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“So on the other, be thou well assured,
It lower still and lower sinks its bed,
Till in that part it re-uniting join,
Where 'tis the lot of tyranny to mourn.
There Heaven's stern justice lays chastising hand
On Attila, who was the scourge of earth,
On Sextus and on Pyrrhus,' and extracts
Tears ever by the seething flood unlock'd
From the Rinieri, of Corneto this,
Pazzo the other named,” who fill'd the ways
With violence and war.” This said, he turn'd,
And quitting us, alonc repass'd the ford.
Argument. Still in the seventh circle, Dante enters its second compartment, which con
tains both those who have done violence on their own persons and those who have violently consumed their goods ; the first changed into rough and knotted trees whereon the harpies build their nests, the latter chased and torn by black female mastifls. Among the former, Piero delle Vigne is one who tells him the cause of his having committed suicide, and moreover in what manner the souls are transformed into those trunks. Of the latter crew, he recognises Lano, a Siennese, and Giacomo, a Paduan : and lastly, a Florentine, who had hung himself from his own roof, speaks to him of the calamities of his countrymen.
ERE Nessus yet had reach'd the other bank,
We enter'd on a forest,: where no track
Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there
The foliage, but of dusky hue; not light
The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform'd
And matted thick : fruits there were none, but thorns
Instead, with venom fill’d. Less sharp than these,
Less intricate the brakes, wherein abide 1 On Sextus and on Pyrrhus.] Sextus, either the son of Tarquin the Proud, or of Pompey the Great, and Pyrrhus, king of Epirus.
The Rinieri, of Corneto this, Pazzo the other named.- -] Two noted marauders, by whose depredations the public ways in Italy were infested. The latter was of the noble family of Pazzi in Florence.
SA forest.] Inde in aliam vallem nimis terribiliorem deveni plenam subtilissimis arboribus in modum hastarum sexaginta brachiorum longitudinem habentibus, quarum omnium capita, ac si sudes acutissima crant, et spinosa. A. berici l'isio, sec. 4.
Those animals, that hate the cultured fields,
Betwixt Corneto and Cecina's stream."
Here the brute Harpies make their nest, the same
Who from the Strophades? the Trojan band
Drove with dire boding of their future woc.
Broad are their pennons, of the human form
Their neck and countenance, arm’d with talons keen
The feet, and the huge belly fledge with wings.
These sit and wail on the drear mystic wood.
The kind instructor in these words began :
“Ere farther thou proceed, know tlou art now
I'tl' second round, and shalt be, till thou come
Upon the horrid sand : look therefore well
Around thee, and such things thou shalt beholl,
As would my speech discredit.” On all sides
I heard sad plainings breathe, and none could see
From whom they might have issued. In amaze
Fast bound I stood. He, as it seem’d, believed
That I had thought so many voices came
From some amid those thickets close conceal’d,
And thus his speech resumed : “If thou lop off
A single twig from one of those ill plants,
The thought thou hast conceived shall vanish quite.”
Thereat a little stretching forth my hand,
From a great wilding gatherd I * a branch,
And straight the trunk exclaim'd : “Why pluck'st thou mc ?"
Then, as the dark blood trickled down its side,
These words it added : “Wherefore tcar'st me thus?
Is there no touch of mercy in thy breast ?
Men once were we, that now are rooted here.
Thy hand might well have spared us, had we been
The souls of serpents.” As a brand yet green,
That burning at one end from the other sends
A groaning sound, and hisses with the wind
That forces out its way, so burst at once
Forth from the broken splinter words and blood. i Betwixt Corneto and Cecina's stream.] A wild and woody tract of country, abounding in deer, goats, and wild boars. Cecina is a river not far to the south of Leghorn ; Corneto, a small city on the same coast, in the patrimony of the Church.
2 The Strophades.] See Virg. An. lib. 3. 210.
3 Broad are their pernons.]
Virginei volucrum vultus, fodissima ventris
Proluvies, uncæque manus et pallida semper
Virg. In. lib. 3. 215. 4 Gather'd I.] So Frezzi:
A quelle frasche stesi su la mano,
E d'una vetta un ramuscel ne colsi ;
Allora ella gridò: oimè, fa piano,
I sangue vivo usci, ond' io lo tolsi. Il Quadrir. lib. 1. cap. iv,
I, letting fall the bough, remain'd as one
Assail'd by terror; and the sage replied:
“If he, O'injured spirit! could have believed
What he hath seen but in my verse described,
He never against thee had stretch'd his hand.
But I, because the thing surpass'd belief,
Prompted him to this deed, which even now
Myself I rue. But tell me, who thou wast;
That, for this wrong to do thee some amends,
In the upper world (for thither to return
Is granted him) thy fame he may revive."
“That pleasant word of thine," the trunk replied,
“Hath so inveigled me, that I from speech
Cannot refrain, wherein if I indulge
A little longer, in the snare detain'd,
Count it not grievous. I it was, who held
Both keys to Frederick's heart, and turn'd the wards,
Opening and shutting, with a skill so sweet,
That besides me, into his inmost breast
Scarce any other could admittance find.
The faith'I bore to my high charge was such,
It cost me the life-blood that warm'd my veins.
The harlot,4 who nc'er turn’d her gloating eyes 1 In my verse described.] The commentators explain this, “ If he could have believed, in consequence of my assurances alone, that of which he hath now had ocular proof, he would not have stretched forth his hand against thee." But I am of opinion that Dante makes Virgil allude to his own story of Polydorus, in the third book of the Æneid.
. That pleasant word of thine.] "Since you have inveigled me to speak by holding forth so gratifying an expectation, let it not displease you if I am as it were detained in the snare you have spread for me, so as to be somewhat prolix in my answer." 3 I it was.]
Piero delle Vigne, a native of Capua, who from a low condition raised himself, by his eloquence and legal knowledge, to the office of Chancellor to the Emperor Frederick II. ; whose confidence in him was such, that his influence in the empire became unbounded. The courtiers, envious of his exalted situation, contrived, by means of forged letters, to make Frederick believe that he held a secret and traitorous intercourse with the Pope, who was then at enmity with the Emperor. In consequence of this supposed crime, he was cruelly condemned, by his too credulous sovereign, to lose his eyes; and being driven to despair by his unmerited calamity and disgrace, he put an end to his life by dashing out his brains against the walls of a church, in the year 1245. Both Frederick and Piero delle Vigne composed verses in the Sicilian dialect, which are now extant. A canzone by each of them may be seen in the ninth book of the Sonetti and Canzoni di diversi Autori Toscani, published by the Giunti in 1527. See further the Note on Purg. Canto iii. 110.
4 The harlot.] Envy. Chaucer alludes to this, in the Prologue to the Legendle of Good Women :
Envie is lavender to the court alway,
For she ne parteth neither night ne day
Out of the house of Cesar: thus saith Dant.
From Cæsar's household, common vice and pest
Of courts, 'gainst me inflamed the minds of all;
And to Augustus they so spread the flame,
That my glad honours changed to bitter woes.
My soul, disdainful and disgusted, sought
Refuge in death from scorn, and I became,
Just as I was, unjust toward myself.
By the new roots, which fix this stem, I swear,
That never faith I broke to my liege lord,
Who merited such honour; and of you,
If any to the world indeed return,
Clear he from wrong my memory, that lies
Yet prostrate under
envy's cruel blow."
First somewhat pausing, till the mournful words
Were ended, then to me the bard began :
“Lose not the time; but speak, and of him ask,
If more thou wish to learn." Whence I replied :
“Question thou him again of whatsoe'er
Will, as thou think'st, content me; for no power
Have I to ask, such pity is at my heart.”
