Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Dante at Verona (fair copy manuscript with corrections, Fitzwilliam Museum)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1848, 1869
Type of Manuscript: fair copy
Scribe: DGR

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Dante at Verona

  • “Yea, thou shalt learn how salt his food who fares
  • Upon another's bread,—how steep his path
  • Who treadeth up and down another's stairs.”
( Div. Com. Parad. XVII)
  • “Behold, even I, even I am Beatrice.”
Div. Com. Purg. XXX)

  • Of Florence and of Beatrice
  • Servant & singer from of old,
  • O'er Dante's love heart in youth had toll'd
  • The knell that gave his Lady peace;
  • And now in manhood flew the dart
  • Wherewith his City stabbed pierced his heart.
  • Yet if his Lady's home above
  • Was Heaven, on earth she filled his soul;
  • And if his City held control
  • 10To cast his the body forth to rove,
  • The soul could soar from ? earth's vain throng,
  • And Heaven and Hell ? fulfil the song.
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  • Follow his feet's appointed way;—
  • But little light we find that clears
  • The darkness of the exiled years.
  • Follow his spirit's journey:—Nay,
  • What fires are blent, what winds are blown
  • On paths that he must tread he's trod his feet may tread alone?
  • Yet of the twofold life he led
  • 20 In chainless thought and fettered will
  • Some glimpses reach us,—somewhat still
  • Of the steep stairs and bitter bread,—
  • Of the soul's quest whose stern avow
  • For years had made him haggard now.
  • Alas! the Sacred Song whereto
  • Both heaven and earth had set their hand
  • Not only at Fame's gate did stand
  • Knocking to claim the passage through,
  • But toiled to ope that heavier door
  • 30 Which Florence shut for evermore.
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  • Shall not his birth's baptismal Town
  • One last high presage yet fulfil,
  • And at that font if in Florence still
  • His forehead take the laurel-crown?
  • O God! and or shall dead souls deny
  • The undying soul its prophecy?
  • Aye, 'tis their hour. Not yet forgot
  • The bitter words he spoke that day
  • When for some great charge far away
  • 40 His colleagues Her rulers his acceptance sought.
  • “And if I go, who stays?”—so rose
  • His scorn:—“and if I stay, who goes?”
  • “Lo! thou art gone now, and we stay:”
  • (The curled lips mutter): “and no star
  • Is from thy mortal path so far
  • As streets where childhood knew the way.
  • And To Heaven and Hell thy feet may win,
  • But thine own house they come not in.”
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  • Therefore, the loftier rose the song
  • 50 To touch the secret ways things of God,
  • The deeper pierced the hate that trod
  • On base men's track who wrought the wrong;
  • Till the soul's effluence came to be
  • Its own exceeding agony.
  • Even such was Dante's mood, when now,
  • Mocked for long years with Fortune's sport,
  • He dwelt at yet another court,
  • There where Verona's knee did bow
  • And her voice hailed with proud acclaim
  • 60 Can Grande della Scala's name.
  • As that lord's honoured lordly kingly guest awhile
  • His life we follow; through the days
  • Which walked in exile's barren ways,—
  • The nights which still beneath one smile
  • Heard through all spheres one song increase,—
  • ‘Even I, even I am Beatrice.’
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Manuscript Addition: Dante at Verona / “Yea, thou shalt learn how salt his food who fares / Upon another's bread,—how steep his path / Who treadeth up and down another's stairs.” / Div. Com. Parad. XVII / “Behold, even I, even I am Beatrice.” / Div. Com. Purg. xxx /
Editorial Description: For some reason DGR wrote the title of the poem and the two epigraphs at the top of this page. Both are cancelled here and his cancelling note, " No break here" added.
  • At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
  • Due reverence did his steps attend;
  • The ushers on his path would bend
  • 70At ingoing as at going out;
  • The penmen waited on his call
  • At council-board, the grooms in hall.
  • And pages hushed their laughter down,
  • Shuffling the badge-caps from their hair
    Added TextAnd squires would still the merry stir,
  • When he passed up the dais-chamber
  • With set brows lordlier than a frown;
  • And tire-maids hidden among these
  • Drew close their loosened bodices.
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  • Belike Perhaps the priests, fed these to ban
