di Ser Paolo Benigno, situated between the Bulicame and Viterbo.
About half a mile beyond the Porta di Faule, which leads to
Toscanella, we come to a way called Reillo, after which we arrive
at the said ruined edifice, which received the water from the
Bulicame by conduits, and has popularly been regarded as the
Bagno delle Meretrici alluded to by Dante; there is no other
building here found, which can dispute with it the claim to this
102. The shouts and cymbals of the Corybantes, drowning the cries
of the infant Jove, lest Saturn should find him and devour him.
103. The statue of Time, turning its back upon the East and
looking towards Rome. Compare Daniel ii. 31.
105. The Ages of Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron. See Ovid,
Metamorph. I. See also Don Quixote's discourse to the goatherds,
inspired by the acorns they gave him, Book II. Chap. 3; and
Tasso's Ode to the Golden Age, in the Aminta.
113. The Tears of Time, forming the infernal rivers that flow
Milton, Parad. Lost, II. 577:--
"Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;
Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, named of lamentation loud
Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegeton,
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
Far off from these a slow and silent stream,
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks
Forthwith his former state and being forgets,
Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain."
136. See Purgatorio XXVIII.
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of the Violent
"And for this reason does the smallest round
Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors."
4. Guizzante is not Ghent, but Cadsand, an island opposite
L'Ecluse, where the great canal of Bruges enters the sea. A canal thus
flowing into the sea, the dikes on either margin uniting with the
sea-dikes, gives a perfect image of this part of the Inferno.
Lodovico Guicciardini in his Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi
(1581), p. 416, speaking of Cadsand, says: "This is the very
place of which our great poet Dante makes mention in the
fifteenth chapter of the Inferno, calling it incorrectly, perhaps
by error of the press, Guizzante; where still at the present day
great repairs are continually made upon the dikes, because here,
and in the environs towards Bruges, the flood, or I should rather
say the tide, on account of the situation and lowness of the
land, has very great power, particularly during a northwest
5. These lines recall Goldsmith's description in the Traveller:- -
"Methinks her patient sons before me stand,
Where the broad ocean leans against the land,
And, sedulous to stop the coming tide,
Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride.
Onward, methinks, and diligently slow
The firm connected bulwark seems to grow;
Spreads its long arms amidst the watery roar,
Scoops out an empire and usurps the shore."
9. That part of the Alps in which the Brenta rises.
29. The reading la mia seems preferable to la mano, and is
justified by line 45.
30. Brunetto Latini, Dante's friend and teacher. Villani thus
speaks of him, Cronica, VIII. 10: "In this year 1294 died in
Florence a worthy citizen, whose name was Ser Brunetto Latini,
who was a great philosopher and perfect master of rhetoric, both in
speaking and in writing. He commented the Rhetoric of Tully, and
made the good and useful book called the Tesoro, and the
Tesoretto, and the Keys of the Tesoro, and many other books of
philosophy, and of vices and of virtues, and he was Secretary of
our Commune. He was a worldly man, but we have made mention of
him because he was the first master in refining the Florentines,
and in teaching them how to speak correctly, and how to guide and
govern our Republic on political principles."
Boccaccio, Comento, speaks of him thus: "This Ser Brunetto Latini
was a Florentine, and a very able man in some of the liberal
arts, and in philosophy; but his principal calling was that of
Notary; and he held himself and his calling in such great esteem,
that, having made a mistake in a contract drawn up by him, and
having been in consequence accused of fraud, he preferred to be
condemned for it rather than to confess that he had made a
mistake; and afterwards he quitted Florence in disdain, and
leaving in memory of himself a book composed by him, called the
Tesoretto, he went to Paris and lived there a long time, and
composed a book there which is in French, and in which he treats
of many matters regarding the liberal arts, and moral and natural
philosophy, and metaphysics, which he called the Tesoro; and
finally, I believe, he died in Paris."