He thus resumed : “So may lie do for thee
Freely what thou entreatest, as thou yet
Be pleased, imprison'd spirit! to declare,
How in these gnarled joints the soul is tied ;
And whether any ever from such frame
Be loosen'd, if thou canst, that also tell.”
Thereat the trunk breathed hard, and the wind soon
Changed into sounds articulate like these :
“Briefly ye shall be answer'd. When departs
The fierce soul from the body, by itself
Thence torn asunder, to the seventh gulf
By Minos doom’d, into the wood it falls,
No place assign'd, but wheresoever chance
Hurls it; there sprouting, as a grain of spelt,
It rises to a sapling, growing thence
A savage plant. The Harpies, on its leaves
Then feeding, cause both pain, and for the pain
A vent to grief. We, as the rest, shall come
For our own spoils, yet not so that with them
We may again be clad ; for what a man
Takes from himself it is not just he have.
Here we perforce shall drag them; and throughout
The dismal glade our bodies shall be hung,
Each on the wild thorn of his wretched shade."
Attentive yet to listen to the trunk
We stood, expecting further speech, when us
A noise surprised ; as when a man perceives
The wild boar and the hunt approach his place
Of station'd watch, who of the beasts and boughs
Loud rustling round him hears. Anıl lo! there came
Two naked, torn with briers, in leadlong flight,
That they before them broke each fan o'tl' wood.1
“Haste now," the foremost cried, “now liaste thee, death!”
The other, as seem'), impatient of delay,
Exclaiming, “ Lano ! 2 not so bent for speed
Thy sinews, in the lists of Toppo's field.”
Anil then, for that perchance no longer breath
Sufficed him, of himself and of a bush
One group lie made. Behind them was the wood
Full of black female mastiffs, gaunt and fleet,
As greyhounds that have newly slipt the leash.
On him, who squatted down, they stuck their fanys,
And having rent lim piecemeal bore away,
The tortured limbs. My guide then seized my liane,
And led me to the thicket, which in vain
Mourn'd through its bleeding wounds: “O Giacomo
Of Sant' Andrea !3 what arails it thee,"
It cried, " that of me thou hast made thy screen?
For thy ill life, what blame on me recoils ?"
When o'er it he had paused, my master spake :
“Say who wast thou, that at so many points
Breathest out with blood thy lamentable speech ?"
He answerd : “O ye spirits ! arrived in time
To spy the shameful havoc that from me
My leaves hath sever'd thus, gather them ur,
And at the foot of their sad parent-tree
Carefully lay them. In that city - I dwelt,
1 Each fan o'th' wood.] Hence perhaps Milton:
Leaves and fuming rills, Aurora's fan. l'. L. b. 5. 6. Some have translated “rosta ” “impediment," instead of "fan.”
2 Lano.] Lano, a Siennese, who, being reduced by prodigality to a state of extreme want, found his existence no longer supportable ; and, having been sent by his countrymen on a military expedition to assist the Florentines against the Aretini, took that opportunity of exposing himself to certain death, in the engagement which took place at Toppo near Arezzo. See G. Villani, Hist. lib. 7. cap. cxix.
-O Giacomo Of Sant Andrea !] Jacopo da Sant'Andrea, a Paduan, who, having wasted his property in the most wanton acts of profusion, killed himself in despair.
4 In that city.) “I was an inhabitant of Florence, that city which changel her first patron Mars for St. John the Baptist; for which reason the vengeance of the deity thus slighted will never be appeased ; and if some remains of his statue were not still "visible on the bridge over the Arno, she would have been alreally levelled to the ground; and thus the citizens, who raised her again from the ashes to which Attila had reduced her, would have laboured in vain.” See Paradise, Canto xvi. 44. The relic of antiquity, to which the superstition of Florence attached so high an importance, was carried away by a flood, that (destroyed the bridge on which it stood, in the year 1337, but without the ill cffects that were aj prelieniled from the loss of their fancied Palladium.