  • 80 Or bless at on bidding, if at whiles
  • They found him in their Chapel wandering in their aisles,
  • Grudged their soul's [?] ghostly greeting to the man
  • By whom, ? and heart were filled though not of ghostly guild,
  • With Heaven and Hell though of no guild men's hearts were fill'd.
  • And the court-poets (he, forsooth,
  • A whole world's poet strayed to court!)
  • [???] him of paltry sport Gave to his scorn their hate's retort
    Added TextHad for his scorn their hate's retort.
  • He'd meet them flushed with facile easy youth,
  • Hot on their errands. Like noon-flies
  • 90 They vexed him in the ears and eyes.
  • But at this court, [?] peace still must wrench
  • Her chaplet from the teeth of war:
  • By day they held high watch from far afar,
  • At night they cried across the trench;
  • And still, in Dante's path, the fierce
  • Gaunt soldiers wrangled o'er their spears.
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  • But vain seemed all the strength to him,
  • As golden convoys sunk at sea
  • Which raised would Whose wealth might root out penury:
  • 100Because it was not, limb with limb,
  • Knit like his heart-strings round the wall
  • Of Florence, that all pride her foes might fall.
  • Yet in the tiltyard, when the dust
  • Cleared from the sundered press of knights
  • Ere yet again it swoops and smites,
  • He almost deemed his longing must
  • Find force to wield that multitude
  • And turn hurl that strength the way he would.
  • How should he move them,—fame & gain
  • 110 On all hands calling them at strife?
  • He still might find but his one life
  • To give, by Florence counted vain;
  • One voice she heard once and cast out
    Added TextOne heart the false hearts made her doubt;
  • One sword, at ? rout
    Added TextOne voice she heard once and cast out.
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  • Oh! if his Florence could but come,
  • A lily-sceptred damsel fair,
  • As her own Giotto painted her
  • On many shields and gates at home,—
  • A lady crowned, at a soft pace
  • 120 Riding the lists round to the dais:
  • Till where Can Grande rules the lists,
  • As young as Truth, as calm as Force,
  • She stops now, while her blazoned horse draws her rein now, while her horse
  • Bows at the turn of the white wrists;
  • And when each knight within his stall
  • Gives ear, she speaks and tells them all:
  • All the foul tale,—truth sworn untrue
  • And falsehood's triumph. All the tale?
  • Great God! and should must she not prevail
  • 130To fire them ere they heard it through,—
  • Pass, Dante, pass! thy life day wears short,
    Added TextAnd hand achieve ere heart could rest
  • An exile at Can Grande's Court!
    Added TextThat high adventure of her quest?
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Note: Received stanzas 24, 26, 27 added here as insert.
Added Text
  • How would his Florence lead them forth,
  • Her bridle ringing as she went;
  • And turn at the last within her tent,
  • 'Neath golden lilies worship-worth,
  • How queenly would she bend the while
  • And thank the victors with her smile!
  • Peace, Dante, peace! The task is long,
  • The time wears short to compass it.
  • Within thine heart such hopes may flit
  • And find a voice in deathless song:
  • But lo! as children of man's earth,
  • Those hopes are dead before their birth.
  • Fame tells us that Verona's court
  • Was a fair place. The feet might still
  • Wander for ever at their will
  • In many ways of sweet resort;
  • And still in many a heart around
  • The Poet's name due honour found.
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  • Watch we his steps. He comes upon
  • The women at their palm-playing.
  • The conduits round the gardens sing
  • And meet in scoops of milk-white stone,
  • Where by thy bodies rest fatigued wearied damsels rest & hold
  • Their hands in the wet spurt of gold.
  • One of whom, knowing well that he,
  • 140 By some found stern, was mild with them,
  • Would run and pluck his garment's hem,
  • Saying, “Messer Dante, pardon me,”—
  • Praying to hear from him that they might hear the song
  • Which first of all he made, when young.
  • “Donne che avete”* ... thereunto
  • Thus would he murmur, having first
  • Drawn near the fountain, while she nurs'd
  • His hand against her side: a few
  • Sweet words, and scarcely those, half said:
  • 150 Then turned, and changed, and bowed his head.
Transcribed Footnote (page 9r):

*“Donne che avete intelletto d'amore:”—the first canzone of

the “Vita Nuova.”

