Kate Milner Rabb
Part 6 out of 8
Conquered and captive at the hands of such an ill-breeched throng?"
"Nay," said my Cid; "take bread and wine; eat, and thou goest free;
If not, thy realms in Christendom thou never more shalt see."
"Go thou, Don Roderick," said the Count, "eat if thou wilt, but I
Have no more lust for meat and drink: I only crave to die."
Three days, while they the booty share, for all that they entreat,
The Count his purpose holds unchanged, refusing still to eat.
Then said my Cid, "I pray thee, Count, take food and trust to me;
Thyself and two knights of thy train I promise to set free."
Glad was Count Raymond in his heart when he the promise heard--
"A marvel that will be, my Cid, if thou dost keep thy word."
"Then, Count, take food, and when I see thy hunger satisfied,
My word is pledged to let thee go, thyself and two beside.
But understand, one farthing's worth I render not again
Of what has been in battle lost and won on yonder plain.
I give not back the lawful spoils I fairly win in fight;
But for mine own and vassals' wants I hold them as my right.
My followers are needy men; I cannot if I would;
For spoil from thee and others won is all our livelihood.
And such, while God's good will it is, must be our daily life,
As outcasts forced to wander, with an angry king at strife."
With lighter heart Count Raymond called for water for his hands,
And then with his two gentlemen, sent by the Cid's commands,
He blithely sat him down to meat: God! with what gust ate he!
And glad was the Campeador such heartiness to see.
Quoth he, "Until thou eat thy fill we part not, Count, to-day."
"Nor loth am I," Count Raymond said, "such bidding to obey."
So he and his two cavaliers a hearty meal they made:
It pleased my Cid to watch his hands, how lustily they played.
"Now if thou wilt," Count Raymond said, "that we are satisfied,
Bid them to lead the horses forth, that we may mount and ride.
Never since I have been a Count have I yet broken fast
With such a relish; long shall I remember this repast."
Three palfreys with caparisons of costly sort they bring,
And on the saddles robes of fur and mantles rich they fling.
Thus, with a knight on either hand, away Count Raymond rides;
While to the outposts of the camp his guests the Champion guides.
"Now speed thee, Count; ride on," quoth he, "a free Frank as thou art.
For the brave spoil thou leavest me I thank thee from my heart;
And if to win it back again perchance thou hast a mind,
Come thou and seek me when thou wilt; I am not far to find.
But if it be not to thy taste to try another day,
Still, somewhat, be it mine or thine, thou carriest away."
"Nay! go in peace for me, my Cid: no more I seek of thee;
And thou, I think, for one year's space hast won enough of me."
He spurred his steed, but, as he rode, a backward glance he bent,
Still fearing to the last my Cid his promise would repent:
A thing, the world itself to win, my Cid would not have done:
No perfidy was ever found in him, the Perfect One.
MY CID'S TRIUMPH.
In the Cortes called by the King of Spain to hear the cause of the Cid,
whose daughters had been shamefully treated and deserted by their
husbands, the Infantes of Carrion, Ferran and Diego Gonzalez, the Cid
demanded the restitution of his swords and of three thousand marks of gold
and silver he had given the Infantes. These being granted, the Cid spoke
"So please your grace! once more upon your clemency I call;
A grievance yet remains untold, the greatest grief of all.
And let the court give ear, and weigh the wrong that hath been done.
I hold myself dishonored by the lords of Carrion.
Redress by combat they must yield; none other will I take.
How now, Infantes! what excuse, what answer do ye make?
Why have ye laid my heartstrings bare? In jest or earnest, say,
Have I offended you? and I will make amends to-day.
My daughters in your hands I placed the day that forth ye went,
And rich in wealth and honors from Valencia were you sent.
Why did you carry with you brides ye loved not, treacherous curs?
Why tear their flesh in Corpes wood with saddle-girths and spurs,
And leave them to the beasts of prey? Villains throughout were ye!
What answer ye can make to this 't is for the court to see."
The Count Garcia was the first that rose to make reply.
"So please ye, gracious king, of all the kings of Spain most high;
Strange is the guise in which my Cid before you hath appeared;
To grace your summoned court he comes, with that long straggling beard;
With awe struck dumb, methinks, are some; some look as though they
The noble lords of Carrion of princely race are born;
To take the daughters of my Cid for lemans they should scorn;
Much more for brides of equal birth: in casting them aside--
We care not for his blustering talk--we hold them justified."
Upstood the Champion, stroked his beard, and grasped it in his hands.
"Thanks be to God above," he cried, "who heaven and earth commands,
A long and lordly growth it is, my pleasure and my pride;
In this my beard, Garcia, say, what find you to deride?
Its nurture since it graced my chin hath ever been my care;
No son of woman born hath dared to lay a finger there;
No son of Christian or of Moor hath ever plucked a hair.
Remember Cabra, Count! of thine the same thou canst not say:
On both thy castle and thy beard I laid my hand that day:
Nay! not a groom was there but he his handful plucked away.
Look, where my hand hath been, my lords, all ragged yet it grows!"
With noisy protest breaking in Ferran Gonzalez rose:
"Cid, let there be an end of this; your gifts you have again,
And now no pretext for dispute between us doth remain.
Princes of Carrion are we, with fitting brides we mate;
Daughters of emperors or kings, not squires of low estate:
We brook not such alliances, and yours we rightly spurned."
My Cid, Ruy Diaz, at the word, quick to Bermuez turned.
"Now is the time, Dumb Peter, speak, O man that sittest mute!
My daughters' and thy cousins' name and fame are in dispute;
To me they speak, to thee they look to answer every word.
If I am left to answer now, thou canst not draw thy sword."
Tongue-tied Bermuez stood, awhile he strove for words in vain,
But, look you, when he once began he made his meaning plain.
"Cid, first I have a word for you: you always are the same,
In Cortes ever jibing me, 'Dumb Peter' is the name:
It never was a gift of mine, and that long since you knew;
But have you found me fail in aught that fell to me to do?
You lie, Ferrando; lie in all you say upon that score.
The honor was to you, not him, the Cid Campeador;
For I know something of your worth, and somewhat I can tell.
That day beneath Valencia wall--you recollect it well--
You prayed the Cid to place you in the forefront of the fray;
You spied a Moor, and valiantly you went that Moor to slay;
And then you turned and fled--for his approach, you would not stay.
Right soon he would have taught you 't was a sorry game to play,
Had I not been in battle there to take your place that day.
I slew him at the first onfall; I gave his steed to you;
To no man have I told the tale from that hour hitherto.
Before the Cid and all his men you got yourself a name,
How you in single combat slew a Moor--a deed of fame;
And all believed in your exploit; they wist not of your shame.
You are a craven at the core; tall, handsome, as you stand:
How dare you talk as now you talk, you tongue without a hand?
Again, Ferrando, call to mind--another tale for you--
That matter of the lion; it was at Valencia too.
My Cid lay sleeping when you saw the unchained lion near;
What did you do, Ferrando, then, in your agony of fear?
Low did you crouch behind the couch whereon the Champion lay:
You did, Ferrando, and by that we rate your worth to-day.
We gathered round to guard our lord, Valencia's conqueror.
He rose, and to the lion went, the brave Campeador;
The lion fawned before his feet and let him grasp its mane;
He thrust it back into its cage; he turned to us again:
His trusty vassals to a man he saw around him there;
Where were his sons-in-law? he asked, and none could tell him where.
Now take thou my defiance as a traitor, trothless knight:
Upon this plea before our King Alfonso will I fight;
The daughters of my lord are wronged, their wrong is mine to right.
That ye those ladies did desert, the baser are ye then;
For what are they?--weak women; and what are ye?--strong men.
On every count I deem their cause to be the holier,
And I will make thee own it when we meet in battle here.
Traitor thou shalt confess thyself, so help me God on high,
And all that I have said to-day my sword shall verify."
Thus far these two. Diego rose, and spoke as ye shall hear:
"Counts by our birth are we, of stain our lineage is clear.
In this alliance with my Cid there was no parity.
If we his daughters cast aside, no cause for shame we see.
And little need we care if they in mourning pass their lives,
Enduring the reproach that clings to scorned rejected wives.
In leaving them we but upheld our honor and our right,
And ready to the death am I, maintaining this, to fight."
Here Martin Antolinez sprang upon his feet: "False hound!
Will you not silent keep that mouth where truth was never found?
For you to boast! the lion scare have you forgotten too?
How through the open door you rushed, across the court-yard flew;
How sprawling in your terror on the wine-press beam you lay?
Ay! never more, I trow, you wore the mantle of that day.
There is no choice; the issue now the sword alone can try;
The daughters of my Cid ye spurned; that must ye justify.
On every count I here declare their cause the cause of right,
And thou shall own the treachery the day we join in fight."
He ceased, and striding up the hall Assur Gonzalez passed;
His cheek was flushed with wine, for he had stayed to break his fast;
Ungirt his robe, and trailing low his ermine mantle hung;
Rude was his bearing to the court, and reckless was his tongue.
"What a to-do is here, my lords! was the like ever seen?
What talk is this about my Cid--him of Bivar, I mean?
To Riodouirna let him go to take his millers' rent,
And keep his mills agoing there, as once he was content.
He, forsooth, mate his daughters with the Counts of Carrion!"
Up started Muno Gustioz: "False, foul-mouthed knave, have done!
Thou glutton, wont to break thy fast without a thought of prayer,
Whose heart is plotting mischief when thy lips are speaking fair;
Whose plighted word to friend or lord hath ever proved a lie;
False always to thy fellow-man, falser to God on high.
No share in thy good will I seek; one only boon I pray,
The chance to make thee own thyself the villain that I say."
Then spoke the king: "Enough of words: ye have my leave to fight,
The challenged and the challengers; and God defend the right."
* * * * *
The marshals leave them face to face and from the lists are gone;
Here stand the champions of my Cid, there those of Carrion;
Each with his gaze intent and fixed upon his chosen foe,
Their bucklers braced before their breasts, their lances pointing low,
Their heads bent down, as each man leans above his saddle-bow.
Then with one impulse every spur is in the charger's side,
And earth itself is felt to shake beneath their furious stride;
Till, midway meeting, three with three, in struggle fierce they lock,
While all account them dead who hear the echo of the shock.
Ferrando and his challenger, Pero Bermuez, close;
Firm are the lances held, and fair the shields receive the blows.
Through Pero's shield Ferrando drove his lance, a bloodless stroke;
The point stopped short in empty space, the shaft in splinters broke.
But on Bermuez, firm of seat, the shock fell all in vain;
And while he took Ferrando's thrust he paid it back again.
The armored buckler shattering, right home his lance he pressed,
Driving the point through boss and plate against his foeman's breast.
Three folds of mail Ferrando wore, they stood him in good stead;
Two yielded to the lance's point, the third held fast the head.
But forced into the flesh it sank a hand's breadth deep or more,
Till bursting from the gasping lips in torrents gushed the gore.
Then, the girths breaking, o'er the croup borne rudely to the ground,
He lay, a dying man it seemed to all who stood around.
Bermuez cast his lance aside, and sword in hand came on;
Ferrando saw the blade he bore, he knew it was Tizon:
Quick ere the dreaded brand could fall, "I yield me," came the cry.
Vanquished the marshals granted him, and Pero let him lie.
And Martin Antolinez and Diego--fair and true
Each struck upon the other's shield, and wide the splinters flew.
Then Antolinez seized his sword, and as he drew the blade,
A dazzling gleam of burnished steel across the meadow played;
And at Diego striking full, athwart the helmet's crown,
Sheer through the steel plates of the casque he drove the falchion down,
Through coif and scarf, till from the scalp the locks it razed away,
And half shorn off and half upheld the shattered head-piece lay.
Reeling beneath the blow that proved Colada's cruel might,
Diego saw no chance but one, no safety save in flight:
He wheeled and fled, but close behind him Antolinez drew;
With the flat blade a hasty blow he dealt him as he flew;
But idle was Diego's sword; he shrieked to Heaven for aid:
"O God of glory, give me help! save me from yonder blade!"
Unreined, his good steed bore him safe and swept him past the bound,
And Martin Antolinez stood alone upon the ground.