He also wrote a short poem, called the Favoletto, and perhaps the
Pataffio, a satirical poem in the Florentine dialect, "a jargon,
" says Nardini, "which cannot be understood even with a
commentary. " But his fame rests upon the Tesoretto and the
Tesoro, and more than all upon the fact that he was Dante's
teacher, and was put by him into a very disreputable place in the
Inferno. He died in Florence, not in Paris, as Boccaccio
supposes, and was buried in Santa Maria Novella, where his tomb
still exists. It is strange than Boccaccio should not have known
this, as it was in this church that the "seven young gentlewomen"
of his Decameron met "on a Tuesday morning," and resolved to go
together into the country, where they "might hear the birds sing,
and see the verdure of the hills and plains, and the fields full
of grain undulating like the sea. "
The poem of the Tesoretto, written in a jingling metre, which
reminds one of the Vision of Piers Ploughman, is itself a Vision,
with the customary allegorical personages of the Virtues and
Vices. Ser Brunetto, returning from an embassy to King Alphonso
of Spain, meets on the plain of Roncesvalles a student of
Bologna, riding on a day mule, who informs him that the Guelfs
have been banished from Florence. Whereupon Ser Brunetto, plunged
in meditation and sorrow, loses the highroad and wanders in a
wondrous forest. Here he discovers the august and gigantic figure
of Nature, who relates to him the creation of the world, and
gives him a banner to protect him on his pilgrimage through the
forest, in which he meets with no adventures, but with the
Virtues and Vices, Philosophy, Fortune, Ovid, and the God of
Love, and sundry other characters, which are sung at large
through eight or ten chapters. He then emerges from the forest,
and confesses himself to the monks of Montpellier; after which he
goes back into the forest again, and suddenly finds himself on
the summit of Olympus; and the poem abruptly leaves his
discoursing about the elements with Ptolemy,
"Mastro di storlomia
E di filosofia."
It has been supposed by some commentators that Dante was indebted
to the Tesoretto for the first idea of the Commedia. "If any one
is pleased to imagine this," says the Abbate Zannoni in the
Preface to his edition of the Tesoretto, (Florence, 1824,) "he
must confess that a slight and almost invisible spark served to
kindle a vast conflagration." The Tesoro, which is written in
French, is a much more ponderous and pretentious volume. Hitherto
it has been known only in manuscript, or in the Italian
translation of Giamboni, but at length appears as one of the
volumes of the Collection de Documents inedits sur l'Histoire de
France, under the title of Li Livres dou Tresor, edited by P.
Chabaille, Paris, 1863; a stately quarto of some seven hundred
pages, which it would assuage the fiery torment of Ser Brunetto
to look upon, and justify him in saying
"Commended unto thee be my Tesoro,
In which I still live, and no more I ask."
The work is quaint and curious, but mainly interesting as being
written by Dante's schoolmaster, and showing what he knew and
what he taught his pupil. I cannot better describe it than in the
author's own words, Book I. ch. I:--
"The smallest part of this Treasure is like unto ready money, to
be expended daily in things needful; that is, it treats of the
beginning of time, of the antiquity of old histories, of the
creation of the world, and in fine of the nature of all
"The second part, which treats of the vices and virtues, is of
precious stones, which give unto man delight and virtue; that is
to say, what things a man should do, and what he should not, and
shows the reason why.....
"The third part of the Treasure is of fine gold; that is to say,
it teaches a man to speak according to the rules of rhetoric, and
how a ruler ought to govern those beneath him.....
"And I say not that this book is extracted from my own poor sense
and my own naked knowledge, but, on the contrary, it is like a
honeycomb gathered from diverse flowers; for this book is wholly
compiled from the wonderful sayings of the authors who before our
time have treated of philosophy, each one according to his
"And if any one should ask why this book is written in Romance,
according to the languages of the French, since we are Italian, I
should say it is for two reasons; one, because we are in France,
and the other, because this speech is more delectable, and more
common to all people."