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  • For then the voice said in his heart,
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice”;
  • And his whole life would yearn to cease:
  • Till having reached his room, apart
  • Beyond vast lengths of palace-floor,
  • He drew the arras round his door.
  • At such times, Dante, thou hast set
  • Thy forehead to the painted pane
  • Full oft, I know; and if the rain
  • 160Smote it outside, her fingers met
  • Thy brow; and if the sun fell there,
  • Her breath was on thy face and hair.
  • Then, weeping, I think certainly
  • Thou hast beheld, past sight of eyne,—
  • Within another room of thine
  • Where now thy body may not be
  • But where in thought thou still remain'st,—
  • A window often wept against:
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Note: This text is copied in the hand of Charles Fairfax Murray.
  • The window thou, a youth, hast sought,
  • 170 Flushed in the limpid eventime,
  • Ending with daylight the day's rhyme
  • Of her; where oftenwhiles her thought
  • Held thee—the lamp untrimmed to write—
  • In joy through the blue lapse of night.
  • At Can La Scala's court, no doubt
  • Guests seldom wept. It was brave sport,
  • No doubt, at Can La Scala's court,
  • Within the palace and without;
  • Where music, set to madrigals,
  • 180 Loitered all day through groves and halls.
  • Because Can Grande of his life
  • Had not had six and twenty years
  • As yet. And when the chroniclers
  • Tell you of that Vicenza strife
  • And of strifes elsewhere,—you must not
  • Conceive for church-sooth he had got
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  • Just nothing in his wits but war:
  • Though certes 'twas the young man's joy
  • (Aye, and he knew it from a boy)
    Added Text(Grown with his growth from a mere boy,)
  • 190To mark his “Viva Cane!” scare
  • The foe's shut front, till it would reel
  • All blind with shaken points of steel.
  • But there were places—held too sweet
  • For eyes that had not the due veil
  • Of lashes and clear lids—as well
  • In favour as his saddle-seat:
  • Breath of low speech he scorned not there
  • Nor light cool fingers in his hair.
  • Yet if the child his father's plan   by thoughtful
    Added Textwell-found
    work judged plan
      whom the sire's plan
  • 200 Made free of a deep treasure-chest
  • Scoffed it with ill-conditioned jest,—
  • We may hold fast be sure too that the man
  • Was not mere thews, nor all content
  • With lust lewdness swathed clean in sentiment.
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Note: The page carries, as text additions, received stanzas 41, 44 and 45 written in by DGR.
Added Text
  • Through leaves and trellis-work the sun
  • Left the wine cool within its the glass,—
  • They feasting where no sun could pass:
  • And when the women, all as one,
  • Rose up with brightened cheeks to go,
  • It was a comely thing, we know.
  • And Can la Scala marked askance
  • These
  • And [?] some foreign knight if some envoy from afar
  • Sailed ? sea a distant to Verona's sovereign port
  • For aid or peace, and all the court
  • Fawned on their its lord, “the god Mars of fighting war,
  • Sole arbiter of life and death,”—
  • Be sure that Dante [?] saved his breath.
  • And Can La Scala marked askance
  • These things, accepting them for shame
  • And scorn, till Dante's guestship came
  • To be a peevish sufferance:
  • His host sought ways to make his days
  • Hateful; and such have many ways.
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  • So we you may read and marvel not
  • That such a man as Dante—one
  • Who, while Can Grande's deeds were done,
  • Had drawn his robe round him and thought—
  • Now at the same guest-table far'd
  • 210 Where keen Uguccio wiped his beard.*
  • But Dante recked not of the wine;
  • And if Whether the women stayed or went,
  • His visage held one stern intent:
  • And when the music had its sign
  • To breathe upon them for more ease,
  • Sometimes he turned and bade it cease.
Deleted Text
  • There was a jester, a foul lout
  • Whom the court prized for obscene arts;
  • Priapus of the filthy parts
  • Of speech; still fingering them about
  • And in men's faces wagging them;
  • But the court counted him a gem.
Transcribed Footnote (page 13r):

* Uguccione della Faggiuola, Dante's former protector,

was now his fellow-guest at Verona.

