« PreviousContinue »
Past doubt her wisdom, taking from mad War
Such slaves to do his bidding; and if she
Repent her not of the elephant and whale,
Who ponders well confesses her therein
Wiser and mo:e discreet ; for when brute force
And evil will are back'd with subtlety,
Resistance none avails. His visage seeni’d
In length and bulk, as doth the pine that tops
Saint Peter's Roman fane ; and the other bones
Of like proportion, so that from above
The bank, which girdled him below, such height
Arose his stature, that three Friezelanders
Had striven in vain to reach but to his hair.
Full thirty ample palms was he exposed
Downward from whence a man his garment loops.
“Raphel 2 baï aneth, sabì almì :"
So shouted his fierce lips, which sweeter hymns
Became not; and my guide address'd lim thus :
“O senseless spirit ! let thy horn for thee
Interpret : therewith vent thy rage, if rage
Or other passion wring thee. Search thy neck,
There shalt thou find the belt that binds it on.
Spirit confused ! 3 lo, on thy mighty breast
Where hangs the baldrick !” Then to me le spake:
“He doth accuse himself. Nimrod is this,
Through whose ill counsel in the world no more
One tongue prevails. But pass we on, nor waste
Our words ; for so each language is to him,
As his to others, understood by none."
Then to the leftward turning sped we forth,
And at a sling's throw found another shade
Far fiercer and more huge. I cannot say
What master hand had girt him ; but lie held
Behind the right arm fetter'd, and before,
The other, with a chain, that fasten’d him
From the neck down ; and five times round his form
Apparent met the wreathed links. “This proud one
1 The pine.] “The large pine of bronze, which once ornamented the top of the mole of Adrian, was afterwards employed to decorate the top of the belfry of St. Peter; and having (according to Buti) been thrown down by lightning, it was, after lying some time on the steps of this palace, transferred to the place where it now is, in the Pope's garden, by the side of the great corridore of Belvedere. In the time of our Poet, the pine was then either on the belfry or on the steps of St. Peter.” Lombardi.
2 Raphel, etc.] These unmeaning sounds, it is supposed, are meant to express the confusion of languages at the building of the tower of Babel.
3 Spirit confused.] I had before translated “Wild spirit !” and have altered it at the suggestion of Mr. Darley, who well observes that “anima confusa” is peculiarly appropriate to Nimrod, the author of the confusion at Babel,
Would of his strength against almighty Jove
Make trial,” said my guide : “whence he is thus
Requited : Ephialtes him they call.
Great was his prowess, when the giants brought
Fear on the gods : those arms, which then he plied,
Now moves he never.” Forth with I return'd:
“Fain would I, if 't were possible, mine eyes,
Of Briareus immeasurable, gain'd
Experience next.” He answer'd : “Thou shalt see
Not far from hence Antæus, who both speaks
And is unfetter'd, who shall place us there
Where guilt is at its depth. Far onward stands
Whom thou wouldst fain behold, in chains, and made
Like to this spirit, save that in his looks
More fell he seems." By violent earthquake rock'd
Ne'er shook a tower, so reeling to its base,
As Ephialtes. More than ever then
I dreaded death ; nor than the terror more
Had needed, if I had not seen the cords
That held him fast. We, straightway journeying on,
Came to Antæus, who, five ells complete
Without the head, forth issued from the cave.
“O thou, who in the fortunate vale, that made
Great Scipio heir of glory, when his sword
Drove back the troop of Hannibal in flight,
Who thence of old didst carry for thy spoil
An hundred lions; and if thou hadst fought
In the high conflict on thy brethren's side,
Seems as men yet believed, that through thine arm
The sons of earth had conquer'd ; now vouchsafe
To place us down beneath, where numbing cold
Locks up Cocytus. Force not that we crave
Or Tityus' help or Typhon's. Here is one
Can give what in this realm ye covet. Stoop
Therefore, nor scornfully distort thy lip.
