Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Dante and His Circle: With the Italian Poets Preceding Him (1100—1200—1300).
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1874
Publisher: Ellis and White, 29 New Bond Street
Printer: John Strangeways
Edition: 2

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

page: [frontpaste]
Note: An pasted-in bookplate of “Mark Samuels Lasner” appears.
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Manuscript Addition: Ellen Terry -
Editorial Description: Previous book owner has inscribed her name.
Manuscript Addition: 85- / URSx'81 / 1 s[?] / Ellen Terry's copy
Editorial Note: Book description in unknown hand.
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Note: blank page
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With the Italian Poets preceding Him.







Dante's Vita Nuova, &c.

Poets of Dante's Circle.


Poets chiefly before Dante.




page: [ii]


Printed by John Strangeways,

Castle St. Leicester Sq.
page: [iii]


page: [iv]
Note: blank page
page: [v]
Advertisement to the present Edition.

In re-entitling and re-arranging this book (originally

published in 1861 as The Early Italian Poets ,) my

object has been to make more evident at a first glance

its important relation to Dante. The Vita Nuova,

together with the many among Dante's lyrics and those

of his contemporaries which elucidate their personal

intercourse, are here assembled, and brought to my

best ability into clear connection, in a manner not

elsewhere attempted even by Italian or German

page: [vi]
Note: Blank page.
page: [vii]
Preface to the First Edition.


I need not dilate here on the characteristics of the

first epoch of Italian Poetry; since the extent of

my translated selections is sufficient to afford a complete

view of it. Its great beauties may often remain un-

approached in the versions here attempted; but, at

the same time, its imperfections are not all to be

charged to the translator. Among these I may refer

to its limited range of subject and continual obscurity,

as well as to its monotony in the use of rhymes or

frequent substitution of assonances. But to compensate

for much that is incomplete and inexperienced, these

poems possess, in their degree, beauties of a kind which

can never again exist in art; and offer, besides, a

treasure of grace and variety in the formation of their

metres. Nothing but a strong impression, first of their

poetic value, and next of the biographical interest of

some of them (chiefly of those in my first division),

would have inclined me to bestow the time and trouble

which have resulted in this collection.
page: viii
Much has been said, and in many respects justly,

against the value of metrical translation. But I think

it would be admitted that the tributary art might find

a not illegitimate use in the case of poems which come

down to us in such a form as do these early Italian

ones. Struggling originally with corrupt dialect and

imperfect expression, and hardly kept alive through

centuries of neglect, they have reached that last and

worst state in which the coup-de-grace has almost been

dealt them by clumsy transcription and pedantic super-

structure. At this stage the task of talking much more

about them in any language is hardly to be entered

upon; and a translation (involving, as it does, the

necessity of settling many points without discussion,)

remains perhaps the most direct form of commentary.
The life-blood of rhymed translation is this com-

mandment,—that a good poem shall not be turned

into a bad one. The only true motive for putting

poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh

nation, as far as possible, with one more possession

of beauty. Poetry not being an exact science, liter-

ality of rendering is altogether secondary to this chief

law. I say literality,—not fidelity, which is by no

means the same thing. When literality can be com-

bined with what is thus the primary condition of success,

the translator is fortunate, and must strive his utmost

to unite them; when such object can only be attained

by paraphrase, that is his only path.
Any merit possessed by these translations is derived

from an effort to follow this principle; and, in some
page: ix
degree, from the fact that such painstaking in arrange-

ment and descriptive heading as is often indispensable

to old and especially to ‘occasional’ poetry, has here

been bestowed on these poets for the first time.
That there are many defects in this collection,

or that the above merit is its defect, or that it

has no merits but only defects, are discoveries so

sure to be made if necessary (or perhaps here and

there in any case), that I may safely leave them in

other hands. The series has probably a wider scope

than some readers might look for, and includes now

and then (though I believe in rare instances) matter

which may not meet with universal approval; and whose

introduction, needed as it is by the literary aim of my

work, is I know inconsistent with the principles of

pretty bookmaking. My wish has been to give a full

and truthful view of early Italian poetry; not to make

it appear to consist only of certain elements to the

exclusion of others equally belonging to it.
Of the difficulties I have had to encounter,—the

causes of imperfections for which I have no other

excuse,—it is the reader's best privilege to remain

ignorant; but I may perhaps be pardoned for briefly

referring to such among these as concern the exigencies

of translation. The task of the translator (and with

all humility be it spoken) is one of some self-denial.

Often would he avail himself of any special grace of

his own idiom and epoch, if only his will belonged

to him: often would some cadence serve him but for

his author's structure—some structure but for his author's
page: x
cadence: often the beautiful turn of a stanza must be

weakened to adopt some rhyme which will tally, and

he sees the poet revelling in abundance of language

where himself is scantily supplied. Now he would

slight the matter for the music, and now the music for

the matter; but no, he must deal to each alike. Some-

times too a flaw in the work galls him, and he would

fain remove it, doing for the poet that which his age

denied him; but no,—it is not in the bond. His path

is like that of Aladdin through the enchanted vaults:

many are the precious fruits and flowers which he must

pass by unheeded in search for the lamp alone; happy

if at last, when brought to light, it does not prove

that his old lamp has been exchanged for a new one,

—glittering indeed to the eye, but scarcely of the same

virtue nor with the same genius at its summons.
In relinquishing this work (which, small as it is, is

the only contribution I expect to make to our English

knowledge of old Italy), I feel, as it were, divided from

my youth. The first associations I have are connected

with my father's devoted studies, which, from his own

point of view, have done so much towards the general

investigation of Dante's writings. Thus, in those early

days, all around me partook of the influence of the

great Florentine; till, from viewing it as a natural

element, I also, growing older, was drawn within the

circle. I trust that from this the reader may place

more confidence in a work not carelessly undertaken,

though produced in the spare-time of other pursuits

more closely followed. He should perhaps be told
page: xi
that it has occupied the leisure moments of not a few

years; thus affording, often at long intervals, every

opportunity for consideration and revision; and that on

the score of care, at least, he has no need to mistrust

it. Nevertheless, I know there is no great stir to be

made by launching afresh, on high-seas busy with new

traffic, the ships which have been long outstripped and

the ensigns which are grown strange.
It may be well to conclude this short preface with

a list of the works which have chiefly contributed to

the materials of the present volume. An array of

modern editions hardly looks so imposing as might a

reference to Allacci, Crescimbini, &c.; but these older

collections would be found less accessible, and all they

contain has been reprinted.
  • I. Poeti del primo secolo della Lingua Italiana.