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Note: A cancelled draft of received stanza 46, as well as a corrected copy, are copied into this page as later additions.
Deleted Text
  • There was a Jester, a foul lout
  • Whom the court loved for graceless arts;
  • Averroës of the filthy parts
  • Of speech; Demosthenes to shout
  • Through any pebbles o'er all seas
  • The gloss of such Averroës.
  • There was a Jester, a foul lout
  • Whom the court loved for graceless arts;
  • Sworn scholiast of the bestial parts
  • Of speech; a ribald mouth to shout
  • In Folly's horny tympanum
  • All things of which [?] tongues are dumb
  • Such things as that strike make the wise man dumb.
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  • And Dante loathed the beast. Much loved, him Dante loathed. And so,
  • One day when Dante felt perplex'd
  • If any day that could come next
  • Were worth the waiting for or no,
  • 220 And his words, always scarce Till now his scanty speech quite ceas'd,—
  • Can Grande summoned in this beast.
  • The jests, be sure, came rank in filth
    Added TextRank words, with such, are wit's best wealth
  • Lords mouthed approval; ladies kept
  • Cackling Twittering with clustered heads, except
  • Some few that took their trains by stealth
  • And went. Can Grande shook his hair
  • And smote his thighs and laughed i' the air.
  • Then, facing on his guest, he cried,—
  • “Say, Messer Dante, how it is
  • 230 I get out of a clown like this
  • More than your wisdom can provide?”
  • And Dante: “'Tis man's ancient whim
  • That still his like seems good to him.”
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Note: Received stanza 54 is copied by DGR on this page as a later addition.
Added Text
  • And when his spirit wove the spell
  • (From under toward even to overnoon
  • In [true?] converse with itself alone,)
  • As high as Heaven, as low as Hell,—
  • He would be summoned and must go:
  • 240 For had not Gian stabbed Giacomo?
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  • But wherefore should we turn the grout
  • In a drained cup, or be at strife
  • From the worn garment of a life
  • To rip the twisted ravel out?
  • Good needs expounding; but of ill
  • Each hath enough to guess his fill.
  • They named him Justicer-at-Law:
  • Each month to bear the tale in mind
  • Of hues a wench might wear unfin'd
  • 250And of the load an ox might draw;
  • To cavil in the weight of bread
  • And to see purse-thieves gibbeted.
  • Therefore the bread he had to eat
  • Seemed brackish, less like corn than tares;
  • And the rush-strown accustomed stairs
  • Each day were steeper to his feet;
  • And when the night-vigil was done,
  • His face brows would ache to feel the sun.
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Note: DGR has copied received stanza 58 on this page as a later addition.
Added Text
  • “That it was not a thing he did he was one the Heavens forbid
  • To traffic in God's justice sold
  • By market-weight of human [?] earthly gold,
  • And Or to bow down over the lid
  • Of steaming censers, and so be
  • Made clean of manhood's obloquy.
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  • Nathless,—a churchman of his kin
    Added TextNevertheless, when through his kin
  • 260 Sending him There came the tidings how at last
  • In Florence a decree was pass'd
  • Whereby all banished folk might win
  • Free pardon, so a fine were paid
  • And act of public penance made,—
  • This Dante writ in answer thus,
  • Words such as these: “That clearly they
  • In Florence must not have to say,—
  • The man abode aloof from us
  • Nigh fifteen years, yet lastly skulk'd
  • 270 Hither to candleshrift and mulct.
  • “That since no gate led, by God's will,
  • To Florence, but the one whereat
  • The priests and money-changers sat,
  • He still would still wander; for that still,
  • He saw Even through the spirit's body's prison-bars,
  • His life soul possessed the sun and stars.”
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  • Such were his words . as these It is indeed
  • For ever well that poets our singers should
  • Utter good words and know them good
  • 280Not through song merely; having with close heed
  • Lest, having spent for the work's sake
  • Six days, the man be left to make.
  • Months o'er Verona, and till the feast
  • Was come to for Florence the Free Town:
  • And in the Church at the shrine of Baptist John
  • The exiles, many with priest and girt with many a priest
  • Communing and reading as they went,
    Added TextAnd carrying candles as they went,
  • Were offered to the blessed held to mercy of the saint.
  • Up the church aisle On the high seats in sober state,—
  • 290 Gold neck-chains range [?] o'er range below
  • Gold screen-work where the lilies grow,—
  • The Heads of the Republic sate,
  • Marking the humbled face go by
  • Each one of his house-enemy.
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  • And as each proscript rose and stood
  • From kneeling in the ushered ashen dust
  • On the shrine-steps, some magnate thrust
  • A beard into the velvet hood
  • Of his front colleague's gown, to see
  • 300 The cinders stuck in the bare knee.
  • Tosinghi passed, Manelli passed,
  • Rinucci passed, each in his place;
  • But not an Alighieri's face
  • Went by that day from first to last
  • In the Republic's triumph; nor
  • A foot came home to Dante's door.
  • ( Respublica—a public thing:
  • A shameful shameless prostitute,
  • Whose lust with one lord may not suit,
  • 310So takes by turns its revelling
  • A night with each, till he at morn
  • Is beaten forth bare and forlorn,
    Added TextIs stripped and beaten forth forlorn,
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Note: Received stanzas 69-70 are added later to the text on this page, and marked for insertion.
Note: Each footnote is indicated by a single asterisk, but for clarity is tied to its associated passage in the text with a drawn line.
Added Text
  • What of his work for Florence? Well
  • It was, he knew, and well must be.
  • Yet evermore her hate's decree
  • Dwelt in his thought intolerable:—
  • His body to be burned,*—his soul
  • To beat its wings at hope's vain goal.
  • What of his work for Beatrice?
  • Now well-nigh was the third song writ,—
  • The stars a third time sealing it
  • With sudden singing music of pure peace:
  • For echoing thrice the threefold song,
  • The unnumbered stars the tone prolong.—*
Transcribed Footnote (page 18v):