62. "Afterwards," says Brunetto Latini, Tresor, Book I. Pt. I. ch. 37,
"the Romans besieged Fiesole, till at last they conquered it
and brought it into subjection. Then they built upon the plain,
which is at the foot of the high rocks on which that city stood,
another city, that is now called Florence. And know that the spot
of ground where Florence stands was formerly called the House of
Mars, that is to say the House of War; for Mars, who is one of
the seven planets, is called the God of War, and as such was
worshipped of old. Therefore it is no wonder that the Florentines
are always in war and in discord, for that planet reigns over
them. Of this Master Brunez Latins ought to know the truth, for
he was born there, and was in exile on account of war with the
Florentines, when he composed this book." See also Villani, I.
38, who assigns a different reason for the Florentine dissensions.
"And observe, that if the Florentines are always in war and dissension
among themselves it is not to be wondered at, they being descended
from two nations so contrary and hostile and different in customs,
as were the noble and virtuous Romans and the rude and warlike
Again, IV. 7, he attributes the Florentine dissensions to both
the above-mentioned causes.
67. Villani, IV. 31, tells the story of certain columns of
porphyry given by the Pisans to the Florentines for guarding their city
while the Pisan army had gone to the conquest of Majorca. The
columns were cracked by fire, but being covered with crimson
cloth, the Florentines did not perceive it. Boccaccio repeats the
story with variations, but does not think it a sufficient reason
for calling the Florentines blind, and confesses that he does not
know what reason there can be for so calling them.
89. The "other text" is the prediction of his banishment, Canto X.
81, and the Lady is Beatrice.
96. Boileau, Epitre, V.:--
"Qu'a son gre desormais la fortune me joue,
On me verra dormir au branle de sa roue."
And Tennyson's Song of "Fortune and her Wheel":--
"Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel and lower the proud;
Turn thy wild wheel thro' sunshine, storm, and cloud;
Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate.
"Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown;
With that wild wheel we go not up or down;
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.
"Smile and we smile, the lords of many lands;
Frown and we smile, the lords of our own hands;
For man is man and master of his fate.
"Turn, turn thy wheel above the staring crowd;
Thy wheel and thou are shadows in the cloud;
Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate."
109. Priscian, the grammarian of Constantinople in the sixth
110. Francesco d'Accorso, a distinguished jurist and Professor at
Bologna in the thirteenth century, celebrated for his Commentary
upon the Code Justinian.
113. Andrea de' Mozzi, Bishop of Florence, transferred by the
Pope, the "Servant of Servants," to Vicenza; the two cities being here
designated by the rivers on which they are respectively situated.
119. See Note 30.
122. The Corsa del Pallio, or foot races, at Verona; in which a
green mantle, or Pallio, was the prize. Buttura says that these foot-
races are still continued (1823), and that he has seen them more
than once; but certainly not in the nude state in which Boccaccio
describes them, and which renders Dante's comparison more
complete and striking.
1. In this Canto the subject of the preceding is continued.
4. Guidoguerra, Tegghiajo Aldobrandi, and Jacopo Rusticucci.
37. The good Gualdrada was a daughter of Bellincion Berti, the
simple citizen of Florence in the olden time, who used to walk the
streets "begirt with bone and leather," as mentioned in the
Paradiso, XV. 112. Villani, I. 37, reports a story of her with
all the brevity of a chronicler. Boccaccio tells the same story,
as if he were writing a page of the Decameron. In his version it
runs as follows.