    2 vol. (Firenze. 1816.)
  • II. Raccolta di Rime antiche Toscane. 4 vol.

    (Palermo. 1817.)
  • III. Manuale della Letteratura del primo Secolo.

    del Prof. V. Nannucci. 3 vol. (Firenze. 1843.)
  • IV. Poesie Italiane inedite di dugento autori: raccolte

    da Francesco Trucchi. 4 vol. (Prato. 1846.)
  • V. Opere Minori di Dante. Edizione di P. I. Fra-

    ticelli. (Firenze. 1843, &c.)
  • VI. Rime di Guido Cavalcanti; raccolte da A.Cic-

    ciaporci. (Firenze. 1813.)
  • VII. Vita e Poesie di Messer Cino da Pistoia. Edi-

    zione di S. Ciampi. (Pisa. 1813.)
  • page: xii
  • VIII. Documenti d'Amore; di Francesco da Barbe-

    rino. Annotati da F. Ubaldini. (Roma. 1640.)
  • IX. Del Reggimento e dei Costumi delle Donne; di

    Francesco da Barberino. (Roma. 1815.)
  • X. Il Dittamondo di Fazio degli Uberti. (Milano.

page: [xiii]
page: [xxiii]

page: [xxiv]
Note: blank page
page: [1]
Sig. B

In the first division of this volume are included

all the poems I could find which seemed to have value as being

personal to the circle of Dante's friends, and as illustrating

their intercourse with each other. Those who know the

Italian collections from which I have drawn these pieces

(many of them most obscure) will perceive how much which

is in fact elucidation is here attempted to be embodied in

themselves, as to their rendering, arrangement, and heading:

since the Italian editors have never yet paid any of them,

except of course those by Dante, any such attention; but

have printed and reprinted them in a jumbled and dishearten-

ing form, by which they can serve little purpose except as

testi di lingua—dead stock by whose help the makers of

dictionaries may smother the language with decayed words.

Appearing now I believe for the first time in print, though

in a new idiom, from their once living writers to such living

readers as they may find, they require some preliminary

The Vita Nuova (the Autobiography or Autopsychology

of Dante's youth till about his twenty-seventh year) is

already well known to many in the original, or by means

of essays and of English versions partial or entire. It

is, therefore, and on all accounts, unnecessary to say much
page: [2]
more of it here than it says for itself. Wedded to its

exquisite and intimate beauties are personal peculiarities

which excite wonder and conjecture, best replied to in the

words which Beatrice herself is made to utter in the Com-

‘Questi fù tal nella sua vita nuova.’* Thus then

young Dante was. All that seemed possible to be done

here for the work was to translate it in as free and clear a

form as was consistent with fidelity to its meaning; to

ease it, as far as possible, from notes and encumbrances;

and to accompany it for the first time with those poems from

Dante's own lyrical series which have reference to its events,

as well as with such native commentary (so to speak) as might

be afforded by the writings of those with whom its author was

at that time in familiar intercourse. Not chiefly to Dante,

then, of whom so much is known to all or may readily be

found written, but to the various other members of his circle,

these few pages should be devoted.
It may be noted here, however, how necessary a know-

ledge of the Vita Nuova is to the fullcomprehension of the

part borne by Beatrice in the Commedia. Moreover, it is

only from the perusal of its earliest and then undivulged

self-communings that we can divine the whole bitterness of

wrong to such a soul as Dante's, its poignant sense of

abandonment, or its deep and jealous refuge in memory.

Above all, it is here that we find the first manifestations of

that wisdom of obedience, that natural breath of duty, which

afterwards, in the Commedia, lifted up a mighty voice for

warning and testimony. Throughout the Vita Nuova there

is a strain like the first falling murmur which reaches the

ear in some remote meadow, and prepares us to look upon

the sea.
Boccaccio, in his Life of Dante, tells us that the great

poet, in later life, was ashamed of this work of his youth.

Such a statement hardly seems reconcilable with the allu-

sions to it made or implied in the Commedia; but it is true

that the Vita Nuova is a book which only youth could have
Transcribed Footnote (page [2]):

* Purgatorio, C. xxx.

page: 3
produced, and which must chiefly remain sacred to the

young; to each of whom the figure of Beatrice, less lifelike

than lovelike, will seem the friend of his own heart. Nor is

this, perhaps, its least praise. To tax its author with effemi-

nacy on account of the extreme sensitiveness evinced by this

narrative of his love, would be manifestly unjust, when we

find that, though love alone is the theme of the Vita Nuova,

war already ranked among its author's experiences at the

period to which it relates. In the year 1289, the one pre-

ceding the death of Beatrice, Dante served with the foremost

cavalry in the great battle of Campaldino, on the eleventh of

June, when the Florentines defeated the people of Arezzo.