* Such was inexorably the last sentence passed by Florence

against Dante, as a recalcitrant exile.

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  • And leaves her, cursing her. If she,
  • Indeed, have not some spice-draught, hid
  • In scent under a silver lid,
  • To drench his open throat with—he
  • Once hard asleep; and lay thrust him not
  • At dawn beneath the stairs boards to rot.)
  • Years filled out their twelve moons, & ceased
  • 320 One in another; We may say and alway
  • There were the whole twelve hours each day
  • And each night as the weeks years increased;
  • All through the months each month the same And rising moon and setting sun
  • And [how much?] Dante knew[heard?] of them. Beheld that Dante's work was done.
  • Only some hours, some days that passed
    Added TextEach hour, as then the Vision pass'd,
  • He [?] heard the tone[?] utter harmony
  • Of the nine trembling spheres, till she
  • Bowed her eyes towards him in the last,
  • So that all ended with her eyes,
  • 330 Hell, Purgatory, Paradise.
Added Text
Transcribed Footnote (page 19r):

* “E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.” Inferno .

“Puro e disposto a salire alle stelle.” Purgatorio .

“L'amor che muove il sole e l'altre stelle.” Paradiso .

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Note: The period at the end of received line 433 is a colon in the published versions.
  • “It is my trust, as the years fall,
  • To write more worthily of her
  • Who now, being made God's minister,
  • Looks on His visage and knows all.”
  • Such was the hope that he dared send
  • Forth solemnly, to make an end.
  • Of the “New Life,” his youth's dear book.
  • Adding thereunto: “In such hop trust
  • I labour, and believe I must
  • 340Accomplish this which my soul took
  • In charge, if God, my Lord and hers,
  • Leave my life with me a few years.”
  • The trust which he had borne in youth
  • Was all at length accomplished. He
  • At length had written worthily—
  • Yea even of her; no rhymes uncouth
  • 'Twixt tongue and tongue; but by God's aid
  • The first words Italy had said.
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Note: Stanzas 75 and 77 are copied by DGR on this page as later additions to the text.
Added Text
  • Ah! haply now the heavenly guide
  • Was not the last form seen by him:
  • But there that Beatrice stood slim
  • And bowed in passing at his side,
  • For whom in youth his heart made moan
  • Then when the city sat alone.
  • In that high vision. But indeed
  • It may be that his mind could fall
  • Back soonest to the first of all,—
  • The child his boyhood bore in heed
  • Nine years. The [?] yet smiled At length the voice brought peace,—
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice.”
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Note: Two stanzas are cancelled from the text on this page.
Deleted Text
  • He must have had her with him now
  • Always almost. We may not doubt
  • That in his going in and out
  • Often the eyes would scarce allow
  • The mind to deem she was not there
  • Beside him; or that in his chair
  • He seated very often knew
  • Her presence, if he did not see
  • Her body's image visibly;
  • Nay, had her eyes to look into
  • Even at times, and watched her smile
  • And bow, but without speech the while.
  • Clearly herself; the same whom he
  • 350 Met, not past girlhood, in the street,
  • Low-bosomed and with hidden feet;