"The Emperor Otho IV., being by chance in Florence and having
gone to the festival of St. John, to make it more gay with his
presence, it happened that to the church with the other city
dames, as our custom is, came the wife of Messer Berto, and
brought with her a daughter of hers called Gualdrada, who was
still unmarried. And as they sat there with the others, the
maiden being beautiful in face and figure, nearly all present
turned round to look at her, and among the rest the Emperor. And
having much commended her beauty and manners, he asked Messer
Berto, who was near him, who she was. To which Messer Berto
smiling answered: `She is the daughter of one who, I dare say,
would let you kiss her if you wished.' These words the young lady
heard, being near the speaker; and somewhat troubled by the
opinion her father seemed to have of her, that, if he wished it,
she would suffer herself to be kissed by any one in this free
way, rising, and looking a moment at her father, and blushing
with shame, said: `Father, do not make such courteous promises at
the expense of my modesty, for certainly, unless by violence, no
one shall ever kiss me, except him whom you shall give me as my
husband.' The Emperor, on hearing this, much commended the words
and the young lady..... And calling forward a noble youth named
Guido Beisangue, who was afterwards called Guido the Elder, who
as yet had no wife, he insisted upon his marrying her; and gave
him as her dowry a large territory in Cassentino and the Alps,
and made him Count thereof." Amp@ere says in his Voyage
Dantesque, page 242: "Near the battle-field of Campaldino stands
the little town of Poppi, whose castle was built in 1230 by the
father of the Arnolfo who built some years later the Palazzo
Vecchio of Florence. In this castle is still shown the bedroom of
the beautiful and modest Gualdrada." Francesco Sansovino, an
Italian novelist of the sixteenth century, has made Gualdrada the
heroine of one of his tales, but has strangely perverted the old
tradition. His story may be found in Roscoe's Italian Novelists,
III. p. 107.
41. Tegghiajo Aldobrandi was a distinguished citizen of Florence,
and opposed what Malespini calls "the ill counsel of the people, "
that war should be declared against the Sienese, which war
resulted in the battle of Monte Aperto and the defeat of the
44. Jacopo Rusticucci was a rich Florentine gentleman, whose
chief misfortune seems to have been an ill-assorted marriage.
Whereupon the amiable Boccaccio in his usual Decameron style
remarks: "Men ought not then to be over-hasty in getting married;
on the contrary, they should come to it with much precaution."
And then he indulges in five octavo pages against matrimony and
woman in general.
45. See Macchiavelli's story of Belfagor, wherein Minos and
Rhadamanthus, and the rest of the infernal judges, are greatly
surprised to hear an infinite number of condemned souls "lament
nothing so bitterly as their folly in having taken wives,
attributing to them the whole of their misfortune."
70. Boccaccio, in his Comento, speaks of Guglielmo Borsiere as "a
courteous gentleman of good breeding and excellent manners"; and
in the Decameron, Gior. I. Nov.8, tells of a sharp rebuke
administered by him to Messer Ermino de' Grimaldi, a miser of
"It came to pass, that whilst by spending nothing he went on
accumulating wealth, there came to Genoa a well-bred and witty
gentleman called Gulielmo Borsiere, one nothing like the
courtiers of the present day; who, to the great reproach of the
debauched dispositions of such as would now be reputed fine
gentlemen, should more properly style themselves asses, brought
up amidst the filthiness and sink of mankind, rather than in
"This Gulielmo, whom I before mentioned, was much visited and
respected by the better sort of people at Genoa; when having made
some stay here, and hearing much talk of Ermino's sordidness, he
became desirous of seeing him. Now Ermino had been informed of
Gulielmo's worthy character, and having, however covetous he was,
some small sparks of gentility, he received him in a courteous
manner, and, entering into discourse together, he took him, and
some Genoese who came along with him, to see a fine house which
he had lately built: and when he had showed every part of it, he
said: `Pray, sir, can you, who have heard and seen so much, tell
me of something that was never yet seen, to have painted in my
hall?' To whom Gulielmo, hearing him speak so simply, replied:
`Sir, I can tell you of nothing which has never yet been seen,
that I know of; unless it be sneezing, or some thing of that
sort; but if you please, I can tell you of a thing which, I
believe, you never saw.' Said Ermino (little expecting such an
answer as he received), `I beg you would let me know what that
is.' Gulielmo immediately replied, `Paint Liberality.' When
Ermino heard this, such a sudden shame seized him, as quite
changed his temper from what it had hitherto been; and he said:
`Sir, I will have her painted in such a manner that neither you,
nor any one else, shall be able to say, hereafter, that I am
unacquainted with her.' And from that time such effect had
Gulielmo's words upon him, he became the most liberal and
courteous gentleman, and was the most respected, both by
strangers and his own citizens, of any in Genoa."