In the autumn of the next year, 1290, when for him, by the

death of Beatrice, the city as he says ‘sat solitary,’ such

refuge as he might find from his grief was sought in action

and danger: for we learn from the Commedia ( Hell, C. xxi.)

that he served in the war then waged by Florence upon Pisa,

and was present at the surrender of Caprona. He says,

using the reminiscence to give life to a description, in his

great way:—
  • ‘I've seen the troops out of Caprona go
  • On terms, affrighted thus, when on the spot
  • They found themselves with foemen compass'd so.’
(Cayley's Translation.)
A word should be said here of the title of Dante's autobio-

graphy. The adjective Nuovo, nuova, or Novello, novella,

literally New, is often used by Dante and other early writers

in the sense of young. This has induced some editors of the

Vita Nuova to explain the title as meaning Early Life. I

should be glad on some accounts to adopt this supposition, as

everything is a gain which increases clearness to the modern

reader; but on consideration I think the more mystical

interpretation of the words, as New Life, (in reference to

that revulsion of his being which Dante so minutely de-

scribes as having occurred simultaneously with his first sight

of Beatrice,) appears the primary one, and therefore the most
page: 4
necessary to be given in a translation. The probability

may be that both were meant, but this I cannot convey.*
Among the poets of Dante's circle, the first in order, the

first in power, and the one whom Dante has styled his ‘first

friend,’ is Guido Cavalcanti, born about 1250, and thus

Dante's senior by some fifteen years. It is therefore pro-

bable that there is some inaccuracy about the statement,

often repeated, that he was Dante's fellow-pupil under

Brunetto Latini; though it seems certain that they both

studied, probably Guido before Dante, with the same teacher.

The Cavalcanti family was among the most ancient in

Florence; and its importance may be judged by the fact

that in 1280, on the occasion of one of the various missions

sent from Rome with the view of pacifying the Florentine

factions, the name of ‘Guido the son of Messer Cavalcante

de' Cavalcanti’ appears as one of the sureties offered by the

city, for the quarter of San Piero Scheraggio. His father

must have been notoriously a sceptic in matters of religion,

since we find him placed by Dante in the sixth circle of Hell,
Transcribed Footnote (page 4):

* I must hazard here (to relieve the first page of my translation

from a long note) a suggestion as to the meaning of the most puzzling

passage in the whole Vita Nuova,—that sentence just at the outset

which says, ‘La gloriosa donna della mia mente, la quale fù

chiamata da molti Beatrice, i quali non sapeano che si chiamare.’

On this passage all the commentators seem helpless, turning it about

and sometimes adopting alterations not to be found in any ancient

manuscript of the work. The words mean literally, ‘The glorious

lady of my mind who was called Beatrice by many who knew not

how she was called.’ This presents the obvious difficulty that the

lady's name really was Beatrice, and that Dante throughout uses

that name himself. In the text of my version I have adopted, as a

rendering, the one of the various compromises which seemed to give

the most beauty to the meaning. But it occurs to me that a less

irrational escape out of the difficulty than any I have seen suggested

may possibly be found by linking this passage with the close of the

sonnet at page 77 of the Vita Nuova, beginning, ‘I felt a spirit of

Love begin to stir,’ in the last line of which sonnet Love is made to

assert that the name of Beatrice is Love. Dante appears to have

page: 5
Transcribed Footnote (page 5):

dwelt on this fancy with some pleasure, from what is said in an

earlier sonnet (page 38) about ‘Love in his proper form’ (by which

Beatrice seems to be meant) bending over a dead lady. And it is

in connection with the sonnet where the name of Beatrice is said to

be Love, that Dante, as if to show us that the Love he speaks of is

only his own emotion, enters into an argument as to Love being merely

an accident in substance,—in other words, ‘Amore e il cor gentil

son una cosa.’ This conjecture may be pronounced extravagant;

but the Vita Nuova, when examined, proves so full of intricate and

fantastic analogies, even in the mere arrangement of its parts, (much

more than appears on any but the closest scrutiny), that it seems

admissible to suggest even a whimsical solution of a difficulty which

remains unconquered. Or to have recourse to the much more

welcome means of solution afforded by simple inherent beauty:

may not the meaning be merely that any person looking on so noble

and lovely a creation, without knowledge of her name, must have

spontaneously called her Beatrice,— i.e., the giver of blessing? This

would be analogous by antithesis to the translation I have adopted

in my text.

in one of the fiery tombs of the unbelievers. That Guido

shared this heresy was the popular belief, as is plain from an

anecdote in Boccaccio which I shall give; and some corro-

boration of such reports, at any rate as applied to

Guido's youth, seems capable of being gathered from an

extremely obscure poem which I have translated on that

account (at page 175) as clearly as I found possible. It must

be admitted, however, that there is to the full as much

devotional as sceptical tendency implied here and there in

his writings; while the presence of either is very rare. We

may also set against such a charge the fact that Dino

Compagni refers, as will be seen, to his having undertaken

a religious pilgrimage. But indeed he seems to have been

in all things of that fitful and vehement nature which would

impress others always strongly, but often in opposite ways.

Self-reliant pride gave its colour to all his moods; making

his exploits as a soldier frequently abortive through the head-

strong ardour of partisanship, and causing the perversity of

a logician to prevail in much of his amorous poetry. The
page: 6
writings of his contemporaries, as well as his own, tend to

show him rash in war, fickle in love, and presumptuous in

belief; but also, by the same concurrent testimony, he was

distinguished by great personal beauty, high accomplishments

of all kinds, and daring nobility of soul. Not unworthy, for all

the weakness of his strength, to have been the object of

Dante's early emulation, the first friend of his youth, and

his precursor and fellow-labourer in the creation of Italian

In the year 1267, when Guido cannot have been much

more than seventeen years of age, a last attempt was made

in Florence to reconcile the Guelfs and Ghibellines. With

this view several alliances were formed between the leading

families of the two factions; and among others, the Guelf

Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti wedded his son Guido to a

daughter of the Ghibelline Farinata degli Uberti. The

peace was of short duration; the utter expulsion of the

Ghibellines (through French intervention solicited by the

Guelfs) following almost immediately. In the subdivision,

which afterwards took place, of the victorious Guelfs into so-

called ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites,’ Guido embraced the White

party, which tended strongly to Ghibellinism, and whose chief

was Vieri de' Cerchi, while Corso Donati headed the opposite

faction. Whether his wife was still living at the time when

the events of the Vita Nuova occurred, is probably not ascer-

tainable; but about that time Dante tells us that Guido was

enamoured of a lady named Giovanna or Joan, and whose

Christian name is absolutely all that we know of her. How-

ever, on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Thoulouse, recorded

by Dino Compagni, he seems to have conceived a fresh

passion for a lady of that city named Mandetta, who first

attracted him by a striking resemblance to his Florentine

mistress. Thoulouse had become a place of pilgrimage from

its laying claim to the possession of the body, or part of the

body, of Saint James the Greater; though the same supposed

distinction had already made the shrine of Compostella in

Gallicia one of the most famous throughout all Christendom.
page: 7
That this devout journey of Guido's had other results besides