He in the upper world can yet bestow
Renown on thee ; for he doth live, and looks
For life yet longer, if before the time
Grace call him not unto herself.” Thus spake
The teacher. He in haste forth stretch'd his hands,
And caught my guide. Alcides 2 whilom felt
1 The fortunate rule.] The country near Carthage. See Liv. Hist. lib. 30., and Lucan, Phars. lib. 4. 590, etc. Dante has kept the latter of these writers in his eye throughout all this passage.
2 Alcides.] The combat between Hercules and Antæus is adduced by the poet in his treatise De Monarchia, lib. 2., as a proof of the judgment of God displayed in the duel, according to the singular superstition of those times. " Certamine vero dupliciter Dei judicium aperitur vel ex collisione virium, sicut fit per duellum pugilum, qui duelliones etiam vocantur; vel ex
That grapple, straiten’d sore. Soon as my guide
Had felt it, he bespake me thus : “This way,
That I may clasp thee;" then so caught me up,
That we were both one burden. As appears
The tower of Carisenda,' from beneath
Where it doth lean, if chance a passing cloud
So sail across, that opposite it hangs;
Such then Antæus seem'd, as at mine ease
I mark'd him stooping. I were fain at times
To have past another way. Yet in the abyss,
That Lucifer with Judas low ingulfs,
Lightly he placed us; nor, there leaning, stay'd ;
But rose, as in a bark the stately mast.
Argument. This Canto treats of the first, and, in part, of the second of those rounds, into
which the ninth and last, or frozen circle, is divided. In the former, called Caïna, Dante finds Camiccione de' Pazzi, who gives him an account of other sinners who are there punished ; and in the next, named Antenora, he hears in like manner from Bocca degli Abbati who his fellowsufferers are.
Could I command rough rhymes and hoarse, to suit
That hole of sorrow o'er which every rock
His firm abutment rears, then might the vein
Of fancy rise full springing : but not mine
Such measures, and with faltering awe I touch
The mighty theme ; for to describe the depth
Of all the universe, is no emprize
To jest with, and demands a tongue not used
To infant babbling? But let them assist
My song, the tuneful maidens, by whose aid
Amphion wall'd in Thebes ; so with the truth
contentione plurium ad aliquod signum prævalere conantium, sicut fit per pugnam athletarum currentium ad bravium. Primus istorum modorum apud gentiles figuratus fuit in illo duello Herculis et Antæi, cujus Lucanus meminit in quarto Pharsaliæ, et Ovidius in nono de rerum transmutatione.”
1 The tower of Carisenda.] The leaning tower at Bologna. 2
A tongue not used To infant babbling.] Nè da lingua, che chiami mamma, o babbo. Dante in his treatise De Vulg. Eloq., speaking of words not admissible in the loftier, or, as he calls it, tragic style of poetry, says-"In quorum numero nec puerilia propter suam simplicitatem ut Mamma et Babbo,” lib. 2. cap. vii.
My speech shall best accord. Oh ill-starr'd folk,
Beyond all others wretched ! who abide
In such a mansion, as scarce thought finds words
To speak of, better had ye here on earth
Been flocks, or mountain goats. As down we stood
In the dark pit beneath the giants' feet,
But lower far than they, and I did gaze
Still on the lofty battlement, a voice
Bespake me thus: “Look how thou walkest. Take
Good heed, thy soles do tread not on the heals
Of thy poor brethren." Thereupon I turn'd,
And saw before and underneath my feet
A lake, whose frozen surface liker seem'd
To glass than water. Not so thick a veil
In winter e'er hath Austrian Danube spread
O'er his still course, nor Tanais far remote
Under the chilling sky. Rolld o'er that mass
Had Tabernich or Pietrapana 2 fallen,
Not e'en its rim had creak’d. As peeps the frog
Croaking above the wave, what time in dreams
The village gleaner oft pursues her toil,
So, to where modest shame appears,3 thus low
Blue pinch'd and shrined in ice the spirits stood,
Moving their teeth in shrill note like the stork.“
His face each downward held ; their mouth the cold,
Their eyes express'd the dolour of their heart.
