« PreviousContinue »
LIFE OF DANTE.
from Durante or Durando, was of a very ancient Florentine family. The first of his ancestors, a concerning whom anything certain is known, was Cacciaguida,3 a Florentine knight, who died fighting in the holy war, under the Emperor Conrad III. Cacciaguida had two brothers, Moronto and Eliseo, the former of whom is not recorded to have left any posterity ; the latter is the head of the family of the Elisei, or perhaps (for it is doubtful which is the case) only transmitted to his descendants a name which he had himself inherited. From Cacciaguida himself were sprung the Alighieri, so called from one of his sons, who bore the appellation from his mother's family, as is affirmed by the Poet himself, under the person of Cacciaguida, in the fifteenth canto of the Paradise. This name, Alighieri, is derived from the coat of arms, a wing or, on a field azure, still borne by the descendants of our Poet at Verona, in the days of Leonardo Aretino.
Dante was born at Florence in May, 1265. His mother's name
1 A note by Salvini, on Muratori della Perf. Poes. Ital. lib. 3. cap. viii. 2 Leonardo Aretino, Vita di Dante. 3 Par. xv. He was born, as most have supposed, in 1106, and died about 1147. But Lombardi computes his birth to have happened about 1090. See note to Par. xvi. 31. For what is known of his descendants till the birth of Dante, see Note to Par. xv. 86.
4 Vellutello, Vita di Dante. There is reason to suppose that she was the daughter of Aldigerio, who was a lawyer of Verona, and brother of one of the same name, bishop of that city, and author of an epistle addressed to his mother, a religious recluse, with the title of Tractatus Adalgeri Episc. ad Rosuvidam reclausam (or, ad Orismundam matrem inclusam) de Rebus moralibus. See Cancellieri, Osservazioni, etc. Roma, 1818, p. 119.
5 Pelli describes the arms differently. Memorie per la Vita di Dante. Opere di Dante, ediz. Zatta, 1758, tom. iv. part ií. p. 16. The male line ended in Pietro, the sixth in descent from our Poet, and father of Ginevra, married in 1549 to the Conte Marcantonio Sarego, of Verona. Pelli, p. 19.
was Bella, but of what family is no longer known. His father 1 he had the misfortune to lose in his childhood ; but by the advice of his surviving relations, and with the assistance of an able preceptor, Brunetto Latini, he applied himself closely to polite literature and other liberal studies, at the same time that he omitted no pursuit necessary for the accomplishment of a manly character, and mixed with the youth of his age in all honourable and noble exercises.
In the twenty-fourth year of his age, he was present at the memorable battle of Campaldino, where he served in the foremost troop of cavalry, and was exposed to imminent danger. Leonardo Aretino refers to a letter of Dante, in which he described the order of that battle, and mentioned his having been engaged in it. The cavalry of the Aretini at the first onset gained so great an advantage over the Florentine horse, as to compel them to retreat to their body of infantry. This circumstance in the event proved highly fortunate to the Florentines ; for their own cavalry being thus joined to their foot, while that of their enemies was led by the pursuit to a considerable distance from theirs, they were by these means enabled to defeat with ease their separate forces. In this battle, the Uberti, Lamberti, and Abati, with all the other ex-citizens of Florence who adhered to the Ghibelline 3 interest, were with the Aretini ; while those inhabitants of Arezzo, who, owing to their attachment to the Guelph : party, had been banished from their own city, were ranged on the side of the Florentines. In the following year, Dante took part in another engagement between his countrymen and the citizens of Pisa, from whom they took the castle of Caprona, 4 situated not far from that city.
From what the Poet has told us in his treatise, entitled the Vita Nuova, we learn that he was a lover long before he was a soldier, and that his passion for the Beatrice whom he has immortalized, commenced 5 when she was at the beginning and he near the end of his ninth year. Their first meeting was at a banquet in the house of Folco Portinari 6 her father; and the impression, then made on
1 His father Alighiero had been before married to Lapa, daughter of Chiarissimo Cialuffi ; and by her had a son named Francesco, who left two daughters, and a son, whom he named Durante after his brother. Francesco appears to have been mistaken for a son of our Poet's. Boccaccio mentions also a sister of Dante, who was married to Poggi, and was the mother of Andrea Poggi, Boccaccio's intimate. Pelli, p. 267. G. Villani describes this engagement, lib. 7. cap. cxxx. 3 For the supposed origin of these denominations, see Note to Par. vi. 107. 4 Hell, xxi. 92. 5 See also the beginning of the Vita Nuova. 6 Folco di Ricovero Portinari was the founder of the hospital of S. Maria