a new love will be seen by the passage from Compagni's

Chronicle. He says:—
‘A young and noble knight named Guido, son of Messer Caval-

cante Cavalcanti,—full of courage and courtesy, but disdainful,

solitary, and devoted to study,—was a foe to Messer Corso (Donati)

and had many times cast about to do him hurt. Messer Corso

feared him exceedingly, as knowing him to be of a great spirit, and

sought to assassinate him on a pilgrimage which Guido made to the

shrine of St. James; but he might not compass it. Wherefore,

having returned to Florence and being made aware of this, Guido

incited many youths against Messer Corso, and these promised to

stand by him. Who being one day on horseback with certain of the

house of the Cerchi, and having a javelin in his hand, spurred his

horse against Messer Corso, thinking to be followed by the Cerchi

that so their companies might engage each other; and he running in

on his horse cast the javelin, which missed its aim. And with

Messer Corso were Simon, his son, a strong and daring youth, and

Cecchino de' Bardi, who with many others pursued Guido with

drawn swords; but not overtaking him they threw stones after him,

and also others were thrown at him from the windows, whereby he

was wounded in the hand. And by this matter hate was increased.

And Messer Corso spoke great scorn of Messer Vieri, calling him

the Ass of the Gate; because, albeit a very handsome man, he was but

of blunt wit and no great speaker. And therefore Messer Corso would

say often, ‘To-day the Ass of the Gate has brayed,’ and so greatly

disparage him; and Guido he called Cavicchia.* And thus it was

spread abroad of the jongleurs; and especially one named Scam-

polino reported worse things than were said, that so the Cerchi might

be provoked to engage the Donati.’
Transcribed Footnote (page 7):

* A nickname chiefly chosen, no doubt, for its resemblance to

Cavalcanti. The word cavicchia, cavicchio, or caviglia means a

wooden peg or pin. A passage in Boccaccio says, ‘He had tied his

ass to a strong wooden pin,’ ( caviglia.) Thus Guido, from his mental

superiority, might be said to be the Pin to which the Ass, Messer

Vieri, was tethered at the Gate, (that is, the Gate of San Pietro,

near which he lived.) However, it seems quite as likely that the

nickname was founded on a popular phrase by which one who fails

in any undertaking is said ‘to run his rear on a peg,’ ( dare del culo

in un cavicchio
.) The haughty Corso Donati himself went by the

page: 8
Transcribed Footnote (page 8):

name of Malefammi or ‘Do-me-harm.’ For an account of his death

in 1307, which proved in keeping with his turbulent life, see Dino

Compagni's Chronicle, or the Pecorone of Giovanni Fiorentino,

(Gior. xxiv. Nov. 2.)

The praise which Compagni, his contemporary, awards to

Guido at the commencement of the foregoing extract,

receives additional value when viewed in connection with

the sonnet addressed to him by the same writer (see page

), where we find that he could tell him of his faults.
Such scenes as the one related above had become

common things in Florence, which kept on its course from

bad to worse till Pope Boniface VIII resolved on sending a

legate to propose certain amendments in its scheme of

government by Priori or representatives of the various arts

and companies. These proposals, however, were so ill

received, that the legate, who arrived in Florence in the

month of June, 1300, departed shortly afterwards greatly

incensed, leaving the city under a papal interdict. In the

ill-considered tumults which ensued we again hear of Guido

‘It happened (says Giovanni Villani in his History of Florence)

that in the month of December (1300) Messer Corso Donati with his

followers, and also those of the house of the Cerchi and their

followers, going armed to the funeral of a lady of the Frescobaldi

family, this party defying that by their looks would have assailed the

one the other; whereby all those who were at the funeral having risen

up tumultuously and fled each to his house, the whole city got under

arms, both factions assembling in great numbers, at their respective

houses. Messer Gentile de' Cerchi, Guido Cavalcanti, Baldinuccio

and Corso Adimari, Baschiero della Tosa and Naldo Gherardini,

with their comrades and adherents on horse and on foot, hastened to

St. Peter's Gate to the house of the Donati. Not finding them

there they went on to San Pier Maggiore, where Messer Corso was

with his friends and followers; by whom they were encountered and

put to flight, with many wounds and with much shame to the party

of the Cerchi and to their adherents.’
By this time we may conjecture as probable that Dante,

in the arduous position which he then filled as chief of the
page: 9

nine Priori on whom the government of Florence devolved,

had resigned for far other cares the sweet intercourse of

thought and poetry which he once held with that first friend

of his who had now become so factious a citizen. Yet it is

impossible to say how much of the old feeling may still have

survived in Dante's mind when, at the close of the year 1300

or beginning of 1301, it became his duty, as a faithful

magistrate of the republic, to add his voice to those of his

colleagues in pronouncing a sentence of banishment on the

heads of both the Black and White factions, Guido Caval-

canti being included among the latter. The Florentines had

been at last provoked almost to demand this course from

their governors, by the discovery of a conspiracy, at the

head of which was Corso Donati, (while among its leading

members was Simone de' Bardi, once the husband of

Beatrice Portinari), for the purpose of inducing the Pope to

subject the republic to a French peace-maker ( Paciere) and

so shamefully free it from its intestine broils. It appears

therefore that the immediate cause of the exile to which both

sides were subjected lay entirely with the ‘Black’ party, the

leaders of which were banished to the Castello della Pieve

in the wild district of Massa Trabœria, while those of the

‘White’ faction were sent to Sarzana, probably (for more

than one place bears the name) in the Genovesato. ‘But

this party’ (writes Villani) ‘remained a less time in exile,

being recalled on account of the unhealthiness of the place,

which made that Guido Cavalcanti returned with a sickness,

whereof he died. And of him was a great loss; seeing that

he was a man, as in philosophy, so in many things deeply

versed; but therewithal too fastidious and prone to take

offence.*’ His death apparently took place in 1301.
When the discords of Florence ceased, for Guido, in

death, Dante also had seen their native city for the last time.

