Page images
PDF
EPUB

Reason by lust is sway'd. As in large troops
And multitudinous, when winter reigns,
The starlings on their wings are borne abroad ;
So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls.
On this side and on that, above, below,
It drives them : hope of rest to solace them
Is none, nor een of milder pang. As cranes,
Chanting their dolorous nofes, traverse the sky,
Stretch'd out in long array ; so I beheld
Spirits, who caine loud wailing, hurried on
By their dire doom. Then I: "Instructor ! who
Are these, by the black air co scourged ?"_" The first
'Mong those, of whom thou question’st,” le replied,
“O'er many tongues was empress. She in vice
Of luxury was so shameless, that she made
Liking? be lawful by promulged decree,
To clear the blame she had herself incurrd.
This is Semiramis, of whom 'tis writ,

That she succeeded Ninus ler espoused ;3
And held the land, which now the Soldan rules.
The next in amorous fury slew herself,
And to Sicheus' ashes broke her faith :

Then follows Cleopatra, lustful queen.” 'As cranes.] This simile is imitated by Lorenzo de Medici, in his Ambra, a poem, first published by Mr. Roscoe, in the Appendix to his Life of Lorenzo:

Marking the tracts of air, the clamorous cranes
Wheel their due flight in varied ranks descried ;
And each with outstretch'd neck his rank maintains,
In marshal'd order through the ethereal void.

Roscoe, vol. i. c. v. p. 257, 4to edit. Compare Homer, II. iii. 3 ; Virgil, Æn. lib. 10. 264 ; Cppian, Halieut. lib. 1. 620; Ruccellai, Le Api, 942; and Dante's Purgatory, xxiv. 63. ? Liking.] His lustes were as law in his degree.

Chaucer, Monke's Tale. Nero. 3 That she succeeded Ninus her cspoused.]

Che succedette a Nino e fu sua sposa. M. Artaud, in his Histoire de Dante, p. 589, mentions a manuscript work called Attacanti's Quadragesimale de reditu pecca'oris ad Deum, in which the line is thus cited :

Che sugger dette a Nino e fu sua sposa.

“Who suckled Ninus, and was his wife.” This remarkable reading had been before noticed by Federici, Intorno ad, alcune varianti nel testo della Divina Commedia, cd. Milan, 1836. See the Biblioteca Ita’iana, toin. lxxxii. p. 282. It appears from the treatise De Monarchia (lib. 2.) that Dante derived his knowledge of Assyrian history from his favourite author Orosius lib. 1. c. iv.), who relates that Semiramis both succeeded Ninus through the artifice of personating her son, and that she committed incest with her son ; but as the name of her husband Ninus only is there recorded, and as other historians call the son Ninias, it is probable that the common reading is right.

There mark'd I Helen, for whose sake so long
The time was fraught with evil; there the great
Achilles, who with love fought to the end.
Paris I saw, and Tristan ; and beside,
A thousand more he show'd me, and by name
Pointed them out, whom love bereaved of life.

When I had heard my sage instructor name
Those dames and knights of antique days, o'erpower'd
By pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind
Was lost; and I began : “Bard ! willingly
I would address those two together coming,
Which seem so light before the wind." He thus :
“Note thon, when nearer they to us approach.
Then by that love which carries them along,
Entreat; and they will come.” Soon as the wind
Sway'd them towards us, I thus framed my speech :
“O wearied spirits ! come, and hold discourse
With us, if by none else restrain'd.” As doves
By fond desire invited, on wide wings
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home,
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along ;
Thus issued, from that troop where Dido ranks,
They, through the ill air speeding: with such force
My cry prevaild, by strong affection urged.

“O gracious creature and benign! who go'st
Visiting, through this element obscure,
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbrued ;
If, for a friend, the King of all, we own'd,
Our prayer to him should for thy peace arise,
Since thou hast pity on our evil plight.
Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse
It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that
Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind,
As now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.

Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt, 1 Element obscure.] “ L'aer perso." Much is said by the commentators concerning the exact sense of the word "perso.” It cannot be explained in clearer terms than those used by Dante himself in his Convito : "Il perso è un colore misto di purpureo e nero, ma vince il nero," p. 185. " It is a colour mixed of purple and black, but the black prevails.” The word recurs several times in this poem. Chaucer also uses it, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Doctour of Phisike :

In sanguin and in perse he clad was alle. 2 The land.] Ravenna. 3 Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt.]

Amor, ch'al cor gentil ratto s'apprende. A line taken by Marino, Adone, c, cxli, st. 251.

[ocr errors]

Entangled him by that fair form, from me
Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves ne still :
Love, that denial takes froin none beloved,
Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
That, as thou seest, he yet deserts me not.
Love brought us to one death : Caïna 2 waits
The soul, who spilt our life.” Such were their words ;
At hearing which, downward I bent my looks,
And held them there so long, that the bard cried :
“What art thou pondering ?" I in answer thus :
“Alas ! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire
Must they at length to that ill pass

have reach'd !”
Then turning, I to them my speech address'd,

And thus began : “Francesca ! 3 your sad fate That the reader of the original may not be misled as to the exact sense oi the word "s'apprende,” which I have rendered " is learnt,” it may be right to apprise him that it signifies “is caught,” and that it is a metaphor from a thing taking fire. Thus it is used by Guido Guinicelli, whom indeed our Poet seems here to have had in view :

Fuoco d'Amore in gentil cor s'apprende,

Come vertute in pietra preziosa.
Sonetti, etc., di diversi Antichi Toscani, ediz. Giunti, 1527, lib. 9. p. 107.

The fire of love in gentle heart is caught,

As virtue in the precious stone. 1 Love, that denial takes from none belored.]

Amor, ch'a null'amato amar perdona. So Boccaccio, in his Filocopo, 1. 1.

Amore mai non perdonò l'amore a nullo amato. And Pulci, in the Morgante Maggiore, c. iv.

E perchè amor mal volontier perdona,

Che non sia al fin sempre amato chi ama. Indeed many of the Italian poets have repeated this verse.

2 Caïna.] The place to which murderers are doomed.

3 Francesca.] Francesca, daughter of Guido da Polenta, lord of Ravenna, was given by her father in marriage to Lanciotto, son of Malatesta, lord of Rimini, a man of extraordinary courage, but deformed in his person. His brother Paolo, who unhappily possessed those graces which the husband of Francesca wanted, engaged her affections; and being taken in adultery, they were both put to death by the enraged Lanciotto. See Notes to Canto xxvii. v. 38 and 43. Troya relates, that they were buried together; and that three centuries after, the bodies were found at Rimini, whither they had been removed from Pesaro, with the silken garments yet fresh. Veltro Allegorico di Dante, ediz. 1826, p. 33. The whole of this passage is alluded to by Petrarch, in his Triumph of Love, c. iii. :

Ecco quei che le carte empion di sogni
Lancilotto Tristano e gli altri erranti:
Onde convien che 'l vulgo errante agogni ;
Vedi Ginevra, Isotta e l'altre amanti;
E la coppia d'Arimino che ’nsieme

Vanno facendo dolorosi pianti.
Mr. Leigh Hunt has expanded the present episode into a beautiful poem,
in his Story of Rimini,

Even to tears my grief and pity moves.
But tell me ; in the time of your sweet sighs,
By what, and how Love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?” She replied :
"No greater grief than to remember days
Of joy, when misery is at hand. Thať kens
Thy learn’d instructor. Yet so eagerly
If thou art bent to know the primal root,
From whence our love gat being, I will do
As one, who weeps and tells his tale. One day,
For our delight we read of Lancelot,2
How him love thrall’d. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Oft-times by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point 3
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile, so rapturously kiss'd
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss'd. The book and writer both
Were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more." 4 While thus one spirit spake,
The other wail'd so sorely, that heart-struck
I, through compassion fainting, seem'd not far

From death, and like a corse fell to the ground.5 1 No greater grief than to remember days

Of joy, when misery is at hand.] Imitated by Chaucer :

For of Fortunis sharp adversite A man to have been in prosperite, The worste kind of infortune is this, And it remembir when it passid is.

Troilus and Creseide, b. 3. Dy Marino :

Che non ha doglia il misero maggiore,

Che ricordar la gioia entro il dolore. Adone, c. xiv. st. 100. And by Fortiguerra :

- Rimembrare il ben perduto

Fa più meschino lo presente stato. Ricciardetto, c. xi. st. 83. The original, perhaps, was in Boëtius de Consol. Philosoph. In omni adversitate fortunæ infelicissimum genus est infortunii fuisse felicem et non esse." Lib. 2. pr. 4. Boëtius, and Cicero de Amicitiâ, were the two first books that engaged the attention of Dante, as he himself tells us in the Convito, p. 68.

Lancelot.). One of the Knights of the Round Table, and the lover of Ginevra, or Guinever, celebrated in romance. The incident alluded to seems to have made a strong impression on the imagination of Dante, who introduces it again, in the Paradise, Canto xvi. 3 At one point.] Questo quel punto fù, che sol mi vinse. -In its leares that day

Tasso, N Torrismondo, act i. sc. 3. We re ul no more.] Nothing can exceed the delicacy with which Francesca in these words intimates her guilt. 5 And like a corse fell to the ground.]

E caddi, come corpo morto cade. So Pulci: E cadde come morto in terra cade. Morgante Maggiore, c. xxii. And Ariosto: E cada, come corpo morto cade. Örl. Fur. c. ii. st. 55. “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” Revelation, i. 17.

4

CANTO VI.

Argument. On his recovery, the Poet finds himself in the third circle, where the glut

tonous are punished. Their torment is, to lie in the mire, under a continual and heavy storm of hail, snow, and discoloured water ; Cerberus meanwhile barking over them with his threefold throat, and rending them piecemeal. One of these, who on earth was named Ciacco, foretells the divisions with which Florence is about to be distracted. Dante proposes a question to his guide, who solves it; and they proceed towards the fourth circle.

My sense reviving, that crewhile had droop'd
With pity for the kindred shades, whence grief
O'ercame me wholly, straight around I see
New torments, new tormented souls, which way
Soe'er I move, or turn, or bend my sight.
In the third circle I arrive, of showers
Ceaseless, accursed, heavy and cold, unchanged
For ever, both in kind and in degrec.
Large hail, discolourd water, sleety flaw
Through the dun midnight air stream'd down amain :
Stank all the land whereon that tempest fell.

Cerberus, cruel monster, fierce and strange,
Through his wide threefold throat, barks as a dog
Over the multitude immersed beneath.
His eyes glare crimson, black his unctuous beard,
His belly large, and claw'd the hands, with which
He tears the spirits, flays them, and their limbs
Piecemeal disparts: Howling there spread, as curs,
Under the rainy deluge, with one side
The other sereening, oft they roll then round,

A wretched, godless crew. When that great worm 1 My sense reviving.] Al tornar della mente, che si chiuse,

Dinanzi alla pietà de' duo cognati. Berni has made a sportive application of these lines, in his Orl. Inn. lib. 3. e. viii. st. 1.

? That great worm.] Juxta-infernum vermis erat infinitæ magnitudinis ligatus maxima catena. Alberici Visio, sec. I. In Canto xxxiv. Lucifer is called

The abhorred worm, that boreth through the world. This is imitated by Ariosto, Orl. Fur. c. xlvi. st. 76. Shakspeare, Milton, and Cowper, who well understood that the most common words are often the most impressive, have used the synonymous term in our language with the best effect ; as Pindar has done in Greek :

'Από Ταϋγέτου μεν Λάκαιναν
επί θησί κόνα τρέχειν πυκινώτατον έρτετόν. .

Heyne's Pindar. fragm. ipinic. ii. 2. Ir llieron.

« PreviousContinue »