"Come hither," said the king; "thus far the conquerors are ye."
And fairly fought and won the field the marshals both agree.
So much for these, and how they fought: remains to tell you yet
How meanwhile Muno Gustioz Assur Gonzalez met.
With a strong arm and steady aim each struck the other's shield,
And under Assur's sturdy thrusts the plates of Muno's yield;
But harmless passed the lance's point, and spent its force in air.
Not so Don Muno's; on the shield of Assur striking fair,
Through plate and boss and foeman's breast his pennoned lance he sent,
Till out between the shoulder blades a fathom's length it went.
Then, as the lance he plucked away, clear from the saddle swung,
With one strong wrench of Muno's wrist to earth was Assur flung;
And back it came, shaft, pennon, blade, all stained a gory red;
Nor was there one of all the crowd but counted Assur sped,
While o'er him Muno Gustioz stood with uplifted brand.
Then cried Gonzalo Assurez: "In God's name hold thy hand!
Already have ye won the field; no more is needed now."
And said the marshals, "It is just, and we the claim allow."
And then the King Alfonso gave command to clear the ground,
And gather in the relics of the battle strewed around.
And from the field in honor went Don Roderick's champions three.
Thanks be to God, the Lord of all, that gave the victory.
But fearing treachery, that night upon their way they went,
As King Alfonso's honored guests in safety homeward sent,
And to Valencia city day and night they journeyed on,
To tell my Cid Campeador that his behest was done.
But in the lands of Carrion it was a day of woe,
And on the lords of Carrion it fell a heavy blow.
He who a noble lady wrongs and casts aside--may he
Meet like requital for his deeds, or worse, if worse there be.
But let us leave them where they lie--their meed is all men's scorn.
Turn we to speak of him that in a happy hour was born.
Valencia the Great was glad, rejoiced at heart to see
The honored champions of her lord return in victory:
And Ruy Diaz grasped his beard: "Thanks be to God," said he,
"Of part or lot in Carrion now are my daughters free;
Now may I give them without shame whoe'er the suitors be."
And favored by the king himself, Alfonso of Leon,
Prosperous was the wooing of Navarre and Aragon,
The bridals of Elvira and of Sol in splendor passed;
Stately the former nuptials were, but statelier far the _hast_.
And he that in a good hour was born, behold how he _hath_ sped!
His daughters now to higher rank and greater honor wed:
Sought by Navarre and Aragon for queens his daughters twain;
And monarchs of his blood to-day upon the thrones of Spain.
And so his honor in the land grows greater day by day.
Upon the feast of Pentecost from life he passed away.
For him and all of us the Grace of Christ let us implore.
And here ye have the story of my Cid Campeador.
THE DIVINE COMEDY.
"This Poem of the earth and air,
This mediaeval miracle of song."
Dante Alighieri was born at Florence, in May, 1265. His family belonged to
the Guelph, or Papal faction, and he early took part in the struggle
between the parties. In 1274 he first saw Beatrice Portinari, and he says
of this meeting in the "Vita Nuova," "I say that thenceforward Love swayed
my soul, which was even then espoused to him." Beatrice died in 1290, and
Dante married Gemma Donati, between 1291 and 1294. In 1295 he joined the
Art of Druggists, in order to become a member of the Administrative
Council. In 1300 he was made Prior, and in 1301, when the Neri entered
Florence, he was exiled, his property confiscated, and himself sentenced
to be burned, if found within the republic. After this he became a
Ghibeline, and took up arms against the city with his fellow-exiles, but
withdrew from their council at last because of disagreements, and
separating from them, spent his time at Verona, Padua, Sunigianda, and in
the monastery of Gubbio. In 1316 the government of Florence issued a
decree allowing the exiles to return on payment of a fine; but Dante
indignantly refused to acknowledge thus that he had been in the wrong. He
was in Ravenna in 1320, and died there Sept. 14, 1321, on his return from
an embassy to Venice.
The "Commedia" was written during Dante's nineteen years of exile. The
three parts, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, are emblematic of the
threefold state of man,--sin, grace, and beatitude. The thirty-three
cantos into which each part is divided, are in allusion to the years of
the Saviour's life, and the triple rhyme suggests the Trinity.
The Divine Comedy is written in the _terza rima_, which consists of three
verses arranged in such a way that the middle line of each triplet rhymes
with the first or third verse of the succeeding triplet.
The entire time occupied in the "Commedia" is eleven days, from March 25
to April 5, 1300.
Dante called the poem a comedy because of its prosperous ending. The
prefix "divine" was given it later by its admirers.
The Divine Comedy is sometimes called the epic of mediaevalism, and again,
the epic of man. Dante himself said: "The subject of the whole work, then,
taken literally, is the state of the soul after death, regarded as a
matter of fact; for the action of the whole work deals with this and is
about this. But if the work be taken allegorically, its subject is man, in
so far as by merit or demerit in the exercise of free will, he is exposed
to the rewards or punishment of justice."
For a time the Divine Comedy was neglected, and even in comparatively
recent times the Inferno was the only portion read; but of late years
there has been a re-awakening of interest in regard to the whole poem.
In no other of the epics has the author put so much of himself as Dante
has in the "Commedia." It was he himself who saw this vision; he himself,
proud, tortured, who carried the sense of his wrongs with him through Hell
and Purgatory, even into Paradise. We learn the history of his times, all
the crimes committed by men in high position, and we also learn the
history of the unhappy Florentine, of whose poem it has been said, "none
other in the world is so deeply and universally sorrowful."
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE DIVINE COMEDY.
J. Colomb de Batines's Bibliografia Dantesca, 2 vols., 1846;
William Coolidge Lane's The Dante collections in the Harvard College and
Boston Public Libraries (Bibliographical contributions of the library of
Harvard University, 1885);
William Coolidge Lane's Additions to the Dante collection in the Harvard
Library (see the Annual Reports of the Dante Society of Cambridge, Mass.,
Brother Azarius's Spiritual Sense of the Divina Commedia (in his Phases of
Thought and Criticism, 1892, pp. 125-182);
Henry Clark Barlow's Critical Contributions to the Study of the Divine
Herbert Baynes's Dante and his Ideal, 1891;
Vincenzo Botta's Introduction to the Study of Dante, 1887;
Oscar Browning's Dante, his Life and Writing, 1890, pp. 70-104;
A. J. Butler's Dante, his Time and Work, 1895;
Richard William Church's Dante and Other Essays, 1888, pp. 1-191;
J. Farrazzi's Manuale Dantesco, 5 vols., 1865-77;
William Torrey Harris's Spiritual Sense of Dante's Divina Commedia, 1890;
Francis Hettinger's Dante's Divina Commedia, its Scope and Value, Tr. by
H. S. Bowden, 1887 (Roman Catholic standpoint);
J. R. Lowell's Essay on Dante (in his Among my Books, 1876);
Lewis E. Mott's Dante and Beatrice, an Essay on Interpretation, 1892;
Giovanni Andrea Scartazzini's A Companion to Dante, from the German, by A.
J. Butler, 1892;
Denton J. Snider's Dante's Inferno: a Commentary, 1892;
Augustus Hopkins Strong's Dante and the Divine Comedy (in his Philosophy
and Religion, 1888, pp. 501-524);
John Addington Symonds's An Introduction to the Study of Dante, Ed. 2,
Paget Toynbee's Dictionary of the Divina Commedia, 2 parts;
William Warren Vernon's Readings on the Purgatorio of Dante, chiefly based
on the Commentary of Benvenuto da Imola; Intro. by the Dean of St. Paul's,
2 vols., 1889;
Dr. Edward Moore's Time References in the Divina Commedia, London, 1887;
Dr. E. Moore's Contributions to the Textual Criticism of the Divina
Commedia, Cambridge, 1889.
STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The Divine Comedy, the Inferno, a literal prose translation with the text
of the original collated from the best editions, with explanatory notes by
J. A. Carlyle, Ed. 6, 1891 (contains valuable chapters on manuscripts,
Divina Commedia, edited with translation and notes by A. J. Butler, 1892;
Vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, Tr. by H. F. Cary, 1888;
The Divine Comedy, Tr. by H. W. Longfellow, 1887;
The Divine Comedy, Tr. by C. E. Norton, 1891-92 (rhythmical prose
The Divine Comedy, Tr. of the Commedia and Lanzoniere, notes, essays, and
biographical introduction by E. H. Plumptre, 1887;
Divina Commedia, Tr. into English verse with notes and illustrations by J.
A. Wilstach, 2 vols., 1888.
THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The Hell conceived by Dante was made by the falling of Lucifer to the
centre of the earth. It was directly under Jerusalem. The earth, displaced
by Lucifer's fall, made the Mount of Purgatory, which was the antipodes of
The unbarred entrance gate, over which stands the inscription, "Leave hope
behind, all ye who enter here," leads into a Vestibule, or Ante-Hell, a
dark plain separated from Hell proper by the river Acheron. Hell proper
then falls into three great divisions for the punishment of the sins of
Incontinence, Bestiality, and Malice, which are punished in nine circles,
each circle sub-divided. Circle One is the Limbo of the Unbaptized.
Circles Two, Three, Four, and Five are reserved for the punishment of the
sins of Incontinence, Lasciviousness, Gluttony, Avarice with Prodigality,
and Anger with Melancholy. In Circle Six is punished the sin of
Bestiality, under which fall Infidelity and Heresiarchy, Bestiality having
here its Italian meaning of folly. In Circles Seven and Eight is punished
Malice, subdivided into Violence and Fraud. There are three divisions of
Violence,--the Violent against their neighbors (Tyrants, Murderers, etc.);
the Violent against themselves (Suicides); and the violent against God
(Blasphemers, etc.); and ten divisions of Circle Eight,--Fraud, _i.e._,
Seducers, Flatterers, Simoniacs, Soothsayers, Barrators, Hypocrites,
Thieves, False Counsellors, Schismatics, and Forgers and Falsifiers. Below
these ten pits yawns the well of the giants, above which the giants tower
so that half their persons is visible. Within this well in Circle Nine is
Cocytus, a lake of ice divided into four belts,--Caina, Antenora,
Ptolemaea, and Judecca, where are punished, respectively, the Betrayers of
their kindred, of their country, of their friends and guests, and of their
benefactors. At the bottom of the pit is Lucifer, half above the ice and
half below it, the centre of his body being the centre of gravity.
THE STORY OF THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The poet Dante, in the thirty-fifth year of his life, this being the year
1300 A. D., on New Year's day of the old reckoning, lost his way in a
rough and thorny forest, and when he attempted to regain it by mounting a
hill that rose before him resplendent in sunshine, encountered a leopard,
a lion, and a wolf. Driven back by these, and utterly despairing of
rescue, he met one who declared himself to be that Vergil who had sung the
fall of Troy and the flight of Aeneas, and who promised to take him through
the lower world and Purgatory, even unto Paradise. Dante questioned why it
was permitted to him to take the journey denied to so many others, and was
told that Vergil had been sent to his rescue by the beauteous Beatrice,
long since in Paradise. When the poet, trembling with fear, heard that the
shining eyes of Beatrice had wept over his danger in the forest, and that
she had sought the gates of hell to effect his rescue, his strength was
renewed, even as the flowers, chilled by the frosts of night, uplift
themselves in the bright light of the morning sun; and he entered without
fear on the deep and savage way.
This allegory, being interpreted, probably means that the poet, entangled
in the dark forest of political anarchy, was driven from the hill of civil
order by the Leopard of Pleasure (Florence), the Lion of Ambition
(France), and the Wolf of Avarice (Rome), and was by divine grace granted
a vision of the three worlds that he might realize what comes after death,
and be the more firmly established in the right political
"Through me is the way into the sorrowful city; into eternal dole among
the lost people. Justice incited my sublime Creator. Divine Omnipotence,
the highest wisdom, and the Primal Love created me. Before me, there were
no created things. Only eternal, and I eternal, last. Abandon hope, all ye
who enter here!"
Such was the inscription over the doorway, after the reading of which
Dante's ears were assailed by words of agony and heart-rending cries.
"This," said Vergil, "is the home of those melancholy souls who lived
without infamy and without praise. Cowards and selfish in life, they are
denied even entrance to hell." As they looked, a long train passed by,
stung by gadflies and following a whirling standard.
Charon, about whose eyes were wheels of flame, endeavored to drive the
poet and his guide away as they stood among the weary and naked souls that
gathered shivering on the margin of Acheron; but as a blast of wind and a
burst of crimson light caused a deep sleep to fall on the poet, he was
wafted across the river, and awaking he found himself in the Limbo of the
Unbaptized, the first of the nine circles of hell, where were the souls of
many men, women, and infants, whose only punishment was, without hope, to
live on in desire. Here was no torment, only the sadness caused by the
ever-unsatisfied longing for the ever-denied divine grace. This was
Vergil's abode, and in the noble castles set among the green enamelled
meadows dwelt Homer, Horace, and Ovid, Electra, Hector, and Camilla.
Passing down a narrow walk into a region of semi-darkness, they entered
the second circle, where Minos stood, judging the sinners and girding
himself with his tail as many times as was the number of the circle to
which the spirit was to go. Here in darkness and storm were the carnal
sinners, whose punishment was to be beaten hither and thither by the
winds,--Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Paris, Tristan, and all those who had
sinned for love, and here Dante conversed with the spirit of Francesca da
Rimini, whom he had known in life, and her lover Paolo, slain for their
sin by her husband. Though there is no greater sorrow than to be mindful
of the happy time in misery, she assured Dante that the sorrows of Hell
were lightened by the presence of Paolo.
At the sight of Paolo's grief Dante fell swooning with pity, and awoke to
find himself in the circle where a cold rain fell forever on the gluttons.
Cerberus guarded the entrance, and now and again devoured the unhappy ones
who lay prone on their faces in the murk and mire. Here Ciacco of Florence
recognized and spoke with Dante, falling back in the mire as the poet
passed on, to rise no more until the Day of Judgment.
Plutus guarded the fourth circle, where were confined the avaricious and
prodigal, who, divided into two bands, rolled weights against each other,
uttering wretched insults. Down the sloping banks to the marsh of the Styx
the poets went, past the sullen and angry, who in life refused the comfort
of the sweet air and gladdening sun, and were in consequence doomed
forever to remain buried in the sullen mire. As Dante and Vergil passed
over the Styx in the boat of the vile Phlegyas, Dante was saluted by the
spirit of the once haughty and arrogant Philippo Argenti, whom he
repulsed, and gladly saw set upon and torn by the people of the mire.
Then appeared to him the mosques of the city of Dis, within the valley,
vermilion-hued from the fire eternal. Deep were the moats; the walls
appeared to be of iron. Upon the flaming summit sat the Furies, stained
with blood, begirt with Hydras. Here even Vergil trembled as they waited
the arrival of one sent from Heaven to open the gate and admit them.
Within, over the plain, were scattered sepulchres heated red hot, with
uplifted coverings, from which issued forth dire laments from the Infidels
and Heresiarchs tormented within. To Farinata degli Uberti, who rose from
his tomb to ask the news of Florence, Dante spoke, observing in the mean
time a shade that, on hearing the Tuscan tongue, rose next Uberti,
questioning, "Where is my son, my Guido?" Fancying from the poet's delay
in answering, and his use of the past tense, that his beloved child no
longer enjoyed the sweet light, Cavalcante fell back and appeared no more.
Leaving the dismal plain, whose countless tombs would remain open until
the Judgment Day, the poets entered upon the next and seventh circle,
composed of three smaller circles in which were punished the Violent
against their neighbors, against nature, and against God. The steep banks
of the ravine were guarded by the huge Minotaur, from which Dante and
Vergil escaped only by running.
Within Phlegethon, the boiling river of blood, stood the tyrants, among
whom were Dionysius, Azzolin, and Attila, uttering loud laments. If they
ventured to stir from their place of torment they were pierced by the
arrows of the Centaurs that guarded the banks. The Centaur Nessus conveyed
Dante across the river into the second circle, the dolorous forest, where
the Violent against nature, the Suicides, were transformed into closely
set, twisted thorn-trees, infested with harpies that fed on their leaves,
inflicting perpetual pain; thence into the third circle, where the Violent
against God, chief among whom was the arrogant Capaneus, dwelt in a sandy
plain surrounded by the dolorous forest. Upon the naked souls, some of
whom were lying supine, some crouching, others moving about continually,
fell a perpetual shower of flakes of fire.
Picking their way along the edge of the forest, not daring to step on the
sand waste, the poets came upon a little blood-red rivulet quenching the
flames above it, Phlegethon again, formed by the rivers Acheron and Styx,
whose source is the tears of Time. As they skirted the forest they saw a
troop of spirits hastening past, one of whom, after a sharp look, grasped
Dante's garment exclaiming, "What a wonder!" The baked countenance, the
ghastly face, was that of his old teacher Ser Brunetto, who not daring to
stop for fear of increasing his punishment, followed him, questioning him
on his appearance below, and comforting him by the assurance of his future
greatness. Deep were the burns in the limbs of the other Florentines Dante
met below, to whom he gave tidings of the state of affairs in their former
Mounting on the shoulders of the hideous monster Geryon, the poets were
carried into a fearful abyss whose sides were Alp-like in steepness. This
was the eighth circle, Malebolge, or Evil pits, consisting of ten
concentric bolge, or ditches of stone with dikes between and rough bridges
running across them to the centre.
In the first pit Jason and other deceivers of women were being lashed by
horned demons. In pit two, a Florentine friend of Dante's was submerged
with others in filth as a punishment for flattery. In pit three the
Simoniacs were placed head down in purses in the earth, their projecting
feet tortured with flames. The poets crossed the bridge, and Vergil
carried Dante down the sloping bank so that he could speak to one who
proved to be the unhappy Nicholas III., who accused Boniface for his evil
deeds and expressed a longing for his arrival in this place of torture.
From the next bridge-top Dante dimly perceived the slow procession of
weeping soothsayers with heads reversed on their shoulders. There walked
Amphiarus, Tiresias, Manto, and Michael Scott. So great was Dante's sorrow
on beholding the misery of these men who had once been held in such great
esteem, that he leaned against a crag and wept until reproved by Vergil as
a reprobate for feeling compassion at the doom divine. Through the
semi-darkness the poets looked down into pit five, where devils with
fantastic names pitched barrators into a lake of boiling pitch and speared
those who dared to raise their heads above the surface. From these Evil
Claws Dante and Vergil escaped only by running into the sixth pit, where
walked the hypocrites in richly gilded mantles. When Dante wondered at
their weary faces and their tears, he was told by two of the Frati
Gaudenti (Jolly Friars) of Florence who suffered here, that the cloaks and
hoods were of heaviest lead, a load that grew more irksome with the ages.
Caiaphas, Annas, and the members of the council that condemned Christ lay
on the ground transfixed with stakes, and over their bodies passed the
slow moving train of the hypocrites. The next bridge lay in ruins as a
result of the earthquake at the Crucifixion, and Vergil experienced the
utmost difficulty in conveying Dante up the crags to a point where he
could look down into the dark dungeon of thieves, where the naked throng
were entwined with serpents and at their bite changed from man to serpent
and back again. Some burned and fell into ashes at the venomous bite, only
to rise again and suffer new tortures. Here Dante spoke with Vanni Fucci
of Pistoja, who robbed the sacristy of Florence, and whose face "was
painted with a melancholy shame" at being seen in his misery. The eighth
pit was brightly lighted by the flames that moved back and forth, each
concealing within an evil counsellor. Ulysses and Diomed walked together
in a flame cleft at the top, for the crime of robbing Deidamia of
Achilles, of stealing the Palladium, and of fabricating the Trojan horse.
As Dante looked into pit nine he saw a troop compelled to pass continually
by a demon with a sharp sword who mutilated each one each time he made the
round of the circle, so that the wounds never healed. These were the evil
counsellors. Mahomet was there; there too was Ali. But ghastliest of
sights was that of a headless trunk walking through the grim plain,
holding its severed head by the hair like a lantern, and exclaiming "O
me!" This was the notorious Bertrand de Born, the Troubadour, who had
caused dissension between Henry II. of England and his son. Among this
throng Dante recognized his kinsman Geri del Bello, who gave him a
disdainful look because he had not yet avenged his death. From the tenth
and last pit of Malebolge came a stench as great as though it came from
all the hospitals of Valdichiana, Maremma, and Sardinia, between July and
September. All the loathsome diseases were gathered into this moat to
afflict the forgers and falsifiers. Here Dante saw Athamas, mad king of
Thebes, the mad Gianni Schicchi, and Messer Adam of Brescia, the false
coiner, who, distorted with dropsy, was perishing of thirst, and thinking
constantly of the cool rivulets that descended from the verdant hills of
As Dante and his guide turned their backs on the wretched valley and
ascended the bank that surrounded it, the blare of a loud horn fell upon
their ears, louder than Roland's blast at Roncesvalles. This came from the
plain of the giants between Malebolge and the mouth of the infernal pit.
All around the pit, or well, were set the giants with half their bodies
fixed in earth. Nimrod, as a punishment for building the tower of Babel,
could speak no language, but babbled some gibberish. Ephialtes, Briareus,
and Antaeus were here, all horrible in aspect; Antaeus, less savage than
the others, lifted the two poets, and stooping set them down in the pit
below. This was the last and ninth circle, a dismal pit for the punishment
of traitors, who were frozen in the vast lake that Cocytus formed here. In
Caina were the brothers Alessandro and Napoleone degli Alberti, mutual
fratricides, their heads frozen together. In Antenora was that Guelph
Bocca who had caused his party's defeat; but the most horrible sight they
encountered was in Ptolemaea, where Count Ugolino, who had been shut up
with his sons and grandsons in a tower to starve by the Archbishop
Ruggieri, was now revenging himself in their place of torture by
continually gnawing the archbishop's head, frozen in the ice next his own.
Farther down they walked among those who, when they shed tears over their
woe had their teardrops frozen, so that even this solace was soon denied
them. Dante promised to break the frozen veil from the eyes of one who
prayed for aid, but when he learned that it was the Friar Alberigo, whose
body was still on earth, and whose soul was already undergoing punishment,
he refused, "for to be rude to him was courtesy."
In the fourth and last division of the ninth circle, the Judecca, a strong
wind was blowing. Then Dante saw the emperor of the kingdom frozen in the
ice, a mighty giant foul to look upon, with three faces, vermilion, white
and yellow, and black. The waving of his two featherless wings caused the
great winds that froze Cocytus. Teardrops fell from his six eyes; in each
mouth he was crunching a sinner, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius.
Being warned by Vergil that it was time to depart, Dante clasped his guide
around his neck, and Vergil began to climb down the huge monster until
they reached his middle, the centre of gravity, where with much difficulty
they turned and climbed upward along the subterranean course of Lethe,
until they again beheld the stars.
THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The Purgatory of Dante is situated on a mountain top on the opposite side
of the earth from Jerusalem, and is surrounded by the western ocean. The
souls of those who go there collect on the banks of the Tiber, and are
taken to the mountain in a boat by an angel pilot. The shores of the
island are covered with the reeds of humility. Around the base of the
mount dwell the souls that, repenting late, must "expiate each year of
deferred penitence with thirty years of deferred Purgatory" unless the
time be shortened by the prayers of their friends on earth. There are
three stages of this Ante-Purgatory: the first, for those who put off
conversion through negligence; the second, for those who died by violence
and repented while dying; the third, for those monarchs who were too much
absorbed in earthly greatness to give much thought to the world to come.
The ascent of the terraces, as also those of Purgatory proper, is very
difficult, and is not allowed to be made after sunset. The gate of St.
Peter separates Ante-Purgatory from Purgatory proper. Three steps, the
first of polished white marble, the second of purple, rough and cracked,
and the third of blood-red porphyry, signifying confession, contrition,
and penance, lead to the gate where sits the angel clad in a penitential
robe, with the gold and silver keys with which to unlock the outer and
inner gates. Purgatory proper consists of seven terraces, in each of which
one of the seven capital sins, Pride, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and
Lasciviousness are punished; Pride first, because no other sin can be
purged from the body until this deepest sin is eliminated. The soul,
cleansed of these sins, mounts to the terrestrial paradise, which, above
the sphere of air, crowns the Mount of Purgatory.
THE STORY OF THE DIVINE COMEDY.
As morning dawned and the poets slowly climbed out of the infernal region
and stepped upon the isle from which the Mount of Purgatory rises, they
were accosted by an old man with long white hair and beard, Cato of Utica,
who demanded the reason of their coming, and only permitted them to remain
when he heard that a lady from Heaven had given the command. Then he
ordered Vergil to lave the smoke of Hell from Dante's face in the waves of
the sea, and to gird him with the reed of humility. As the sun rose a
radiant angel, guiding a boat laden with souls, appeared, and the poets
fell on their knees until he departed.
As the newly-landed spirits questioned Vergil of the way up the mountain,
Dante recognized among them his beloved friend Casella, the musician, and
tried in vain to embrace his spirit body. At Dante's request, Casella
began to sing, and the enchanted spirits were scattered only by the
chiding voice of Cato.
Vergil surveyed the insurmountable height before them, and hastened with
Dante to inquire the way of a troop of souls coming towards them. As they
talked, Dante recognized one, blond and smiling, with a gash over one
eyebrow and another over his heart. It was Manfredi, King of Apulia and
Sicily, who was slain at Benevento by Charles of Anjou, and, being under
excommunication, was not allowed Christian burial. He asked Dante to make
him happy by telling his daughter that by faith he was saved from eternal
destruction, but because of his sins he must spend thirty times the time
that his presumption had endured at the foot of the mount, unless his time
was shortened by the righteous prayers of his friends on earth.
It was with the greatest difficulty that the poets clambered up the steep
and narrow path to the next terrace, and only the assurance that the
ascent would grow easier as he neared the summit sustained Dante. As
Vergil explained to him while resting on the next terrace that the sun
appeared on his left because Purgatory and Jerusalem were in different
hemispheres, some one spoke, and turning they saw a group of persons in an
attitude of indolence, among them a Florentine acquaintance, Belacqua, a
maker of musical instruments, who sat waiting the length of another
lifetime for admission above because he had postponed conversion from time
to time, through negligence.
Proceeding, the poets met a concourse of souls who had suffered violent
death, chanting the Miserere, who perceiving Dante to be living, sent
messages to their friends on earth. Among these were Giacopo del Cassero
and Buonconte di Montefeltro, son of Dante's friend, Guido di Montefeltro,
who fell in the battle of Campaldino, in which Dante had taken part.
Wounded in the neck, he fell, and had just time to breathe a prayer to
Mary, thus saving his soul from the Evil One, who was so incensed that,
raising a great storm, he caused the rivers to overflow and sweep away the
lifeless body, tearing from it the cross he had made with his arms in his
last agony, and burying it in the mire of the Arno. The third shade bade
him think of her when, returned home, he sang of his journey. She was Pia,
born at Sienna, who died at Maremma, by the hand of her husband.
Dante at last managed to escape from these shades, who implored him to ask
for prayers for them on earth, and moved on with Vergil until they met the
haughty shade of Sordello, who clasped Vergil in his arms when he learned
he was a Mantuan. Touched by this expression of love for his native land,
Dante launched into an apostrophe to degenerate Italy, to that German
Albert who refused to save the country groaning under oppression, and to
lost Florence, torn by internecine wars.
When Sordello learned that the Mantuan shade was Vergil, he humbled
himself before him, and paid him reverence, asking eagerly in what part of
the underworld he dwelt. The sun was sinking, and as the poets could not
ascend by night, he urged them to pass the night with him. Leading them to
a vale carpeted with emerald grass and brilliant with flowers, he pointed
out the shades singing "Salve Regina" as the Emperor Rudolph,--he who made
an effort to heal sick Italy,--Philip III. of France, Charles I. of
Naples, and Henry III. of England. As the hour of twilight approached,
that hour in which the sailor thinks of home, and the pilgrim thrills at
the sound of vesper bells, Dante beheld a shade arise, and lifting its
palms begin to sing the vesper hymn. Soon two radiant angels clad in
delicate green descended from Heaven, holding flaming swords. These,
Sordello explained, were to keep off the serpent that threatened this fair
vale at night.
As the hour of night approached in which the swallow laments its woes,
Dante fell asleep on the grass and dreamed that he was Ganymede snatched
from Mt. Ida by Jove's eagle. Awaking, he found himself alone with Vergil
in a strange place, with the sun two hours high. Lucia, symbolical of the
enlightening grace of Heaven, had conveyed him to the spot and pointed out
to Vergil the gate of Purgatory. Cheered and confident, he rose, and they
went together to the portal and mounted the three steps, the first of
shining white marble, the second of purple stone, cracked and burnt, and
the third of flaming red porphyry. There, on the diamond threshold, sat an
angel with a naked sword, clad in a robe of ashen gray, whose face was too
bright to look upon. When Dante fell on his knees and implored entrance,
the angel imprinted on his forehead seven "P"'s for the seven sins
(Peccata), and opening the gate with the gold and silver keys, ushered
them into the mighty portals. "From Peter I have these keys. Me he
instructed to err rather in opening than in keeping shut. But see that ye
look not behind, or ye will at once return."
With much difficulty the two poets ascended the steep and winding path,
and paused to view the wonderful sculptures on the embankment, that would
put Nature herself to shame, so natural were they. Many examples of
Humility were there portrayed,--the Virgin Mary, the Holy Ark, drawn by
oxen, the Psalmist dancing before the Lord, while Michal looked forth in
scorn from her palace window, and Trajan, yielding to the widow's prayer.
As they stood there, the souls came in sight. "Reader, attend not to the
fashion of the torment, but think of what follows." The unhappy ones crept
around the terrace, bowed under a heavy burden of stones, and the most
patient, as he bent under his burden, exclaimed, with tears, "I can do no
more!" As they walked they repeated the Lord's Prayer, and kept their eyes
fixed on the life-like sculptures on the floor of those who had suffered
before them for the sins of pride: Lucifer, falling from Heaven; Briareus
and Nimrod overcome by the bolts of Jove; Niobe, weeping among her dead
children; Cyrus's head taunted by Tomyris; Troy humbled in ashes.
As Vergil approached the penitents to inquire the way to the next terrace,
he and Dante were invited to join the procession and talk with one who
could not lift his face enough to see them. This was Omberto, who had been
slain by the Siennese for his unbearable pride. Dante also talked with his
friend Oderigi, an illuminator of manuscript, who now humbly acknowledged
that he was far surpassed by Franco Bolognese. "What is mundane glory?" he
exclaimed, as he pointed out Provenzano Salvani, with whose fame Tuscany
once rang, but who barely escaped Hell by his voluntary humiliation for a
friend. "Lift up thy face!" commanded Vergil, as Dante walked with his
head bowed, absorbed in the floor-sculptures; and as he looked, the
white-robed angel whose face was like "a tremulous flame" approached, and
struck Dante's forehead with his wings. Dante marvelled at the ease with
which he mounted, until his master explained that the heaviest sin, the
sin that underlies all others, had fallen from him when the angel struck
the "P" from his forehead, and that the ascent would grow still lighter
from terrace to terrace. "Blessed are the poor in spirit!" sung by sweet
voices, greeted the mounting poets.
The second terrace was of livid stone unrelieved by any sculpture. The air
was full of voices inculcating charity and self-denial, and others
lamenting the sin of envy. Here envy was punished, and here the sharpest
pain pierced Dante's heart as he saw the penitents sit shoulder to
shoulder against the cliff, robed in sackcloth of the same livid color,
their eyelids, through which bitter tears trickled, sewed together with
wire. Sapia of Sienna first greeted Dante and entreated him to pray for
her. When she had told how, after having been banished from her city, she
had prayed that her townsman might be defeated by the Florentines, Dante
passed on and spoke with Guido of Duca, who launched into an invective
against Florence to his companion Rinieri. "The whole valley of the Arno
is so vile that its very name should die. Wonder not at my tears, Tuscan,
when I recall the great names of the past, and compare them with the curs
who have fallen heir to them. Those counts are happiest who have left no
families." Guido himself was punished on this terrace because of his envy
of every joyous man, and the spirit with whom he talked was Rinieri, whose
line had once been highly honored. "Go, Tuscan," exclaimed Guido, "better
now I love my grief than speech." As the poets passed on, the air was
filled with the lamentations of sinful but now repentant spirits.
Dazzled by the Angel's splendor, the poets passed up the stairs to the
third terrace, Dante in the mean time asking an explanation of Guido's
words on joint resolve and trust.
"The less one thinks of another's possessions," replied his guide, "and
the more he speaks of 'our' instead of 'my,' the more of the Infinite Good
flows towards him. If you thirst for further instruction, await the coming
As they attained the next height, Dante, rapt in vision, saw the sweet
Mother questioning her Son in the Temple, saw Pisistratus, his queen, and
the martyred Stephen blessing his enemies in death. As he awoke, they
passed on, to become involved in a thick cloud of smoke, through which it
was impossible to distinguish any object, and whose purpose was to purge
away anger, the sin-cloud that veils the mortal eye.
As they passed from the thick smoke into the sunset, Dante fell into a
trance, and saw Itys, Haman, and other notable examples of unbridled
angers, and as the visions faded away, was blinded by the splendor of the
angel guide who directed them to the fourth terrace. As they waited for
the dawn, Vergil answered Dante's eager questions. "Love," he said, "is
the seed of every virtue, and also of every act for which God punished
man. Natural love is without error; but if it is bent on evil aims, if it
lacks sufficiency, or if it overleaps its bounds and refuses to be
governed by wise laws, it causes those sins that are punished on this
mount. The defective love which manifests itself as slothfulness is
punished on this terrace."
A troop of spirits rushed past them as morning broke, making up by their
haste for the sloth that had marked their lives on earth. As they hurried
on they urged themselves to diligence by cries of "In haste the mountains
blessed Mary won!" "Caesar flew to Spain!" "Haste! Grace grows best in
those who ardor feel!" As the poet meditated on their words, he lapsed
into a dream in which he saw the Siren who drew brave mariners from their
courses; and even as he listened to her melodious song, he beheld her
exposed by a saint-like lady, Lucia, or Illuminating Grace. Day dawned,
the Angel fanned the fourth "P" from his forehead, and the poet ascended
to the fifth terrace, where lay the shades of the avaricious, prostrate on
the earth, weeping over their sins. They who in life had resolutely turned
their gaze from Heaven and fixed it on the things of the earth, must now
grovel in the dust, denouncing avarice, and extolling the poor and liberal
until the years have worn away their sin.
Bending over Pope Adrian the Fifth, Dante heard his confession that he was
converted while he held the Roman shepherd's staff. Then he learned how
false a dream was life, but too late, alas! to escape this punishment. As
Dante spoke with the shade of Capet the elder, a mighty trembling shook
the mountain, which chilled his heart until he learned from the shade of
Statius, whom they next met, that it was caused by the moving upward of a
purified soul, his own, that had been undergoing purgation on this terrace
five hundred years and more. "Statius was I," said the shade, "and my
inspiration came from that bright fountain of heavenly fire, the Aeneid;
it was my mother; to it I owe my fame. Gladly would I have added a year to
my banishment here, could I have known the Mantuan." Vergil's glance said
"Be mute!" but Dante's smile betrayed the secret, and Statius fell at
Vergil's feet adoring. Statius had suffered for the sin of prodigality,
which was punished, together with avarice, on this terrace.
The three proceeded upward to the sixth terrace, the ascent growing easier
on the disappearance of the "P" of avarice from Dante's forehead. Vergil
and Statius moved on in loving conversation, Dante reverently following.
"Your Pollio led me to Christianity," said Statius, "but my cowardice
caused me long to conceal it. Prodigality brought me hither."
On the sixth terrace two trees stood in opposite parts of the pathway that
the gluttons were compelled to tread, the first with branches broad at the
top and tapering downward, so that it was impossible to mount it; upon it
fell a fount of limpid water. From its branches a voice cried, "Of this
food ye shall have a scarcity. In the primal age, acorns furnished sweet
food and each rivulet seemed nectar." Towards the next tree, grown from a
twig of the tree of knowledge, the gluttons stretched eager hands, but a
voice cried, "Pass on; approach not!" Such desire for food was excited by
these tempting fruits, that the gluttons were emaciated beyond
recognition. By his voice alone did Dante recognize his kinsman Forese,
whose time in Purgatory had been shortened by the prayers of his wife
Nella. Forese talked with Dante for a while on the affairs of Florence,
and predicted the fall of his brother Corso Donati.
The dazzling splendor of the angel of the seventh terrace warned them of
his approach, and, lightened of one more "P," Dante and his companions
climbed to where two bands of spirits, lascivious on earth, moved through
paths of purifying flames, stopping as they passed to greet each other,
and singing penitential hymns. Here, Statius explained to Dante why the
shades of the sixth terrace were lean from want of food when they
possessed no longer their physical bodies. "After death the soul keeps its
memory, intelligence, and will more active than before, and as soon as it
reaches either the banks of Acheron or the Tiber, a shade form is attached
to it which acquires the soul's semblance, and has every sense given it,
even that of sight."
Guido Guinicelli, from out the flame-furnace, explained to Dante the
punishments of the terrace: "Thus are our base appetites burned out that
we may enjoy future happiness," and Arnaud the Troubadour, hating his past
follies, weeping and singing, implored Dante's prayers. It was only by
telling him that the fire lay between him and Beatrice that Vergil
prevailed on Dante to walk into the flames, which, though they tortured
him by the intensity of their heat, did not consume even his garments. As
they left the fire, the sun was setting, and they passed the night on the
steps of the next terrace, Statius and Vergil watching Dante as the
goatherds watch their flocks. In a dream the sleeping poet saw Leah,
symbolical of the active life, in contrast to her sister Rachel, of
contemplative life. On waking, Vergil told him that he would accompany him
further, but not as a guide; henceforth his own free will must lead him.
"Crowned, mitred, now thyself thou 'lt rule aright."
Dense green were the heavenly woodlands of the terrestrial paradise; sweet
were the bird songs, as sweet the songs of the whispering foliage; and on
the pleasant mead, beyond the dimpling waters of a stream so small that
three paces would span it, walked a beautiful lady, Matilda, gathering
flowers and singing an enchanting melody. At Dante's request, she came
nearer, and explained to him that God had created the terrestrial paradise
from which man was banished by his fault alone. To vex him it was raised
to this height. Its atmosphere was not that of the earth below, but given
it from the free sphere of ether. Here every plant had its origin; here
each river had its virtue; Lethe destroyed the memory of sin; Eunoe
restored to the mind the memory of things good.
As they talked, Hosannas were heard, and in the greatest splendor appeared
the Car of the Church Triumphant. First came the seven golden
candlesticks; following them, many people in resplendent white garments;
next, the four and twenty elders, lily crowned--the twenty-four books of
the Old Testament--singing to Beatrice "O blessed Thou!" Then four
six-winged, many-eyed living creatures described both by Ezekiel and John
surrounded the massive car drawn by the Gryphon, emblem of our Lord in his
divine and human nature, white, gold, and vermilion-hued, part lion, part
eagle, whose wings pierced the heavens.
Three maidens, red, emerald, and white, the Theological Virtues, Faith,
Hope, and Charity, danced at the right wheel of the car; four clad in
purple, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance, walked at the left
wheel. With them came two old men, Luke and Paul; then four together,
James, Peter, John, and Jude, and last an aged man walking in slumber,
Saint John, writer of the Revelation. These last were crowned with red
roses and other tinted flowers. With a crash as of thunder, the car
stopped before Dante, and a hundred angels, chanting, showered on it roses
and lilies. In the midst of the shower, Beatrice descended, clad in a
crimson robe, with a green mantle and a white veil, and crowned with an
olive wreath. Thrilling with his ancient love, Dante turned to Vergil to
sustain him, but Vergil was gone. As he looked again, her eyes, less
severe from the veil that enveloped her, were fixed on him as she rebuked
him, and he was sustained only by the compassion in the sweet voices of
the angels, which soothed him until the tears rained down his cheeks.
After her death, when she had arisen from flesh to spirit, Beatrice
complained that her influence was dimmed, and that he had sought such
depths that she had been compelled to go to the gates of hell to implore
Vergil to bring him hither that he might learn his future sufferings if he
did not repent. As he answered her, blaming the things that had led him
aside with joys deceitful, he tried to gaze into her eyes, but stung with
penitential thorns, fell senseless to the ground. Matilda, who stood by,
seized him and plunged him into the river Lethe, that he might forget his
past sin. Dripping, he was given to the four lovely maidens, who led him
before Beatrice that he might look into her eyes, fixed on the Gryphon. A
thousand longings held him fast while, "weary from ten years' thirsting,"
he gazed upon her lovely eyes, now unveiled in their full splendor.
Reproached at last by the seven virtues for his too intent gaze, Dante
watched the car move on to the Tree of Knowledge, to which its pole was
attached by the Gryphon. Dante, lulled to sleep by the hymn, was aroused
by Matilda, who pointed out to him the radiant Beatrice, sitting under a
tree surrounded by the bright forms of her attendants. The other
attendants of the car had followed the Gryphon to the skies.
"Observe the car," said Beatrice, "and write what thou hast seen when thou
returnest home." As she spoke, the car was attacked in turn by the eagle
of persecution, the fox of heresy, and the dragon of Islamism; these
driven away, it was disturbed by inward dissensions, the alliance between
Boniface and Philip the Fair.
Rising, Beatrice called Dante, Statius, and Matilda to her, and as they
walked upon that pleasant mead, she asked Dante the meaning of his
continued silence. She explained the attacks on the chariot to him, but he
declared that he could not understand her language. Then, at Beatrice's
nod, Matilda called him and Statius, and plunged them into Eunoe, whence
he rose regenerate, and prepared to mount to the stars.
THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The Paradise of Dante consists of nine heavens, each a revolving
crystalline sphere, enclosed in another; without them, the boundless
Empyrean. The first or innermost heaven, of the Moon, revolved by the
angels, is the habitat of wills imperfect through instability. The second,
of Mercury, revolved by the Archangels, is the abode of wills imperfect
through love of fame. The third, of Venus, revolved by the Principalities,
is the abode of wills imperfect through excess of human love. The fourth,
of the Sun, revolved by the Powers, is the abode of the great intellectual
lights, the doctors of the Church. The fifth heaven, of Mars, revolved by
the Virtues, is the abode of the martyrs, warriors, and confessors, and is
sacred to the Faith. The sixth, of Jupiter, revolved by the Dominations,
is inhabited by just rulers. The seventh, of Saturn, revolved by the
Thrones, is inhabited by monks and hermits. The eighth, of the Fixed
Stars, revolved by the Cherubim, is inhabited by the apostles and saints.
The ninth, or Primum Mobile, revolved by the Seraphim, is the abode of the
moral philosophers. These abodes, however, are not real, but
representative, to illustrate the differences in glory of the inhabitants
of Paradise, for the real seat of each is in the Rose of the Blessed. In
the heavens, the saints appear swathed in cocoons of light; in the Rose
they are seen in their own forms. They know all because they behold God
continually. In the Empyrean is the Rose of the Blessed, whose myriad
leaves form the thrones of the spirits, and whose centre of light is the
Father himself. Dividing the Rose horizontally, the lower thrones are held
by those who died in infancy; among them are varying degrees of glory.
Above it, are those who died adults. Supposing a vertical division, the
thrones to the left are for those who looked forward to Christ's coming;
those to the right, not yet all occupied, by those who died after Christ's
coming. Along the division lines are the holy women, the Virgin, Eve,
Rachel, Beatrice, Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and Ruth, Saint Anne and Saint
Lucia, and the saints, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Adam, Moses,
Saint Francis, Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, Saint Peter, and in the
midst, the Everlasting Glory of the Universe, whose light so fills the
Rose that "naught can form an obstacle against it."
THE STORY OF THE DIVINE COMEDY.
The ascent to Paradise was accomplished by a fixed gaze into Beatrice's
eyes, by which Dante, like Glaucus, was made divine, and by which he was
lifted, with incredible swiftness, through the heavens. As soon as he had
fixed his eyes on Beatrice's, who in turn looked towards heaven, they
found themselves in the Heaven of the Moon, whose luminous yet pearl-like
light enfolded them. While Beatrice was explaining to him that the spots
on the moon were not caused by the varying degrees of atmospheric density,
as he had supposed, but by the Divine Virtue infused in divine measure
through the angelic dwellers in the first heaven, he met Piccarda, his
sister-in-law, whose brother, Corso Donati, had torn her from her convent
to wed her to Rosselin della Tosa, soon after which she died. Here also
was Costanza, daughter of Roger I. of Sicily, grandmother of that Manfredi
whom he had seen in Purgatory. Here Beatrice instructed Dante as to the
imperfection of those wills that held not to their vows, but allowed
violence to thwart them.
Another look into the smiling eyes, and the two were in the Heaven of
Mercury, where those wills abide in whom love of fame partly extinguished
love of God. One of the thousand splendors that advanced towards them was
the soul of the Emperor Justinian, who reviewed the Empire, the Church,
condemning severely the behavior of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and told
of the spirits who inhabited the little planet, whose lives were sweetened
by living justice, and whose ears were gladdened by the sweetest
Dante was unaware of his ascent into, Venus, where dwelt those souls who
were lovers on earth, until he perceived Beatrice's added beauty. Amid
revolving lights Charles Martel of Hungary appeared, denounced his brother
Robert of Sicily, and instructed Dante on the subjects of heredity and
degeneracy; that "sweet seed can come bitter" because the influence of the
star under which the child is born can counteract that of the parent, and
because his state is not always adapted to him by his parents and
In the sphere of the Sun, consecrated to the great doctors of divinity,
Beatrice became still more beautiful; but so absorbed was the poet in the
love for the Eternal Source of all this splendor that for the first time
he forgot her. Out of the whirling lights, shining like precious jewels,
came Saint Thomas Aquinas, who pointed out to Dante his noted companions,
Gratian, Peter Lombard, Solomon, Dionysius, Boethius, and Baeda. Thomas
then related the story of Saint Francis of Assisi and the founding of his
order of the Franciscans, upon which Saint Bonaventura of the Franciscans,
from the next flame garland, told of Saint Dominic and the Dominican
order. Alas! while both orders were great in the beginning, both narrators
had to censure their present corruption.
The array of brilliant lights, dividing itself, formed into two disks
which, revolving oppositely, sang the praises of the Trinity. The song of
praise finished, Saint Thomas explained that Solomon was elevated to this
sphere for his wisdom and his regal prudence, and warned Dante against the
error of rash judgment.
The splendor of Mars was almost blinding; it was ruddier than the others,
and in it dwelt the souls of the crusaders and martyrs. While Dante's ears
were ravished by exquisite music, his eyes were dazzled by the lights,
which had arranged themselves in the form of a cross. From out the
splendor, one star saluted Dante. It was the soul of his ancestor
Cacciaguida, who had waited long for the coming of his descendant. He
related to Dante the story of his life, commenting on the difference
between the simple life of the Florentines of his day and the corrupt
practices of Dante's time, and broke to the poet what had already been
darkly hinted to him in Hell and Purgatory,--his banishment; how he must
depart from Florence and learn how salt is the bread of charity, how
wearisome the stairs in the abode of the stranger.
As Cacciaguida ceased and pointed out the other well-known dwellers in
Mars, each one on the cross flashed as his name was called,--Joshua, Judas
Maccabeus, Charlemagne and Roland, Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert Guiscard,
In Jupiter, whose whiteness contrasted with the ruddiness of Mars, dwelt
the souls of great rulers, certain of whom arranged themselves first to
form the golden letters of _Diligite Justitiam qui judicatis terram_
("Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth"), and then formed
themselves into the Roman eagle and sang of the justice and mercy that
caused their elevation to this position, and of events about to occur in
Had Beatrice smiled as they ascended to Saturn, Dante would have perished
as did Semele, from excess of light. In Saturn dwelt the spirits of the
contemplative, the monks and hermits, and here was Jacob's ladder, up and
down whose bars of gold sparkled the spirits of the saints, silent for the
same reason that Beatrice smiled not. By divine election, Saint Peter
Damian descended and spoke with Dante, accusing the churchmen of the time
of worldliness and luxury. "Cephas and our Lord came on earth barefoot and
poorly clad, but these men are covered with gorgeous raiment and ride upon
sleek palfreys." As he closed, a thunder cry of approval went up from the
Up the wonderful ladder passed Dante and his lady into the eighth heaven
of the Fixed Stars, and looking down saw the little earth and the starry
heavens through which they had passed. Then, as Beatrice paused with her
face all aflame, and her eyes full of ecstasy, down came the hosts of
Christ's triumphal march, and within the living light, which dazzled
Dante's eyes until he could not see, also appeared Mary, mother of God,
crowned by Gabriel, rising into the Empyrean. Of those who remained
behind, Beatrice asked that Dante be sprinkled with the waters of the
living Fountain; and while they gave their consent, Saint Peter appeared
as a fire whirling ecstatically, and singing a divine song. He examined
the trembling poet on faith, and his questions being answered
satisfactorily, encircled him thrice with his light. Saint James, who next
came forth, was likewise pleased with his response on Hope, and he was
then blinded by the effulgence of John, so that for a time he could not
see the face of his lady.
Of Love he spoke with John, and then talked with Adam. As he listened to
the strains of richest melody, he noticed one of the lights--Saint
Peter--change from white to red, and then, as silence fell, speak, enraged
at the worldliness of the Holy See. "My cemetery has been made a sewer of
blood and stench. When thou returnest to earth, reveal what thou hast
heard. Do not thou conceal what I have not concealed."
Commanded by Beatrice, Dante looked back at earth once more, and as he
looked, was carried up into the heaven of the Primum Mobile, where dwelt
the moral philosophers. Here the angelic spirits circled round the point
of intense light, the divine centre. The nearer God was the circle, the
greater virtue it possessed. This order was inverse to that of the
heavens, but Dante learned from Beatrice that the orbs revolved through
narrow paths or wide according to the virtue of their parts, and that a
strict agreement of harmony prevailed between the great and the small. The
angel and the heavens were created simultaneously, and, as direct
emanations from God, know no decay. Of this and many things concerning the
Creation, did Beatrice enlighten Dante before the beauty of her smile told
him that they were in the Empyrean. "Now shall thou look upon the mighty
hosts of Paradise."
The poet's dazzled eyes saw then a river of light from which issued living
sparks sunk down into the flowers like rubies set in gold. Instructed by
Beatrice he drank of the stream and the river changed into a lake; then he
saw the Courts of Heaven made manifest, and the splendor of God. The ample
Rose unfolded its leaves before him, breathing praise and perfume, and as
he gazed into it Beatrice pointed out the radiant spirits and the thronged
seats, one of which was reserved for the Emperor Henry of Luxembourg, from
whom Dante expected so much, and who died before aught was accomplished.
As Dante gazed, the hosts with wings of gold and faces of living flame,
singing anthems, alternately sank into the Rose, like a swarm of bees
sinking into summer flowers, and rose again to view the Divine splendor.
Turning to question Beatrice again, Dante found in her place Saint Bernard
of Clairvaux, an old man full of the tenderest pity, who pointed out to
him Beatrice in her own place, the third round of the first rank. As from
afar, Dante pleaded with the beautiful lady who had left her place in
heaven to go even unto the gates of hell for his sake, to aid him still;
she seemed to smile upon him before she again turned her gaze upon the
Eternal Fountain of Light. Saint Bernard explained to the poet the
divisions of the Rose and the seats of the saints, and then addressed a
prayer to the Virgin, asking that Dante be permitted to look upon the
Almighty Father. As he prayed, Beatrice and all the blessed ones clasped
their hands to her who likes so well prayers of divine fervor. At a
gesture from Bernard, the poet looked upward. Then what a radiant vision
met his eyes! Three circles he saw of threefold color and one dimension.
As he looked, one seemed to take our image, and again was lost in the
infinite glory of the Light Divine. As he tried to describe it,
imagination failed him, though his will remained, moving on with the even
motion of the sun and stars.
SELECTIONS FROM THE DIVINE COMEDY.
In the frozen lake of Cocytus in the ninth circle of the Inferno, where
were punished the traitors to kindred, country, friends, or benefactors,
the poets beheld Count Ugolino, a Guelph, who, because of his treachery,
was taken prisoner by the people with his sons and grandsons and thrust
into a tower, where they were left to starve. Ugolino was frozen in the
ice, where he forever gnawed the head of the Archbishop Ruggieri, his
enemy. At the request of Dante he stopped to tell his story.
"Thy will 'tis I renew
A desperate sorrow that doth crush my heart
Even before my lips its tale impart.
But if my words may be a seed that, sowed,
Shall fruit of infamy to this traitor bear,
Then, though I weep, speech too shall be my care.
"Who thou may'st be I know not, nor what mode
Hath brought thee here below, but then I glean,
From words of thine, thou art a Florentine.
That I Count Ugolino was, know thou,
And this the Archbishop Ruggieri. Why
I will thee tell we are such neighbors nigh.
Needs not to say that him I did allow
A friend's own trusts, but so his treachery wrought;
That first my liberty, then my life, it sought.
"But that which thou canst not have hitherto learned
That is, how cruel was my death, I thee
Will tell; judge thou if he offended me.
Within the Mew, a tower which well hath earned
From me its name of Famine, and where wrath
Yet others waits, a narrow opening hath,
Through which of several moons the broken light
Had strayed, when unto me in sleep was sent
A dream whereby the future's veil was rent.
"This ill dream me this man set forth in might:
He wolf and whelps upon those mounts pursued
Which Pisa 'twixt and Lucca's domes obtrude.
Hounds had he with him, lank and shrewd and keen,
And in their front Gualandi's sword had place,
Sismondi's lash and sour Lanfranchi's mace.
Father and sons' undoing soon was seen;
Methought the sharp fangs on them closed, and tore
Their flanks, which now the hue of crimson wore.
"Before the dawn I woke and heard my sons,
The helpless children with me, in their sleep,
Cry out for bread, cries pushed from sobbings deep.
Right cruel art thou, if not e'en now runs
To tears thy grief at what my heart forbode,
If tears of thine at misery's tale e'er flowed.
And then they woke, and came the hour around
Which had been wont our scanty meal to bring;
But from our dreams dumb terrors seemed to spring;
"When from below we heard the dreadful sound
Of nails; the horrible tower was closed; all dumb
I let my gaze into my sons' eyes come.
Weep I did not, like stone my feelings lay.
They wept, and spoke my little Anselm: 'Pray
Why lookest so? Father, what ails thee, say?'
Shed I no tear, nor answered all that day
Nor the next night, until another sun
His journey through the wide world had begun.
"Then came a small ray into our sad, sad den,
And when in their four faces I beheld
That carking grief which mine own visage held,
Mine hands for grief I bit, and they, who then
Deemed that I did it from desire to eat,
Stood up each one at once upon his feet,
And said: 'Father, 'twill give us much less pain
If thou wilt eat of us: of thee was born
This hapless flesh, and be it by thee torn.'
"Myself I calmed that they might not so grieve;
Mute that day and the next we were; O thou
Most cruel earth, that didst not open now!
When we the fourth day's agony did receive
Stretched at my feet himself my Gaddo threw,
And said: 'My father, canst thou nothing do?'
There died he, and, as now sees me thy sight,
The three I saw fall one by one; first died
One on the fifth; deaths two the sixth me tried.
"Then blind, I groped o'er them to left and right,
And for three days called on their spirits dead;
Then grief before the power of fasting fled."
_Wilstach's Translation, Inferno. Canto XXXIII._
BUONCONTE DI MONTEFELTRO.
On the second terrace of the Ante-Purgatory, on the Purgatorial Mount,
were the spirits of those whose lives were ended by violence. Among those
who here addressed Dante was Buonconte di Montefeltro, who was slain in
the battle of Campaldino, and whose body was never found.
Another then: "Ah, be thy cherished aim
Attained that to the lofty Mount thee draws,
As thou with pity shalt advance my cause.
Of Montefeltro I Buonconte am;
Giovanna, and she only, for me cares;
Hence among those am I whom waiting wears."
"What violence or what chance led thee so wide
From Campaldino," I of him inquired,
"That's still unknown thy burial-place retired?"
"Oh, Casentino's foot," he thus replied,
"Archiano's stream o'erflows, which hath its rise
Above the Hermitage under Apennine skies.
There where its name is lost did I arrive,
Pierced through and through the throat, in flight,
Upon the plain made with my life-blood bright;
"There sight I lost, and did for speech long strive;
At last I uttered Mary's name, and fell
A lifeless form, mine empty flesh a shell.
Truth will I speak, below do thou it hymn;
Took me God's Angel up, and he of Hell
Cried out: 'O thou from Heaven, thou doest well
To rob from me the eternal part of him
For one poor tear, that me of him deprives;
In other style I'll deal with other lives!'
"Well know'st thou how in air is gathered dim
That humid vapor which to water turns
Soon as the cold its rising progress learns.
The fiend that ill-will joined (which aye seeks ill)
To intellectual power, which mist and wind
Moved by control which faculties such can find,
And afterwards, when the day was spent, did fill
The space from Protomagno to where tower
The Mounts with fog; and high Heaven's covering power
"The pregnant atmosphere moist to water changed.
Down fell the rain, and to the ditches fled,
Whate'er of it the soil's thirst had not sped;
And, as it with the mingling torrents ranged
Towards the royal river, so it flowed
That over every obstacle wild it rode.
The robust river found my stiffened frame
Near to its outlet, and it gave a toss
To Arno, loosening from my breast the cross
"I made of me when agony me o'ercame;
Along his banks and bottoms he me lapped,
Then in his muddy spoils he me enwrapped."
_Wilstach's Translation, Purgatorio, Canto V._
BEATRICE DESCENDING FROM HEAVEN.
Dante and Vergil mounted to the Terrestial Paradise, where, while they
talked with Matilda, the Car of the Church Triumphant appeared in the
greatest splendor. As it stopped before Dante it was enveloped in a shower
of roses from the hands of a hundred angels.
I have beheld ere now, when dawn would pale,
The eastern hemisphere's tint of roseate sheen,
And all the opposite heaven one gem serene,
And the uprising sun, beneath such powers
Of vapory influence tempered, that the eye
For a long space its fiery shield could try:
E'en so, embosomed in a cloud of flowers,
Which from those hands angelical upward played,
And roseate all the car triumphal made,
And showered a snow-white veil with olive bound,
Appeared a Lady, green her mantle, name
Could not describe her robe unless 't were flame.
And mine own spirit, which the past had found
Often within her presence, free from awe,
And which could never from me trembling draw,
And sight no knowledge giving me at this time,
Through hidden virtue which from her came forth,
Of ancient love felt now the potent worth.
As soon as on my vision smote sublime
The heavenly influence that, ere boyhood's days
Had fled, had thrilled me and awoke my praise,
Unto the leftward turned I, with that trust
Wherewith a little child his mother seeks,
When fear his steps controls, and tear-stained cheeks,
To say to Vergil: "All my blood such gust
Of feeling moves as doth man's bravery tame;
I feel the traces of the ancient flame."
_Wilstach's Translation, Paradiso, Canto XXX._
THE EXQUISITE BEAUTY OF BEATRICE.
While Dante and Beatrice rose from the Heaven of Primal Motion to the
Empyrean, the poet turned his dazzled eyes from the heavens, whose sight
he could no longer bear, to the contemplation of Beatrice.
Wherefore my love, and loss of other view,
Me back to Beatrice and her homage drew.
If what of her hath been already said
Were in one single eulogy grouped, 't would ill
Her meed of merit at this moment fill.
The beauty which in her I now beheld
B'yond mortals goes; her Maker, I believe,
Hath power alone its fulness to receive.
Myself I own by obstacles stronger spelled
Than in his labored theme was ever bard
Whose verses, light or grave, brought problems hard;
For, as of eyes quelled by the sun's bright burst,
E'en so the exquisite memory of that smile
Doth me of words and forming mind beguile.
Not from that day when on this earth I first
Her face beheld, up to this moment, song
Have I e'er failed to strew her path along,
But now I own my limping numbers lame;
An artist sometimes finds his powers surpassed,
And mine succumbs to beauty's lance at last.
And I must leave her to a greater fame
Than any that my trumpet gives, which sounds,
Now, hastening notes, which mark this labor's bounds.
_Wilstach's Translation, Paradiso, Canto XXX._
THE ORLANDO FURIOSO.
Ludovico Ariosto, author of the Orlando Furioso was born in Reggio, Italy,
Sept. 8, 1474. In 1503 he was taken into the service of the Cardinal
Hippolito d'Este, and soon after began the composition of the Orlando
Furioso, which occupied him for eleven years. It was published in 1516,
and brought him immediate fame. Ariosto was so unkindly treated by his
patron that he left him and entered the service of the cardinal's brother,
Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. By him he was appointed governor of a province,
in which position he repressed the banditti by whom it was infested, and
after a successful administration of three years, returned to Ferrara to
reside. The latter part of his life was spent in writing comedies and
satires, and in revising the Orlando Furioso. He died in Ferrara, June 6,
The Orlando Furioso is a sequel to Boiardo's Orlando Innamorata, Ariosto
taking up the story at the end of that poem. Its historical basis is the
wars of Charlemagne with the Moors, which were probably confused with
those of Charles Martel. As the Orlando of the poem is the same Roland
whose fall at Roncesvalles in 778 is celebrated in the Song of Roland, its
events must have occurred before that time.
Although the poem is called Orlando Furioso, Orlando's madness occupies a
very small part of it, the principal threads of the story being Orlando's
love for Angelica and his consequent madness, the wars of Charlemagne, and
the loves of Bradamant and Rogero. From this Rogero the family of Este
claimed to be derived, and for this reason Ariosto made Rogero the real
hero of the poem, and took occasion to lavish the most extravagant praises
upon his patron and his family.
With these principal threads are interwoven innumerable episodes which are
not out of place in the epic, and lend variety to a story which would
otherwise have become tiresome. The lightness of treatment, sometimes
approaching ridicule, the rapidity of movement, the grace of style, and
the clearness of language, the atmosphere created by the poet which so
successfully harmonizes all his tales of magic and his occasional
inconsistencies, and the excellent descriptions, have all contributed to
the popularity of the poem, which is said to be the most widely read of
the epics. These descriptions outweigh its faults,--the taking up the
story of Boiardo without an explanation of the situation, the lack of
unity, and the failure to depict character; for with the exception of
Bradamant and Rogero, Ariosto's heroes and heroines are very much alike,
and their conversation is exceedingly tiresome.
The Furioso is written in the octave stanza, and originally consisted of
forty cantos, afterwards increased to forty-six.
The poem is the work of a practical poet, one who could govern a province.
It is marred by an over-profusion of ornament, and contains no such lofty
flights of fancy as are to be found in the Jerusalem Delivered. To this,
no doubt, it owes, in part at least, its great popularity, for the poet's
poem is never the people's poem.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE ORLANDO FURIOSO.
Dublin University Magazine, 1845, xxvi., 187-201, 581-601, xxvii., 90-104;
Retrospective Review, 1823, viii., 145-170, ix., 263-291;
William T. Dobson's Classic Poets, 1879, pp. 186-238;
Leigh Hunt's Stories from the Italian Poets, n. d. vol. ii., pp. 134-151;
William Hickling Prescott's Italian Narrative Poetry. (See his
Biographical and Critical Miscellanies, 1873, pp. 441-454);
M. W. Shelley's Lives of the most eminent Literary and Scientific Men of
Italy, Spain, and Portugal, 1835, pp. 239-255. (In Lardner's Cabinet
Cyclopedia, vol. i.);
John Addington Symonds's Italian Literature, 1888, vol. i., pp. 493-522,
vol. ii. pp. 1-50.
STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE ORLANDO FURIOSO.
Orlando Furioso, Tr. from the Italian by Sir James Harrington, 1724;
Orlando Furioso, Tr. by John Hoole, 1819;
Orlando Furioso, Tr. into English verse by W. S. Rose, 2 vols., 1864-5.
THE STORY OF THE ORLANDO FURIOSO.
The Emperor Charlemagne was at war with the Moors and had camped near the
Pyrenees with his host, determined to conquer their leaders, Marsilius of
Spain and Agramant of Africa. To his camp came Orlando, the great paladin,
with the beautiful Angelica, princess of Cathay, in search of whom he had
roamed the world over. Orlando's cousin, Rinaldo, another of the great
lords of Charlemagne, also loved Angelica, for he had seen her immediately
after drinking of the Fountain of Love in the forest of Arden, and
Charlemagne, fearing trouble between the cousins on her account, took
Angelica from Orlando's tent and placed her in the care of Duke Namus of
Angelica did not like Orlando and she loathed Rinaldo, for he had been the
first to meet her after she had tasted the waters of the Fountain of Hate.
So when the Christian forces were one day routed in battle and the tents
forsaken, she leaped on her palfrey and fled into the forest. Here the
first person she met was the hated Rinaldo; and fleeing from him she
encountered the fierce Moor Ferrau, who, being also in love with her, drew
his sword and attacked the pursuing paladin. But when the two discovered
that Angelica had taken advantage of their duel to flee, they made peace
and went in search of her.
As she fled, Angelica met Sacripant, an eastern lover who had followed her
to France, and put herself under his protection. But when Sacripant was
first defeated by Bradamant and then engaged in battle with the pursuing
Rinaldo, she deemed herself safer without him and fled; and presently a
page appeared, a shade conjured there by a hermit magician whom Angelica
had met, and announced to the warriors that Orlando had appeared and
carried the maid to Paris.
Rinaldo immediately hastened to Paris, to find Orlando absent and
Charlemagne, defeated by the Moors, entrenching himself in the city and
preparing to send to England for aid. Rinaldo must be his ambassador, and
that without a day's delay.
Frantic with jealousy, Rinaldo leaped into a ship in the midst of a storm,
and hastened on his errand. Driven upon the coast of Scotland, he won the
king's gratitude by saving his daughter Ginevra from shame and death, and
secured from him a promise of all the horsemen and arms that could be
spared. He was equally successful in England, and was soon reviewing the
troops preparatory to their embarkation.
The warrior maid, Bradamant, sister of Rinaldo, after overthrowing
Sacripant, pursued her way through the forest in search of Rogero the
pagan. They had met once in battle and had loved, and since then she had
ever roamed through the land in search of him. In the forest she found
Pinabel, lamenting because his beloved lady had been snatched from him by
a wizard on a winged steed, and carried to an impregnable castle. Thither
he had seen many warriors conveyed, among them Rogero and Gradasso,
conquered first by the lance and then thrown into profound slumber by the
glare of a magic shield carried by the wizard.
Bradamant, anxious to save Rogero, offered to rescue Pinabel's lady if he
would guide her to the castle. But when the treacherous knight learned
that she was Bradamant, between whose house and his there was a deadly
feud, he planned to slay her, and soon, by his treachery, managed to hurl
her down a precipice.
Bradamant was only stunned by the fall, however, and soon awoke, to find
herself at the entrance of a cave, which was the tomb of Merlin. Melissa,
the prophetess maid, welcomed her, assured her that Rogero should be her
spouse, and showed her their phantom descendants, brave princes and
beautiful princesses of the house of Este. She then told her that
Brunello, a knight of King Agramant, was hastening to the castle to
release the prisoners by means of a magic ring, formerly the property of
Angelica, which when put in the mouth would render one invisible, and,
worn on the finger, made one proof against magic spells. Bradamant must
overcome Brunello, wrest the ring from him, and herself free Rogero.
Following Melissa's advice, Bradamant overtook Brunello, seized the ring,
and hastening to the castle, challenged Atlantes to battle. When he
displayed the shield she pretended to become unconscious; but when he ran
up to bind her she sprang up and seized him. He declared that he had
imprisoned Rogero, his nephew, only to save him from the fate foretold by
the stars, death by treachery at the hands of the Christians, and had
brought the other knights and ladies there for his entertainment. Then
Atlantes broke the spell and disappeared, together with the castle, and
the prisoners trooped forth, Rogero among them.
Bradamant was happy, but alas! only for a moment; for as she and Rogero
went down the mountain together he thoughtlessly leaped on the hippogrif,
which alighted near him, and the winged steed, refusing his control, rose
in the air, leaving the tearful Bradamant behind. The hippogrif flew
rapidly over land and sea until it was directly above a small island, upon
which it descended. Rogero sprang from its back, tied it to a myrtle tree,
and, weary from his three thousand mile ride in heavy armor, prepared to
drink from a rippling spring. The groves were of cedar, laurel, palm, and
myrtle; roses and lilies filled the air with their perfume, and the wild
stag and timid hare ran fearlessly through the groves. As he stooped to
drink he heard a voice issuing from the myrtle to which he had tied the
hippogrif. It was that of Astolpho, the English knight, who told him that
the greater part of the island was under the control of Alcina the
enchantress, who had left only a small portion to her sister Logistilla,
to whom it all rightfully belonged. He himself had been enticed thither by
Alcina, who had loved him for a few weeks, and then, serving him as she
did all her lovers, had transformed him to a tree.
Rogero determined to profit by this advice; but when he was driven from
the narrow path to Logistilla's domain and met Alcina he fell under the
power of her beauty, and thought Astolpho a traducer. The days passed so
gayly in her beautiful home that Rogero forgot the pagan cause, forgot his
duty, forgot Bradamant, and was roused from his lethargy only by Melissa,
to whom Bradamant had given the magic ring to enable her to find and
rescue her lover. Melissa found the young knight when apart from Alcina,
and gave him the ring that he might with it be enabled to see the
enchantress in her true form. She then instructed him how to escape and
seek the kingdom of Logistilla. Rogero was disgusted when the beautiful
enchantress appeared as a hideous, wrinkled old woman, but concealing his
change of feeling, waited until the opportunity presented itself to get
his armor, take a steed, and pass by the warders of the gate. With great
difficulty he reached a stream which separated Alcina's lands from those
of Logistilla, and while ferrying across was overtaken by the boats of
Alcina. With the help of Atlantes' shield, they were overcome, and Alcina
was forced to depart, weeping, with only one boat, while Rogero entered
the castle of the fairy Logistilla, from whom he learned many noble
Here came the other knights freed from Alcina's enchantment by Melissa,
and Melissa herself with Astolpho, on the hippogrif, which she had learned
to control. Astolpho was in his own armor and bore his wondrous spear,
which had the power of overthrowing every one whom it so much as touched.
After a short rest among the pleasant gardens of Logistilla, Rogero
departed on the hippogrif, and although anxious to see his Bradamant
again, took the opportunity to pass over all the known world by this novel
method of travel. He saw the troops in England gathering to go to the aid
of Charlemagne, and rescued the beautiful Angelica, who had been taken by
pirates and sold to the people of Ebuda, who chained her upon a rock as a
victim for the orc. Rogero put the orc to sleep with his magic shield,
giving Angelica the ring that the sight of the shield might not affect her
as well. But when, charmed by the maid, he became too lover-like in his
attentions, she put the ring in her mouth and disappeared. The angry
Rogero turned, only to find that his hippogrif had broken its rein and was
gone. Hastening through the forest, vexed with himself and the maiden, he
fancied he saw 'Bradamant carried off by a giant, and following her,
entered a magic castle of Atlantes, where he spent his days vainly trying
to overtake his beloved and her captor.
Orlando could think only of his lost Angelica; and forgetful of the fact
that his uncle Charlemagne was sorely pressed by the heathen, he stole
from the camp one night in disguise, and went in search of her. Passing
the isle of Ebuda he slew the ore, rescued Olympia, who was exposed as its
victim, avenged her wrongs, and continued on his way until he reached the
castle of Atlantes, and, fancying he saw Angelica, entered, and began the
mad round of pursuit with many other Christian and pagan knights who were
rendered unconscious of one another's presence by the magic of the wizard.
Hither came Angelica, invisible by means of the ring, to find a knight to
protect her on her way to Cathay. Unfortunately as she showed herself to
Sacripant, she was seen by Ferrau and Orlando, and all three pursued her
from the castle. When they were sufficiently removed from it Angelica
slipped the ring in her mouth and disappeared, and Ferrau and Orlando
began to quarrel about Orlando's helmet, which the Moor was determined to
win and wear. As Ferrau wore no helm until he could win Orlando's, that
paladin hung his on a tree while they fought. Unseen by them, Angelica
took it down, intending to restore it to Orlando later, and slipped away.
When the knights discovered her absence they went in search of her, and
Ferrau, coming upon her, took the helmet as she disappeared in fright.
Orlando, assuming another crest, which he did not need, as his body was
charmed and could not be hurt by any weapon, went forward, still in search
of his love, and on the way encountered and almost totally destroyed two
squadrons of Moors, and rescued from a robber's cave the beautiful Isabel,
betrothed of Zerbino.
Melissa returned to Bradamant with the news that while Rogero was freed
from the enchantment of Aleina, he was imprisoned in Atlantes' castle,
from which she herself could rescue him by slaying the wizard, who would
appear to her in the form of her lover. Bradamant resolved to do so; but
when she saw the seeming Rogero set upon by two giants, she forgot her
resolution, believed Melissa to be false, and spurring after him, became a
prisoner in that wondrous castle, through which day and night she pursued
her ever-fleeing lover.
When the Moors discovered the destruction of the two squadrons,
Mandricardo, the Tartar king, determined to seek and do battle with the
knight (unknown to him by name) who had wrought such destruction. The
Tartar wore the arms of Hector save the sword, which was the property of
Orlando, and until he gained it, he bore no weapon save the lance. With
this, however, he stormed through the battlefield, striking terror to the
hearts of all. With it alone, he destroyed a band of men conveying to
Rodomont, the Saracen chief, his betrothed bride, Doralice, and won the
maid for himself.
Outside Paris raged the infidel, chief among them the giant King Rodomont.
Smiting those of his troops who hesitated to mount the scaling ladders, he
waded through the wet moat, scaled the first wall, leaped the dry ditch,
mounted the second wall, and ran alone through the city, spreading terror,
death, and fire, while Charlemagne, ignorant of his presence, was busied
in the defence of one of the gates against Agramant.
Now Rinaldo's army approached, unsuspected by the heathen, because of the
aid of Silence, summoned by Saint Michael. Through these, welcomed by
Charlemagne, Rodomont cut his way, hewing down fifteen or twenty foes at
once, and, casting himself into the Seine, escaped, angry that he had not
succeeded in destroying the city.
Discord, also summoned by Michael to the aid of the Christians, informed
Rodomont on his return to the camp of the capture of Doralice, and the
chief set forth raging, in search of Mandricardo, thoughtlessly abandoning
King Agramant, struggling against the English re-inforcements. As night
fell on a furious battle, the Moors were driven back, and Charlemagne
pitched his tents without the city, opposite those of the Moors.
In the Moorish camp were two youths who loved one another with a love
passing wonderful, Medoro and Cloridan. Both served Dardinello, and had
crossed the sea with him. As they stood on guard that night they talked of
their lord's death on the field that day, and Medoro suggested that they
go in search of his body and bury it. Cloridan agreed, and they crept
through the sleeping lines of the Christians, slaughtering many, found the
body, and were hurrying into the forest when they heard the troops of
Zerbino. Cloridan fled, fancying that Medoro would do the same, but on
finding himself unaccompanied, retraced his footsteps, only to see his
friend surrounded by a troop of horsemen. From his ambush he shot his
arrows at the foe, until Zerbino in wrath seized Medoro by the throat,
exclaiming, "Thou shall die for this!" But when Medoro prayed to be
allowed first to bury his lord, pity touched Zerbino, and he freed the
youth, who fell, however, wounded by a thrust from a churlish horseman, in
pursuit of whom Zerbino at once fled. Cloridan sprang in among the
horsemen and fell dead by their thrusts at the side of the unconscious
The bleeding youth was found by Angelica, who passed by, clad in rustic
raiment; and the maid, struck with his beauty, recalled her knowledge of
chirturgery and revived him. After Dardinello was buried, she and a
shepherd assisted Medoro to a neighboring cottage, where she attended him
until his wound was healed. But as he grew well, Angelica, who had scorned
the suit of the proudest knights, fell sick of love for the humble youth,
and resolved to take him with her to Cathay.
When Astolpho left the castle of Logistilla he carried with him as her
gift a book from which he could learn to overcome all magic cheats, and a
horn whose sound would put the boldest man to flight. Following her
directions, he sailed past Scythia and India into the Persian Gulf, and
there disembarking, passed through Arabia and along the Red Sea. There he
overcame the giant Caligorantes, slew Orillo, who guarded the outlet of
the Nile, and met there the brother knights Gryphon and Aquilant. Gryphon,
led astray by an unworthy love, stole away from his brother, but was found
again after many adventures, and the three, together with Sansonet and
Marphisa, a warlike virgin, embarked for France. A great storm arose, and
the vessel was forced to land in Syria. This was the land of the Amazons,
and the troop escaped only by the warning and assistance of Guido, the
savage, who was a bondsman in the land.
Astolpho became separated from the rest of the party and reached Europe
alone. One day, while he was stooping to drink at a spring in the forest,
a rustic sprang from a thicket, and leaping upon Rabican, rode him away.
Astolpho, hastening after him, entered the enchanted castle of Atlantes,
and soon recognized it as a house of magic. He broke the spell by the aid
of his book, freed the captive knights, and finding the hippogrif, which
he had learned to guide from Melissa, mounted it and rode away.
When the castle was destroyed, Rogero recognized Bradamant and clasped her
in his arms, rejoicing to find her again. The maid, anxious to avoid
further separation, promised to wed him if he would become a Christian,
and demand her of her father, Duke Aymon. Rogero gladly promised to do so.
and the two were hastening to Vallombrosa that he might be baptized when
they encountered a maid, who prayed them to hasten to the relief of a
youth doomed to death by fire. They hurried on, but paused to free Guido
the savage, Gryphon. Aquilant, and Sansonet, who had been imprisoned by
Pinabel, and Bradamant, pursuing Pinabel into the forest, slew him. But
there, unfortunately, she lost her way, and while she was wandering about,
Rogero, ignorant of her whereabouts, pushed on and freed the youth, who
proved to be Bradamant's brother.
As Bradamant wandered through the forest she found Astolpho, who had just
made a bridle for the hippogrif, and recognizing him, took his horse and
spear in charge. A long time she wandered forlorn. She did not know the
way to Vallombrosa; she did not know the whereabouts of Rogero. Her home
was in sight, but if her mother saw her she would not again be suffered to
depart. As she stood debating with herself, she was recognized by one of
her brothers, and was forced to accompany him home. Thence she secretly
sent her maid Hippalca to Vallombrosa with Rogero's horse Frontino, and a
message explaining her absence.
After the capture of Doralice, Mandricardo hastened on, and overtook
Orlando just as he had freed Zerbino and united him to Isabel. Recognizing
Orlando by his crest as the chief who had destroyed the squadrons, the
Tartar challenged him to combat. In courtesy to his foe, who would bear no
sword until he could have Durindana, Orlando hung the blade on a tree, and
the two knights spurred their steeds and broke their lances together. Then
grappling, each endeavored to unhorse the other. The breaking of Orlando's
saddle girth caused his fall just as he had slipped the bridle from the
head of his enemy's horse, and the frightened steed, freed from its rein,
ran madly through the wood, followed by Doralice.
Orlando told Zerbino to inform Mandricardo if he overtook him that he
would wait in that spot three days for him to return and renew the combat,
and bade the lovers farewell. As he wandered through the region while
waiting, he found a peaceful little spot where a limpid rill rippled
through a meadow dotted here and there with trees. Here the weary warrior
sought repose; but as he looked about him he espied the name of Angelica
carved on the trees, entwined with that of Medoro. Persuading himself that
this was a fanciful name by which the maid intended to signify himself, he
entered a little ivy-covered grotto, arching over a fountain, and there
discovered on the rocky wall some verses in which Medoro celebrated his
union with Angelica. For a moment he stood as if turned to stone. Unable
to weep, he again mounted his horse and sought a peasant's house to pass
the night. There he heard the story of Angelica's infatuation, and saw the
bracelet she had left them in return for their hospitality. The unhappy
Orlando passed a sleepless night, weeping and groaning, and the next
morning hastened to the forest that he might give way to his grief
unobserved. There madness came upon him, and he uprooted the hateful
trees, cut the solid stone of the grotto with his sword, making a
desolation of the beautiful spot, and, casting off his armor, ran naked
through the country, pillaging, burning, and slaying.
Zerbino and Isabel sought the spot in a few days to learn if Mandricardo
had returned, found the scattered armor, and heard of Orlando's madness
from a shepherd. Lamenting over their protector's misfortune, they
gathered up the armor, hung it on a sapling, and wrote thereon Orlando's
name. But while they were thus engaged, Mandricardo arrived, took the long
coveted sword, and gave Zerbino, who attempted to prevent the theft, a
mortal wound. The unhappy Isabel, intent on self-destruction, was
comforted by a hermit, who promised to take her to a monastery near
Mandricardo had had but a few moments for repose after this combat with
Zerbino, when the furious Rodomont overtook him and a terrible combat
between the two began, the beautiful cause of it looking on with interest.
But so strong were the champions that the struggle might have been
prolonged indefinitely had not a messenger announced to the knights that
they must postpone their private quarrels for a moment and hasten to the
relief of King Agramant.
After Rogero had freed Richardetto, Bradamant's brother, and had attempted
in vain to find Bradamant, he was troubled by the thought of King
Agramant. He was determined to wed the warrior maid and become a
Christian, but first came his vow to the pagan king. He therefore wrote
her a note, saying that honor required his presence with Agramant for at
least fifteen or twenty days, but after that time he would find means to
justify himself with Agramant and would meet her at Vallombrosa to be
He, with Richardetto, Aldigier, and Marphisa, whom they met on her way to
the pagan camp, rode on together, and freed Vivian and Malagigi from the
Moors and Manganese. While they rested at a little fountain, Hippalca rode
up, and told them that she had just met Rodomont, who took Frontino from
her. She also managed secretly to give Rogero Bradamant's message and
receive his letter in return.
While the party still remained at the fountain, Rodomont came up with
Mandricardo and Doralice, and all engaged in a fierce battle, which was at
last interrupted by Malagigi, who, versed in wizard arts, conjured a demon
into Doralice's horse so that it ran away; and Rodomont and Mandricardo,
frightened by her screams, started in pursuit.
With the assistance of Rogero, Marphisa, Rodomont, and Mandricardo,
Agramant was enabled to drive Charlemagne back into Paris, where he was
saved only by the interposition of Discord, who stirred up the old
quarrels between Rodomont, Mandricardo, Rogero, and Gradasso over weapons,
bearings, and horses, until Agramant announced that they should settle
their difficulties by single combat, drawing lots to see who should first
engage in battle. But when they were ready for the lists, fresh quarrels
broke out, until the king despaired of ever having peace in his ranks.
Finally, at his command, Doralice publicly declared Mandricardo her
choice, and the furious Rodomont fled from the camp. On his way to Africa
he found a little abandoned church between France and Spain, and decided
to remain there instead of returning home. From this spot he saw Isabel on
her way to Marseilles, and falling in love with her, he slew the hermit,
dragged her to his retreat, and tried to win her. But she, loathing him
and faithful to Zerbino, caused him to slay her, pretending that she was
rendered invulnerable by an ointment which she had prepared, and the
secret of which she would impart to him. The unhappy Rodomont walled up
the church to form her tomb, and threw a narrow bridge across the stream.
On this bridge he met every knight who came thither, and having overthrown
him, took his arms to deck the tomb, on which he determined to hang a
thousand such trophies. If the vanquished knight was a Moor he was set
free without his arms; if a Christian he was imprisoned. Thither came the
mad Orlando, and wrestled with Rodomont on the bridge until both fell into
the stream. The madman then passed on through the country and met Medoro
and Angelica on their way to India. They escaped with difficulty, Medoro's
horse falling a victim to the madman, who continued to lay waste the land
until he reached Zizera on the bay of Gibraltar, and, plunging into the
sea, swam to Africa.
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