Before Guido's return he had undertaken that embassy to
Transcribed Footnote (page 9):

* ‘Troppo tenero e stizzoso.’ I judge that ‘tenero’ here is rather

to be interpreted as above than meaning ‘impressionable’ in love

affairs, but cannot be certain.

page: 10
Rome which bore him the bitter fruit of unjust and perpetual

exile: and it will be remembered that a chief accusation

against him was that of favour shown to the White party on

the banishment of the factions.
Besides the various affectionate allusions to Guido in the

Vita Nuova, Dante has unmistakeably referred to him in at

least two passages of the Commedia. One of these refer-

ences is to be found in those famous lines of the Purgatory

(C. xi.) where he awards him the palm of poetry over Guido

Guinicelli (though also of the latter he speaks elsewhere with

high praise,) and implies at the same time, it would seem, a

consciousness of his own supremacy over both.
  • ‘Against all painters Cimabue thought
  • To keep the field. Now Giotto has the cry,
  • And so the fame o' the first wanes night to nought.
  • Thus one from other Guido took the high
  • Glory of language; and perhaps is born
  • He who from both shall bear it by-and-bye.’

The other mention of Guido is in that pathetic passage of

the Hell (C. x.) where Dante meets among the lost souls

Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti:—
  • ‘All roundabout he look'd, as though he had
  • Desire to see if one was with me else.
  • But after his surmise was all extinct,
  • He weeping said: “If through this dungeon blind
  • Thou goest by loftiness of intellect,—
  • Where is my son, and wherefore not with thee?”
  • And I to him: “Of myself come I not:
  • He who there waiteth leads me thoro' here,
  • Whom haply in disdain your Guido had.”*

  • Raised upright of a sudden, cried he: “How
  • Did'st say He had? Is he not living still?
  • Doth not the sweet light strike upon his eyes?”
Transcribed Footnote (page 10):

* Virgil, Dante's guide through Hell. Any prejudice which

Guido entertained against Virgil depended, no doubt, only on his

strong desire to see the Latin language give place, in poetry and

literature, to a perfected Italian idiom.

page: 11
  • When he perceived a certain hesitance
  • Which I was making ere I should reply,
  • He fell supine, and forth appear'd no more.’

Dante, however, conveys his answer afterwards to the spirit

of Guido's father, through another of the condemned also

related to Guido, Farinata degli Uberti, with whom he has

been speaking meanwhile:—
  • ‘Then I, as in compunction for my fault,
  • Said: “Now then shall ye tell that fallen one
  • His son is still united with the quick.
  • And, if I erst was dumb to the response,
  • I did it, make him know, because I thought
  • Yet on the error you have solved for me.”’
(W. M. Rossetti's Translation.)

The date which Dante fixes for his vision is Good Friday of

the year 1300. A year later, his answer must have been

different. The love and friendship of his Vita Nuova had

then both left him. For ten years Beatrice Portinari had

been dead, or (as Dante says in the Convito) ‘lived in

heaven with the angels and on earth with his soul.’ And

now, distant and probably estranged from him, Guido Caval-

canti was gone too.
Among the Tales of Franco Sacchetti, and in the

Decameron of Boccaccio, are two anecdotes relating to

Guido. Sacchetti tells us how, one day that he was intent

on a game at chess, Guido (who is described as ‘one who

perhaps had not his equal in Florence’) was disturbed by a

child playing about, and threatened punishment if the noise

continued. The child, however, managed slily to nail

Guido's coat to the chair on which he sat, and so had the

laugh against him when he rose soon afterwards to fulfil

his threat. This may serve as an amusing instance of

Guido's hasty temper, but is rather a disappointment after

its magniloquent heading, which sets forth how ‘Guido Ca-

valcanti, being a man of great valour and a philosopher, is

defeated by the cunning of a child.’
page: 12
The ninth Tale of the sixth Day of the Decameron relates

a repartee of Guido's, which has all the profound platitude of

mediæval wit. As the anecdote, however, is interesting on

other grounds, I translate it here.
‘You must know that in past times there were in our city certain

goodly and praiseworthy customs no one of which is now left,

thanks to avarice which has so increased with riches that it has

driven them all away. Among the which was one whereby the

gentlemen of the outskirts were wont to assemble together in divers

places throughout Florence, and to limit their fellowships to a

certain number, having heed to compose them of such as could fitly

discharge the expense. Of whom to-day one, and to-morrow an-

other, and so all in turn, laid tables each on his own day for all the

fellowship. And in such wise often they did honour to strangers of

worship and also to citizens. They all dressed alike at least once in

the year, and the most notable among them rode together through the

city; also at seasons they held passages of arms, and specially on the

principal feast-days, or whenever any news of victory or other glad

tidings had reached the city. And among these fellowships was one

headed by Messer Betto Brunelleschi, into the which Messer Betto

and his companions had often intrigued to draw Guido di Messer

Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti; and this not without cause, seeing that

not only he was one of the best logicians that the world held, and a

surpassing natural philosopher, (for the which things the fellowship

cared little), but also he exceeded in beauty and courtesy, and was

of great gifts as a speaker; and everything that it pleased him to do,

and that best became a gentleman, he did better than any other;