A space I look'd around, then at my feet
Saw two so strictly join'd, that of their head
The very hairs were mingled. “Tell me ye,
Whose bosoms thus together press," said I,
“Who are ye?" At that sound their necks they bent ;
And when their looks were lifted up to me,
1 A lake.) The same torment is introduced into the Edda, compiled in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. See the “Song of the Sun,” translated by the Rev. James Beresford, London, 1805 ; and compare Warton's Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. i. dissert. 1., and Gray's Posthumous Works, edited by Mr. Mathias, vol. ii. p. 106. Indeed, as an escape from “the penalty of Adam, the season's difference,” forms one of the most natural topics of consolation for the loss of life, so does a renewal of that suffering in its fiercest extremes of heat and cold bring before the imagination of men in general (except indeed the terrors of a self-accusing conscience) the liveliest idea of future punishment. Refer to Shakspeare and Milton in the Notes to Canto iii. 82; and see Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, 8vo, 1807, vol. i. p. 182.
2 Tabernich or Pietrapana.] The one a mountain in Sclavonia, the other in that tract of country called the Garfagnana, not far from Lucca.
3 To where modest shame appears.] “As high as to the face.” 4 Moving their teeth in shrill note like the stork.]
Mettendo i denti in nota di cicogna. So Boccaccio, G. viii. N. 7: “Lo scolar cattivello quasi cicogna divenuto si forte batteva i denti.'
Straightway their eyes, before all moist within,
Distilld upon their lips, and the frost bound
The tears betwixt those orbs, and held them there.
Plank unto plank hath never cramp closed up
So stoutly. Whence, like two enraged goats,
They claslı'd together : them such fury seized.
And one, from whom the cold both ears had rest,
Exclaim'd, still looking downward : “Why on us
Dost speculate so long? If thou wouldst know
Who are these two, the valley, whence his wave
Bisenzio slopes, did for its master own
Their sire Alberto, and next him themselves.
They from one body issued : and throughout
Caïna thou mayst search, nor find a shade
More worthy in congealment to be fix'd;
Not him,” whose breast and shadow Arthur's hand
At that one blow dissever'd ; not Focaccia ;3
No, not this spirit, whose o'erjutting head
Obstructs my onward view : lie bore the name
Of Mascheroni : 4 Tuscan if thon be,
Well knowest who he was. And to cut short
All further question, in my form behold
What once was Camiccione. I await
Carlino Chere my kinsman, whose deep guilt
Shall wash out mine." A thousand visages
Then mark'd I, which the keen and eager cold
Had shaped into a doggish grin ; whence creepis
A shivering horror o'er me, at the thonght
Of those frore shallows. While we journey'd on
1 Who are these two.) Alessandro and Napoleone, sons of Alberto Alberti, who murdered each other. They were proprietors of the valley of Falterona, where the Bisenzio has its source, a river that falls into the Arno about six miles from Florence.
2 Not him.] Mordrec, son of King Arthur. In the romance of Lancelot of the Lake, Arthur, having discovered the traitorous intentions of his son, pierces him through with the stroke of his lance, so that the sunbeam passes through the body of Mordrec; and this disruption of the shadow is no doubt what our Poet alludes to in the text.
3 Focaccia.] Focaccia of Cancellieri (the Pistoian family), whose atrocious act of revenge against his uncle is said to have given rise to the parties of the Bianchi and Neri, in the year 1300. See G. Villani, Ilist. lib. 8. cap. xxxvii. and Macchiavelli, Hist. lib. 2. The account of the latter writer differs much from that given by Landino in his Commentary.
4 Mascheroni.] Sassol Mascheroni, a Florentine, who also murdered his uncle.
5 Camiccione.] Camiccione de' Pazzi of Valdarno, by whom his kinsman Ubertino was treacherously put to death.
• Carlino.] One of the same family. He betrayed the Castel di Piano Travigne, in Valdarno, to the Florentines, after the refugees of the Bianca and Ghibelline party had defended it against a siege for twenty-nine days, in the summer of 1302. See G. Villani, lib. 8. cap. lii. and Dino Compagni, lib. 2.