95. Monte Veso is among the Alps, between Piedmont and Savoy,
where the Po takes its rise. From this point eastward to the Adriatic,
all the rivers on the left or northern slope of the Apennines are
tributaries to the Po, until we come to the Montone, which above
Forl@i is called Acquacheta. This is the first which flows
directly into the Adriatic, and not into the Po. At least it was
so in Dante's time. Now, by some change in its course, the
Lamone, farther north, has opened itself a new outlet, and is the
first to make its own way to the Adriatic. See Barlow,
Contributions to the Study of the Divine Comedy, p. 131. This
Comparison shows the delight which Dante took in the study of
physical geography. To reach the waterfall of Acquacheta he
traverses in thought the entire valley to the Po, stretching
across the whole of Northern Italy.
102. Boccaccio's interpretation of this line, which has been
adopted by most of the commentators since his time, is as follows:
"I was for a long time in doubt concerning the author's meaning in
this line; but being by chance at this monastery of San Benedetto,
in company with the abbot, he told me that there had once been a
discussion among the Counts who owned the mountain, about
building a village near the waterfall, as a convenient place for
a settlement, and bringing into it their vassals scattered on
neighboring farms; but the leader of the project dying, it was
not carried into effect; and that is what the author says, Ove
dovea per mille, that is, for many, esser ricetto, that is home
Doubtless grammatically the words will bear this meaning. But
evidently the idea in the author's mind, and which he wished to
impress upon the reader's, was that of a waterfall plunging at a
single leap down a high precipice. To this idea, the suggestion
of buildings and inhabitants is wholly foreign, and adds neither
force nor clearness. Whereas, to say that the river plunged at
once bound over a precipice high enough for a thousand cascades,
presents at one a vivid picture to the imagination, and I have
interpreted the line accordingly, making the contrast between una
scesa and mille. It should not be forgotten that, while some
editions read dovea, others read dovria, and even potria.
106. This cord has puzzled the commentators exceedingly.
Boccaccio, Volpi, and Venturi, do not explain it. The anonymous
author of the Ottimo, Benvenuto da Imola, Buti, Landino, Vellutello,
and Daniello, all think it means fraud, which Dante had used in the
pursuit of pleasure,--
"the panther with the painted skin." Lombardi is of opinion that,
"by girding himself with the Franciscan cord, he had endeavored
to restrain his sensual appetites, indicated by the panther; and
still wearing the cord as a Tertiary of the Order, he makes it
serve here to deceive Geryon, and bring him up." Biagioli
understands by it "the humility with which a man should approach
Science, because it is she that humbles the proud." Fraticelli
thinks it means vigilance; Tommaseo, "the good faith with which
he hoped to win the Florentines, and now wishes to deal with
their fraud, so that it may not harm him"; and Gabrielli Rossetti
says, "Dante flattered himself, acting as a sincere Ghibelline,
that he should meet with good faith from his Guelf countrymen,
and met instead with horrible fraud."
Dante elsewhere speaks of the cord in a good sense. In
Purgatorio, VII.114, Peter of Aragon is "girt with the cord of
every virtue. " In Inferno, XXVII. 92, it is mortification, "the
cord that used to make those girt with it more meagre"; and in
Paradiso, XI. 87, it is humility, "that family which had already
girt the humble cord."
It will be remembered that St. Francis, the founder of the
Cordeliers (the wearers of the cord), used to call his body
asino, or ass, and to subdue it with the capestro, or halter.
Thus the cord is made to symbolize the subjugation of the animal
nature. This renders Lombardi's interpretation the most
intelligible and satisfactory, though Virgil seems to have thrown
the cord into the abyss simply because he had nothing else to
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