« PreviousContinue »
Her Polydorus, on the wild sea-beach
Next met the mourner's view, then reft of sense
Did she run barking even as a dog;
Such mighty power had grief to wrench her soul.
But ne'er the Furies, or of Thebes, or Troy,
With such fell cruelty were seen, their goads
Infixing in the limbs of man or beast,
As now two pale and naked ghosts I saw,
That gnarling wildly scamper'd, like the swine
Excluded from his stye. One reach'dl Capocchio,
And in the neck-joint sticking deep his fangs,
Dragg’ıl him, that, o'er the solid pavement rubb'd
His belly stretch'd out prone. The other shape,
He of Arezzo, there left trembling, spake :
“That sprite of air is Schicchi ;'
in like mood
Of random mischief vents he still his spite."
To whom I answering : "Oh! as thou dost hope
The other may not flesh its jaws on thee,
Be patient to inform us, who it is,
Ere it speed hence."_" That is the ancient soul
Of wretched Myrrha," : he replied, “who burn'd
With most unholy flame for lier own sire,
And a false shape assuming, so perforni'd
The deed of sin ; c'en as the other there,
That onward passes, dared to counterfeit
Donati's features, to feign'd testament
The seal affixing, that himself might gain,
For his own share, the lady of the herd."
When vanish'd the two furious shades, on whom
Mine eye was held, I turn'd it back to view
The other cursed spirits. One I saw
In fashion like a lute, had but the groin
Been sever'd where it meets the forked part.
Swoln dropsy, disproportioning the limbs
With ill-converted moisture, that the paunch
Suits not the visage, open'd wide his lips,
Gasping as in the hectic man for drought,
One towards the chin, the other upward curl'd.
“O) ye ! who in this world of misery,
Wherefore I know not, are exempt from pain," i ller Polydorus.)
Aspicit ejectum Polidori in littore corpus. Ovid, Metam. lib. 13. 2 Schicchi.] Gianni Schicchi, who was of the family of Cavalcanti, possessed such a faculty of moulding his features to the resemblance of others, that he was employed by Simon Donati to personate Buoso Donati, then recently deceased, and to make a will, leaving Simon his heir ; for which service he was remunerated with a mare of extraordinary value, here called “the lady of the herol.”
3 Myrrha.] See Ovid, Metan. lib. 10.
Thus he began, "attentively regard
Adamo's woe.' When living, full supply
Ne'er lack'd me of what most I coveted ;
One drop of water now, alas ! I crave.
The rills, that glitter down the grassy slopes
Of Casentino, making fresh and soft
The banks whereby they glide to Arno's stream,
Stand ever in my view; and not in vain ;
For more the pictured semblance dries me up,
Much more than the disease, which makes the flesh
Desert these shrivel'd cheeks. So from the place,
Where I transgress'd, stern justice urging me,
Takes means to quicken more my labouring sighs.
There is Romena, where I falsified
The metal with the Baptist's form imprest,
For which on earth I left my body burnt.
But if I here might see the sorrowing soul
Of Guido, Alessandro, or their brother,
For Branda’s limpid spring : I would not change
The welcome siglit. One is e'en now within,
If truly the mad spirits tell, that round
Are wandering. But wherein besteads me that?
My limbs are fetter'd. Were I but so light,
That I each hundred years might move one inch,
I had set forth already on this path,
Seeking him out amidst the shapeless crew,
Although eleven miles it wind, not less +
Than half of one across. They brought me down
Among this tribe ; induced by them, I stamp'u
The florens with three carats of alloy." 5 1 Adamo's woe.] Adamo of Brescia, at the instigation of Guido, Alessandro, and their brother Aghinulfo, lords of Romena, counterfeited the coin of Florence; for which crime he was burnt. Landino says, that in his time the peasants still pointed out a pile of stones near Romena, as the place of his execution. See Troya, Veltro Allegorico, p. 25.
? Casentino.] Romena is a part of Casentino.
3 Branda's limpid spring.] A fountain in Sienna.
4 Less.] Lombardi justly concludes that as Adamo wishes to exaggerate the difficulty of finding the spirit whom he wished to see, “men,” and not “più” (“less," and not "more" than the half of a mile), is probably the true reading;
for there are authorities for both. $ The florens with three carats of alloy.) The floren was a coin that ought to have had twenty-four carats of pure gold. Villani relates, that it was first used at Florence in 1252, an era of great prosperity in the annals of the Republic ; before which time their most valuable coinage was of silver. Hist. lib. 6. cap. liv. Fazio degli Uberti uses the word to denote the purest gold :
Pura era come l'oro del fiorino. Dittamondo, lib. 2. cap. xiv. " Among the ruins of Chaucer's house at Woodstock they found an ancient coin of Florence; I think, a Florein, anciently common in England. Chaucer, Pardon, Tale, v. 2290.
For that the Floraines been so fair and bright,
“Who are that abject pair,” I next inquired,
"That closely bounding thee upon thy right
Lie smoking, like a hand in winter steep'd
In the chill stream?"_“When to this gulf I dropp'd,"
He answer'd, “here I found them ; since that hour
They have not turn'd, nor ever shall, I ween,
Till time hath run his course. One is that dame,
The false accuser l of the Hebrew youth ;
Sinon the other, that false Greek from Troy.
Sharp fever drains the reeky moistness out,
In such a cloud upsteam’d.” When that he heard,
One, gall’d perchance to be so darkly named,
With clench'd hand smote him on the braced paunch,
That like a drum resounded : but forthwith
Adamo smote him on the face, the blow
Returning with his arm, that seem'd as hard.
“Though my o’erweighty limbs have ta’en from me
The power to move," said he, “I have an arm
At liberty for such employ." To whom
Was answer'd : “When thou wentest to the fire,
Thou hadst it not so ready at coinmand,
Then readier when it coin'd the impostor gold."
And thus the dropsied : “Ay, now speak'st thou true:
But there thou gavest not such true testimony,
When thou wast question'd of the truth, at Troy."
“If I spake false, thou falsely stamp’dst the coin,"
Said Sinon ; "I am here for but one fault,
And thou for more than any imp beside.”
“Remember," he replied, “O perjured one!
The horse remember, that did teem with death;
And all the world be witness to thy guilt.”
“ To thine,” return’d the Greek, “ witness the thirst
Whence thy tongue cracks, witness the fluid mound
Reard by thy belly up before thine eyes,
A mass corrupt.” To whom the coiner thus :
" Thy mouth gapes wide as ever to let pass
Its evil saying. Me if thirst assails,
Yet I am stuft with moisture. Thou art parch'd :
Pains rack thy head : no urging wouldst thou need
To make thee lap Narcissus" mirror up."
I was all fix'd to listen, when my guide
Admonish'd : “Now beware. A little more,
And I do quarrel with thee.” I perceived
How angrily he spake, and towards him turn'u
Edward the Third, in 1344, altered it from a lower value to 6s. 8d. The particular piece I have mentioned seems about that value.” Warton, Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. ii. sec. 2. p. 44.
1 The false accuser.] Potiphar's wife,
With shame so poignant, as remember'd yet
Confounds me. As a man that dreams of harm
Befallen him, dreaming wishes it a dream,
And that which is, desires as if it were not ;
Such then was I, who, wanting power to speak,
Wish'd to excuse myself, and all the while
Excused me, though unweeting that I did.
“More grievous fault than thine has been, less shame,">
My master cried, "might expiate. Therefore cast
All sorrow from thy soul ; and if again
Chance bring thee, where like conference is held,
Think I am ever at thy side. To hear
Such wrangling is a joy for vulgar minds.”
Argument. The poets, following the sound of a loud horn, are led by it to the ninth circle,
in which there are four rounds, one enclosed within the other, and containing as many sorts of Traitors ; but the present Canto shows only that the circle is encompassed with Giants, one of whom, Antæus, takes them both in his arms and places them at the bottom of the circle.
THE very tongue,' whose keen reproof before
Ilad wounded me, that either cheek was stain'd),
Now minister'd my cure. So have I heard,
Achilles' and his father's javelin caused
Pain first, and then the boon of health restored. 1 The very tongue.]
Vulnus in Herculeo quæ quondam fecerat hoste
Vulneris auxilium Pelias hasta fuit. Ovid, Rem. Amor. 47. The same allusion was made by Bernard de Ventadour, a Provençal poet in the middle of the twelfth century; and Millot observes, that "it was a singular instance of erudition in a Troubadour.” But it is not impossible, as Warton remarks (Hist. of Engl. Poetry, vol. ii. sec. 10. p. 215), but that he might have been indebted for it to some of the early romances. In Chaucer's Squier's Tale, a sword of similar quality is introduced :
And other folk have wondred on the sweard,
That could so piercen through every thing;
And fell in speech of Telephus the king,
And of Achilles for his queint spere,
For he couth with it both heale and dere.
So Shakspeare, 2 IIenry VI., act v. sc. 1:
Whose sinile and frown like to Achilles' spear
Is able with the change to kill and cure.
Turning our back upon the vale of woe,
We cross'd the encircled mound in silence. There
Was less than day and less than night, that far
Mine eye advanced not : but I heard á horn
Sounded so loud, the peal it rang had made
The thunder feeble. Following its course
The adverse way, my strained eyes were bent
On that one spot. Šo terrible a blast
Orlando 1 blew not, when that dismal rout
O'erthrew the host of Charlemain, and quenclı'd
His saintly warfare. Thitherward not long
My head was raisedl, when many a lofty tower
Methought I spied. “Master," said I,““ what land
Is this?" He answer'd straight: “Too long a space
Of intervening darkness has thinc eye
To traverse : thou last therefore widely crrd
In thy imagining. Thither arrived
Thou well shalt see, how distance can delude
The sense. A little therefore urge thee on."
Then tenderly he caught me by the hand ;
“Yet know,” said he, “ere farther we advance,
That it less strange may seem, these are not towers,
But giants. In the pit they stand immersed,
Each from his navel downward, round the bank.”
As when a fog disperseth gradually,
Our vision traces what the mist involves
Condensed in air; so piercing through the gros3
And gloomy atmosphere, as more and more
We near’d toward the brink, mine error fled
And fear came o'er me. As with circling round
Of turrets, Montereggion 2 crowns his walls ;
E'en thus the shore, encompassing the abyss,
Was turreted with giants,: half their length
Uprearing, horrible, whom Jove from heaven
Yet threatens, when his muttering thunder rolls.
Of one already I descried the face,
Shoulders, and breast, and of the belly huge
Great part, and both arms down along his ribs.
All-teeming Nature, when her plastic hand
Left framing of these monsters, did display 1 Orlando.] When Charlemain with all his peerage fell At Fontarabia.
Milton, P. L. b. 1. 586. See Warton's llist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. i. sec. 3. p. 132.
« This is the horn which Orlando won from the giant Jatmund, and which, as Turpin and the Islandic bards report, was endued with magical power, and might be heard at the distance of twenty miles.” Charlemain and Orlando are introduced in the Paradise, Canto xviii.
2 Montereggion.] A castle near Sienna.
3 Giants.)" "The giants round the pit, it is remarked by Warton, are in the Arabian vein of fabling. See D'Herbelot, Dibl. Orientale, V. Tocail, p. 717, a,