  • And then as woman perfectly,
  • In years that followed, more than once,—
  • And now at last among the suns
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Note: DGR makes a revised copy of received stanza 79 on this paging and cancels the original version on the facing recto.
Added Text
  • For a tale tells that on his track,
  • As through Verona's streets he went,
  • This saying certain women sent:—
  • “Lo, he that strolls to Hell and back
  • At will! Behold him, how Hell's reek
  • Has crisped his beard and singed his cheek.”
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  • All this, being there, we had not seen.
  • Seen only was the shadow wrought
  • On the [stern?] strong features bound in thought;
  • The vagueness gaining gait and mien;
  • The white streaks thickening, that were few gathering clear to view
  • 360 In the burnt beard the women knew.
Deleted Text
  • For a tale hath that in the street
  • Once at Verona, while he led
  • This life there, certain women said,
  • Pointing from door or window-seat:
  • “Lo! he that strolls to Hell and back
  • At whim. It grimes burns his beard hell-black.”
  • “Whereat” (Boccaccio's words) “he smil'd
  • For pride in fame.” It might be so:
  • Nevertheless we cannot know
  • 370If then his thought were not beguil'd
  • To mirth, for that he scarce could tell
  • If he indeed were back from Hell.
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  • So the day came, after a space,
  • When Dante felt assured that there
  • The sunshine must lie sicklier
  • Even than in any other place,
  • Let alone Save only Florence. The same day When that day
  • Silent, Had come, he rose and went his way.
  • He went and turned not. From his shoes
  • 380 It may be that he shook the dust,
  • As every righteous dealer must
  • Not less than once ere life can close;
  • And unaccomplished destiny
  • Looked black Struck cold his forehead, it may be.
  • No book keeps record how the Prince
  • Sunned himself out of Dante's reach,
  • And Nor how the Jester stank in speech;
  • While lords, long courtiers, used to sulk smile and wince,
  • Poets and harlots, all the throng,
  • 390 Let flow loose their slaver and their song.
Image of page 23v page: 23v
Note: DGR copies this text's final stanza on this page. It is a stanza he would ultimately reject.
Added Text
  • Now do Thou let thy servant, Lord,—
  • Who now hath suffered all the heart
  • And the mind soul can on earth,— depart
  • In peace according to thy word?
  • His eyes (are not the lids still wet?)
  • Beheld not thy salvation yet.
Image of page 24r page: 24r
  • No book keeps record if the seat
  • Which Dante had at his host's board
  • Were sat in next by clerk or lord,—
  • If leman lolled with dainty feet
  • At ease, or hostage brooded there,
  • Or priest lacked silence for his prayer.
  • Eat and wash hands, Can Grande;—scarce
  • We know their deeds now: hands which fed
  • Our Dante with that bitter bread;
  • 400And thou the watch-dog of those stairs
  • Which, of all the paths his feet knew well
    Added TextWhereon the weary footsteps fell,
  • Were steeper found than Heaven or Hell.
    Added TextThat knew the paths of Heaven or Hell.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1848.fizms.rad.xml
Copyright: Digital images courtesy of Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum. © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge