Page images
PDF
EPUB

Then Florence changeth citizens and laws;
From Valdimagra,” drawn by wrathful Mars,
A vapour rises, wrapt in turbid mists,
And sharp and eager driveth on the storm
With arrowy hurtling o'er Piceno's field,
Whence suddenly the cloud shall burst, and strike
Each helpless Bianco prostrate to the ground.
This have I told, that grief may rend thy heart.”

CANTO X X V.

Argument. The sacrilegious Fucci vents his fury in blasphemy, is seized by serpents, and

flying is pursued by Cacus in the form of a Centaur, who is described with a swarm of serpents on his haunch, and a dragon on his shonlders breathing forth fire. Our Poet then meets with the spirits of three of his countrymen, two of whom undergo a marvellous transformation in his presence.

When he had spoke, the sinner raised his hands 3

Pointed in mockery, and cried : “Take them, God ! 1 Then Florence.] “Soon after the Bianchi will be expelled from Florence, the Neri will prevail, and the laws and people will be changed.”

: From Valdimagra.] The commentators explain this prophetical threat to allude to the victory obtained by the Marquis Morello Malaspina of Valdimagra (a tract of country now called the Lunigiana), who put himself at the head of the Neri, and defeated their opponents, the Bianchi, in the Campo Piceno near Pistoia, soon after the occurrence related in the preceding Note on v. 142. Of this engagement I find no mention in Villani. Balbo (Vita di Dante, vol. ii. p. 143), refers to Gerini, Memorie Storiche di Lunigiana, tom. ii. p. 123, for the whole history of this Morello or Moroello. Currado Malaspina is introduced in the eighth Canto of the Purgatory; where it appears, that although on the present occasion they espoused contrary sides, most important favours were nevertheless conferred by that family on our Poet, at a subscquent period of his exile, in 1307.

3 IIis hands.] Le mani alzò, con ambeduo le fiche. So Frezzi: E fe le fiche a Dio 'l superbo vermo.

ni Quadrir. lib. 2. cap. xix. Io vidi l'ira poi con crudel faccia ;

E fe le fiche a Dio il mostro rio,

Stringendo i denti ed alzando le braccia. 16. lib. 3. cap. x. And Trissino: Poi facca con le man le fiche al cielo Dicendo : Togli, Iddio ; che puoi più farmi ?

L'Ital. Liberata, c. xii. “The practice of thrusting out the thumb between the first and secord fingers, to express the feelings of insult and contempt, has prevailed very generally among the nations of Europe, and for many ages had been denominated 'making the fig,' or described at least by some equivalent expression." Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 492, ed. 1807. The passage in the original text has not escaped this diligent commentator.

I level them at thee.” From that day forth
The serpents were my friends ; for round his neck
One of them rolling twisted, as it said,
“Be silent, tongue !" Another, to his arms
Upgliding, tied them, riveting itself
So close, it took from them the power to move.

Pistoia ! ah, Pistoia ! why dost doubt
To turn thee into ashes, cumbering earth
No longer, since in evil act so far
Thou hast outdone thy seed ?1 I did not mark,
Through all the gloomy circles of the abyss,
Spirit, that swelld so proudly 'gainst his God ;
Not him,” who headlong fell from Thebes. He fled,
Nor utter'd more ; and after him there came
A centaur full of fury, shouting, “Where,
Where is the caitiff?" On Maremma's marsh 3
Swarm not the serpent tribe, as on his launch
They swarm’d, to where the human face begins.
Behind his head, upon the shoulders, lay
With open wings a dragon, breathing fire
On whomsoe'er he met. To me my guide:
“Cacus 4 is this, who underneath the rock
Of Aventine spread oft a lake of blood.
He, from his brethren parted, here must tread
A different journey, for his fraudful theft
Of the great her that near him stall’d; whence found
His felon deeds their end, beneath the mace
Of stout Alcides, that perchance laid on
A hundred blows, and not the tenth was felt.”

While yet he spake, the centaur sped away :
And under us three spirits came, of whom
Nor I nor he was ware, till they exclaim'd,
“Say who are ye!” We then brake off discourse,
Intent on these alone. I knew them not :
But, as it chanceth oft, befel, that one
Had need to name another. “Where," said he,
“ Doth Cianfalurk?” I, for a sign my guide
Should stand attentive, placed against my lips
The finger lifted. If, O reader! now
Thou be not apt to credit what I tell,
No marvel ; for myself do scarce allow
The witness of mine eyes. But as I look'd

1 Thy seed.] Thy ancestry. 2 Not him.] Capaneus. Canto xiv. 3 On Maremma's marsh.] An extensive tract near the sea-shore of Tuscany. 4 Cacus.] Virgil. Æn. lib. 8. 193. 5 A hundred blows.] Less than ten blows, out of the hundred Hercules gave him, had deprived him of feeling.

6 Cianfa. He is said to have been of the family of Donati at Florence.

Toward them, lo! a serpent with six feet
Springs forth on one, and fastens full upon him :
His midmost grasp'd the belly, a forefoot
Seized on each arm (while deep in either cheek 1
He flesh'd his fangs); the hinder on the thighis
Were spread, 'twixt which the tail inserted curl'd
Upon the reins behind. Ivy ne'er clasp'd ?
A dodderd oak, as round the other's linibs
The hideous monster intertwined his own.
Then, as they both had been of burning wax,
Each melted into other, mingling hues,
That which was either now was seen no more.
Thus up the shrinking paper, ere it burns,
A brown tint glides, not turning yet to black,
And the clean white expires. The other two
Look'd on, exclaiming, “ Ah! how dost thou change,
Agnello !4 See! Thou art nor double now,
Nor only one.” The two heads now became
One, and two figures blended in one form
Appear'd, where both were lost. Of the four lengths
Two arms were made : the belly and the chest,
The thighs and legs, into such members changed
As never eye hath scen. Of former shape
All trace was vanish’d. Two, yet neither, seem'd
That image miscreate, and so passid on
With tardy steps. As underneath the scourge
Of the fierce dog-star that lays bare the fields,

Shifting from brake to brake the lizard seems 1 In either cheek.] Ostendit mihi post hoc apostolus lacum magnum tetrum, et aquæ sulphureæ plenum, in quo animarum multitudo demersa est, plenum serpentibus ac scorpionibus; stabant vero ibi et dæmones serpentes tenentes et ora vultus et capita hominum cum eisdem serpentibus percutientes. Alberici Visio, sec. 23. 2 Ivy ne'er clasped.] 'Ozoic zoooos diguès örws shode ouær.

Euripides, Hecuba, v. 102. Like ivy to an oak, how will I cling to her! 3 Thus up the shrinking paper.] Many of the commentators suppose that by “papiro” is here meant the wick of a lamp or candle, and Lombardi alduces an extract from Pier Crescenzio (Agricolt. lib. 6. cap. ix.) to show that this use was then made of the plant. But Tiraboschi has proved that paper made of linen came into use towards the latter half of the fourteenth century, and that the inventor of it was Pier da Fabiano, who carried on his manufactory in the city of Trevigi ; whereas paper of cotton, with, perhaps, some linen mixed, was used during the twelfth century. Stor. della Lett. Ital. tom. v. lib. 1. cap. iv. sec. 4.

All my bowels crumble up to dust.
I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen
Upon a parchment; and against this fire

Do I shrink up. Shakspeare, King John, act v. sc. 7. 4 Agnello.] Agnello Brunelleschi.

A flash of lightning, if he thwart the road ;
So toward the entrails of the other two
Approaching seemed an adder all on fire,
As the dark pepper-grain livid and swart.
In that part, whence our life is nourish'd first,
One he transpierced ; then down before him fell
Stretch'd out. The pierced spirit look'd on him,
But spake not; yea, stood motionless and yawn'd,
As if by sleep or feverous fit assail'd.2
He eyed the serpent, and the serpent him.
One from the wound, the other from the mouth
Breathed a thick smoke, whose vapoury columns join'd.

Lucan 3 in mute attention now may hear,
Nor thy disastrous fate, Sabellus, tell,
Nor thine, Nasidius. Ovid 4 now be mute.
What if in warbling fiction he record
Cadmus and Arethusa, to a snake
Him changed, and her into a fountain clear,
I envy not ; for never face to face
Two natures thus transmuted did he sing,
Whercin both shapes were ready to assume
The other's substance. They in mutual guise
So answer'd that the serpent split his train
Divided to a fork, and the pierced spirit
Drew close his steps together, legs and thighs
Compacted, that no sign of juncture soon
Was visible : the tail, disparted, took
The figure which the spirit lost ; its skin
Softening, his indurated to a rind.
The shoulders next I mark'd, that entering join'd
The monster's arm-pits, whose two shorter feet
So lengthen'd, as the others dwindling shrunk.
The feet behind then twisting up became
That part that man conceals, which in the wretch
Was cleft in twain. While both the shadowy smoke
With a new colour veils, and generates
The excrescent pile on one, peeling it off
From the other body, lo! upon his feet

One upright rose, and prone the other fell.
1 In that part.] The navel.
2 As if by sleep or feverous fit assail'd.]

O Rome! thy head Is drown’d in sleep, and all thy body fev'ry. Ben Jonson's Catiline. Lucan.] Phars. lib. 9. 766 and 793.

Lucan di alcun di questi poetando

Conta si come Sabello e Nasidio
Fù punti e trasformati ivi passando.

Fazio degli Uberti, Dittamondo, lib. 5. cap. xvii, * Ovid.) Metam, lib. 4, and 5.

3

Nor yet their glaring and malignant lamps
Were shifted, though each feature changed lencath.
Of him who stood erect, the mounting face
Retreated towards the temples, and what there
Superfluous matter came, shot out in ears
From the smooth cheeks; the rest, not backward dragg’d,
Of its excess did shape the nose ; and swell’d
Into due size protuberant the lips.
He, on the earth who lay, meanwhile extends
His sharpen'd visage, and draws down the cars
Into the head, as doth the slug his horns.
His tongue, continuons before and apt
For utterance, severs ; and the other's fork
Closing unites. That done, the smoke was laid.
The soul, transform’d into the brute, glides off,
Hissing along the vale, and after him
The other talking sputters; but soon turn'd
His new-grown shoulders on him, and in few
Thus to another spake : “Along this path
Crawling, as I have done, speed Buoso 2 now!"

So saw I fluctuate in successive change
The unsteady ballast of the seventh hola :
And here if aught my pen 3 have swerved, events
So strange may be its warrant. O'er mine eyes
Confusion hung, and on my thoughts amaze.

Yet scaped they not so covertly, but well
I mark'd Sciancato : 4 he alone it was
Of the three first that came, who changed not : thou
The other's fate, Gaville ! 5 still dost rue.

3

His sharpen'd visage.] Compare Milton, P. L. b. 10. 511, etc. 2 Buoso.] He is also said by some to have been of the Donati family ; but by others of the Abbati.

3 My pen.) Lombardi justly prefers “la penna” to “la lingua ;” but, when he tells us that the former is in the Nidobeatina, and the latter in the other editions, he ought to have excepted at least Landino's of 1484, and Vellutello's of 1544, and, perhaps, many besides these.

4 Sciancato.] Puccio Sciancato, a noted robber, whose family, Venturi says, he has not been able to discover. The Latin annotator on the Monte Casino MS. informs us that he was one of the Galigai of Florence, the decline of which house is mentioned in the Paradise, Canto xvi. 96.

5 Gaville.] Francesco Guercio Cavalcante was killed at Gaville, near Florence; and in revenge of his death several inhabitants of that district were put to death.

« PreviousContinue »