and was exceeding rich and knew well to solicit with honourable

words whomsoever he deemed worthy. But Messer Betto had never

been able to succeed in enlisting him; and he and his companions

believed that this was through Guido's much pondering which

divided him from other men. Also because he held somewhat of

the opinion of the Epicureans, it was said among the vulgar sort,

that his speculations were only to cast about whether he might find

that there was no God. Now on a certain day Guido having left

Or San Michele, and held along the Corso degli Adimari as far as

San Giovanni (which oftentimes was his walk); and coming to the

great marble tombs which now are in the Church of Santa Reparata,

but were then with many others in San Giovanni; he being

between the porphyry columns which are there among those tombs,
page: 13

and the gate of San Giovanni which was locked;—it so chanced

that Messer Betto and his fellowship came riding up by the Piazza

di Santa Reparata, and seeing Guido among the sepulchres, said,

‘Let us go and engage him.’ Whereupon, spurring their horses in

the fashion of a pleasant assault, they were on him almost before he

was aware, and began to say to him, ‘Thou, Guido, wilt none

of our fellowship; but lo now! when thou shalt have found that

there is no God, what wilt thou have done?’ To whom Guido,

seeing himself hemmed in among then, readily replied, ‘Gentlemen,

ye are at home here, and may say what ye please to me.’ Where-

with, setting his hand on one of those high tombs, being very light

of his person, he took a leap and was over on the other side; and

so having freed himself from them, went his way. And they all

remained bewildered, looking on one another; and began to say

that he was but a shallow-witted fellow, and that the answer he had

made was as though one should say nothing; seeing that where

they were, they had not more to do than other citizens, and Guido

not less than they. To whom Messer Betto turned and said thus:

‘Ye yourselves are shallow-witted if ye have not understood him.

He has civilly and in few words said to us the most uncivil thing

in the world; for if ye look well to it, these tombs are the homes of

the dead, seeing that in them the dead are set to dwell; and here

he says that we are at home; giving us to know that we and all

other simple unlettered men, in comparison of him and the learned,

are even as dead men; wherefore, being here, we are at home.’

Thereupon each of them understood what Guido had meant, and

was ashamed; nor ever again did they set themselves to engage

him. Also from that day forth they held Messer Betto to be a subtle

and understanding knight.’
In the above story mention is made of Guido Cavalcanti's

wealth, and there seems no doubt that at that time the

family was very rich and powerful. On this account I am

disposed to question whether the Canzone at page 172 (where

the author speaks of his poverty) can really be Guido's work,

though I have included it as being interesting if rightly

attributed to him; and it is possible that, when exiled, he

may have suffered for the time in purse as well as person.

About three years after his death, on the 10th June, 1304, the

Black party plotted together and set fire to the quarter of
page: 14

Florence chiefly held by their adversaries. In this confla-

gration the houses and possessions of the Cavalcanti were

almost entirely destroyed; the flames in that neighbourhood

(as Dino Compagni records) gaining rapidly in consequence

of the great number of waxen images in the Virgin's shrine

at Or San Michele; one of which, no doubt, was the very

image resembling his lady to which Guido refers in a sonnet

(see page 136.) After this, their enemies succeeded in

finally expelling from Florence the Cavalcanti family,*

greatly impoverished by this monstrous fire in which nearly

two thousand houses were consumed.
Guido appears, by various evidence, to have written,

besides his poems, a treatise on Philosophy and another on

Oratory, but his poems only have survived to our day. As a

poet, he has more individual life of his own than belongs to

any of his predecessors; by far the best of his pieces being

those which relate to himself, his loves and hates. The best

known, however, and perhaps the one for whose sake the

rest have been preserved, is the metaphysical canzone on the

Nature of Love, beginning, ‘Donna mi priega,’ and intended,

it is said, as an answer to a sonnet by Guido Orlandi, written

as though coming from a lady, and beginning, ‘Onde si

muove e donde nasce Amore?’ On this canzone of Guido's

there are known to exist no fewer than eight commentaries,

some of them very elaborate and written by prominent

learned men of the middle ages and renaissance; the earliest

being that by Egidio Colonna, a beatified churchman who

died in 1316; while most of the too numerous Academic

writers on Italian literature speak of this performance with
Transcribed Footnote (page 14):

* With them were expelled the still more powerful Gherardini,

also great sufferers by the conflagration; who, on being driven from

their own country, became the founders of the ancient Geraldine

family in Ireland. The Cavalcanti re-appear now and then in later

European history; and especially we hear of a second Guido Caval-

canti, who also cultivated poetry, and travelled to collect books for

the Ambrosian Library; and who, in 1563, visited England as

Ambassador to the court of Elizabeth from Charles IX. of France.

page: 15

great admiration as Guido's crowning work. A love-song

which acts as such a fly-catcher for priests and pedants looks

very suspicious; and accordingly, on examination, it proves

to be a poem beside the purpose of poetry, filled with meta-

physical jargon, and perhaps the very worst of Guido's pro-

ductions. Its having been written by a man whose life and

works include so much that is impulsive and real, is easily

accounted for by scholastic pride in those early days of

learning. I have not translated it, as being of little true

interest; but was pleased lately, nevertheless, to meet with a

remarkably complete translation of it by the Rev. Charles T.

Brooks of Cambridge, United States.* The stiffness and

cold conceits which prevail in this poem may be found dis-

figuring much of what Guido Cavalcanti has left, while much

besides is blunt, obscure, and abrupt: nevertheless, if it need

hardly be said how far he falls short of Dante in variety

and personal directness, it may be admitted that he worked

worthily at his side, and perhaps before him, in adding those

qualities to Italian poetry. That Guido's poems dwelt in the

mind of Dante is evident by his having appropriated lines

from them, (as well as from those of Guinicelli,) with little

alteration, more than once, in the Commedia.
Towards the close of his life, Dante, in his Latin treatise

De Vulgari Eloquio, again speaks of himself as the friend of

a poet,—this time of Cino da Pistoia. In an early passage

of that work he says that ‘those who have most sweetly and

subtly written poems in modern Italian are Cino da Pistoia

and a friend of his.’ This friend we afterwards find to be

Dante himself; as among the various poetical examples

quoted are several by Cino followed in three instances by
Transcribed Footnote (page 15):

* This translation occurs in the Appendix to an Essay on the

Vita Nuova of Dante, including extracts, by my friend Mr. Charles

E. Norton, of Cambridge, U.S.,—a work of high delicacy and

appreciation which originally appeared by portions in the Atlantic

, but has since been augmented by the author and privately

printed in a volume which is a beautiful specimen of American


page: 16

lines from Dante's own lyrics, the author of the latter being

again described merely as ‘Amicus ejus.’ In immediate

proximity to these, or coupled in two instances with examples

from Dante alone, are various quotations taken from Guido

Cavalcanti; but in none of these cases is anything said to

connect Dante with him who was once ‘the first of his

friends.’* As commonly between old and new, the change

of Guido's friendship for Cino's seems doubtful gain. Cino's

poetry, like his career, is for the most part smoother than

that of Guido, and in some instances it rises into truth and

warmth of expression; but it conveys no idea of such

powers, for life or for work, as seem to have distinguished

the ‘Cavicchia’ of Messer Corso Donati. However, his one

talent (reversing the parable) appears generally to be made

the most of, while Guido's two or three remain uncertain

through the manner of their use.
Cino's Canzone addressed to Dante on the death of
Transcribed Footnote (page 16):

* It is also noticeable that in this treatise Dante speaks of Guido

Guinicelli on one occasion as Guido Maximus, thus seeming to

contradict the preference of Cavalcanti which is usually supposed to

be implied in the passage I have quoted from the Purgatory. It has

been sometimes surmised (perhaps for this reason) that the two

Guidos there spoken of may be Guittone d'Arezzo and Guido

Guinicelli, the latter being said to surpass the former, of whom

Dante elsewhere in the Purgatory has expressed a low opinion.

But I should think it doubtful whether the name Guittone, which

(if not a nickname, as some say) is substantially the same as Guido,

could be so absolutely identified with it: at that rate Cino da Pistoia

even might be classed as one Guido, his full name, Guittoncino,

being the diminutive of Guittone. I believe it more probable that

Guinicelli and Cavalcanti were then really meant, and that Dante

afterwards either altered his opinion, or may (conjecturably) have

chosen to imply a change of preference in order to gratify Cino da

Pistoia whom he so markedly distinguishes as his friend throughout

the treatise, and between whom and Cavalcanti some jealousy

appears to have existed, as we may gather from one of Cino's sonnets

(at page 196); nor is Guido mentioned anywhere with praise by

Cino, as other poets are.

page: 17
Sig. C

Beatrice, as well as his answer to the first sonnet of the

Vita Nuova, indicate that the two poets must have become

acquainted in youth, though there is no earlier mention

of Cino in Dante's writings than those which occur in his

treatise on the Vulgar Tongue. It might perhaps be in-

ferred with some plausibility that their acquaintance was

revived after an interruption by the sonnet and answer at

pages 124 - 125, and that they afterwards corresponded as

friends till the period of Dante's death when Cino wrote

his elegy. Of the two sonnets in which Cino expresses

disapprobation of what he thinks the partial judgments of

Dante's Commedia, the first seems written before the great

poet's death, but I should think that the second dated after

that event, as the Paradise, to which it refers, cannot have

become fully known in its author's lifetime. Another son-

net sent to Dante elicited a Latin epistle in reply, where

we find Cino addressed as ‘frater carissime.’ Among Cino's

lyrical poems are a few more written in correspondence

with Dante, which I have not translated as being of little

personal interest.
Guittoncino de' Sinibuldi (for such was Cino's full name)

was born in Pistoia, of a distinguished family, in the year

1270. He devoted himself early to the study of law, and in

1307 was Assessor of Civil Causes in his native city. In this

year, and in Pistoia, first cradle of the ‘Black’ and ‘White’

factions, their endless contest sprang into activity; the

‘Blacks’ and Guelfs of Florence and Lucca driving out the

‘Whites’ and Ghibellines, who had ruled in the city since 1300.

With their accession to power came many iniquitous laws

in favour of their own party; so that Cino, as a lawyer of

Ghibelline opinions, soon found it necessary or advisable to

leave Pistoia, for it seems uncertain whether his removal

was voluntary or by proscription. He directed his course

towards Lombardy, on whose confines the chief of the

‘White’ party in Pistoia, Filippo Vergiolesi, still held

the fortress of Pitecchio. Hither Vergiolesi had retreated

with his family and adherents when resistance in the city
page: 18

became no longer possible; and it may be supposed that

Cino came to join him, not on account of political

sympathy alone; as Selvaggia Vergiolesi, his daughter, is

the lady celebrated throughout the poet's compositions.

Three years later, the Vergiolesi and their followers, finding

Pitecchio untenable, fortified themselves on the Monte della

Sambuca, a lofty peak of the Apennines; which again they

were finally obliged to abandon, yielding it to the Guelfs of

Pistoia at the price of eleven thousand lire. Meanwhile the

bleak air of the Sambuca had proved fatal to the lady Sel-

vaggia, who remained buried there, or, as Cino expresses it

in one of his poems,
  • ‘Cast out upon the steep path of the mountains,
  • Where Death had shut her in between hard stones.’
Over her cheerless tomb Cino bent and mourned, as he

has told us, when, after a prolonged absence spent partly in

France, he returned through Tuscany on his way to Rome.

He had not been with Selvaggia's family at the time of her

death; and it is probable that, on his return to the Sambuca,

the fortress was already surrendered, and her grave almost

the only record left there of the Vergiolesi.
Cino's journey to Rome was on account of his having

received a high office under Louis of Savoy, who preceded

the Emperor Henry VII. when he went thither to be crowned

in 1310. In another three years the last blow was dealt to

the hopes of the exiled and persecuted Ghibellines, by the

death of the Emperor, caused almost surely by poison.

This death Cino has lamented in a canzone. It probably

determined him to abandon a cause which seemed dead, and

return, when possible, to his native city. This he succeeded

in doing before 1319, as in that year we find him deputed

together with six other citizens, by the Government of Pistoia,

to take possession of a stronghold recently yielded to them.

He had now been for some time married to Margherita

degli Ughi, of a very noble Pistoiese family, who bore him

a son named Mino, and four daughters, Diamante, Beatrice,
page: 19

Giovanna, and Lombarduccia. Indeed, this marriage must

have taken place before the death of Selvaggia in 1310,

as in 1325-26, his son Mino was one of those by whose aid

from within, the Ghibelline Castruccio Antelminelli ob-

tained possession of Pistoia, which he held in spite of revolts

till his death some two or three years afterwards, when it

again reverted to the Guelfs.
After returning to Pistoia, Cino's whole life was devoted

to the attainment of legal and literary fame. In these pur-

suits he reaped the highest honours, and taught at the

universities of Siena, Perugia, and Florence; having for

his disciples men who afterwards became celebrated, among

whom rumour has placed Petrarch, though on examination

this seems very doubtful. A sonnet by Petrarch exists, how-

ever, commencing ‘Piangete donne e con voi pianga Amore,’

written as a lament on Cino's death and bestowing the highest

praise on him. He and his Selvaggia are also coupled

with Dante and Beatrice in the same poet's Trionfi d'Amore,

(cap. 4.)
Though established again in Pistoia, Cino resided there

but little till about the time of his death, which occurred in

1336-7. His monument, where he is represented as a pro-

fessor among his disciples, still exists in the Cathedral of

Pistoia, and is a mediæval work of great interest. Messer

Cino de' Sinibuldi was a prosperous man, of whom we have

ample records, from the details of his examinations as a

student, to the inventory of his effects after death, and the

curious items of his funeral expenses. Of his claims as a

poet it may be said that he filled creditably the interval

which elapsed between the death of Dante and the full

blaze of Petrarch's success. Most of his poems in honour

of Selvaggia are full of an elaborate and mechanical tone of

complaint which hardly reads like the expression of a real

love; nevertheless there are some, and especially the son-

net on her tomb (at page 192), which display feeling and

power. The finest, as well as the most interesting, of all

his pieces, is the very beautiful canzone in which he attempts
page: 20

to console Dante for the death of Beatrice. Though I have

found much fewer among Cino's poems than among Guido's

which seemed to call for translation, the collection of the

former is a larger one. Cino produced legal writings also,

of which the chief one that has survived is a Commentary

on the Statutes of Pistoia, said to have great merit, and

whose production in the short space of two years was ac-

counted an extraordinary achievement.
Having now spoken of the chief poets of this di-

vision, it remains to notice the others of whom less is

Dante da Maiano (Dante being, as with Alighieri, the

short of Durante, and Maiano in the neighbourhood of

Fiesole) had attained some reputation as a poet before the

career of his great namesake began; his Sicilian lady Nina

(herself, it is said, a poetess, and not personally known

to him) going by the then unequivocal title of ‘La Nina

di Dante.’ This priority may also be inferred from the

contemptuous answer sent by him to Dante Alighieri's

dream sonnet in the Vita Nuova (see page 198). All the

writers on early Italian poetry seem to agree in specially

censuring this poet's rhymes as coarse and trivial in manner;

nevertheless, they are sometimes distinguished by a careless

force not to be despised, and even by snatches of real

beauty. Of Dante da Maiano's life no record whatever has

come down to us.
Most literary circles have their prodigal, or what in

modern phrase might be called their ‘scamp;’ and among

our Danteans, this place is indisputably filled by Cecco

Angiolieri, of Siena. Nearly all his sonnets (and no

other pieces by him have been preserved) relate either to an

unnatural hatred of his father, or to an infatuated love for

the daughter of a shoemaker, a certain married Becchina.

It would appear that Cecco was probably enamoured of her

before her marriage as well as afterwards, and we may sur-

mise that his rancour against his father may have been partly

dependent, in the first instance, on the disagreements arising
page: 21

from such a connection. However, from an amusing and

lifelike story in the Decameron (Gior. IX. Nov. 4.) we learn

that on one occasion Cecco's father paid him six months'

allowance in advance, in order that he might proceed to the

Marca d'Ancona and join the suite of a Papal Legate who

was his patron; which looks, after all, as if the father had

some care of his graceless son. The story goes on to relate

how Cecco (whom Boccaccio describes as a handsome and

well-bred man) was induced to take with him as his servant

a fellow-gamester with whom he had formed an intimacy

purely on account of the hatred which each of the two bore

his own father, though in other respects they had little in

common. The result was that this fellow, during the journey,

while Cecco was asleep at Buonconvento, took all his

money and lost it at the gaming-table, and afterwards

managed by an adroit trick to get possession of his horse

and clothes, leaving him nothing but his shirt. Cecco then,

ashamed to return to Siena, made his way, in a borrowed

suit and mounted on his servant's sorry hack, to Corsignano

where he had relations; and there he stayed till his father

once more (surely much to his credit) made him a remit-

tance of money. Boccaccio seems to say in conclusion that

Cecco ultimately had his revenge on the thief.
In reading many both of Cecco's love-sonnets and hate-

sonnets, it is impossible not to feel some pity for the indica-

tions they contain of self-sought poverty, unhappiness, and

natural bent to ruin. Altogether they have too much curious

individuality to allow of their being omitted here: especially

as they afford the earliest prominent example of a naturalism

without afterthought in the whole of Italian poetry. Their

humour is sometimes strong, if not well chosen; their

passion always forcible from its evident reality: nor indeed

are several among them devoid of a certain delicacy. This

quality is also to be discerned in other pieces which I have

not included as having less personal interest; but it must

be confessed that for the most part the sentiments expressed

in Cecco's poetry are either impious or licentious. Most of
page: 22

the sonnets of his which are in print are here given;* the

selections concluding with an extraordinary one in which

he proposes a sort of murderous crusade against all those

who hate their fathers. This I have placed last (exclusive

of the sonnet to Dante in exile) in order to give the writer

the benefit of the possibility that it was written last, and

really expressed a still rather blood-thirsty contrition;

belonging at best, I fear, to the content of self-indulgence

when he came to enjoy his father's inheritance. But

most likely it is to be received as the expression of impu-

dence alone, unless perhaps of hypocrisy.
Cecco Angiolieri seems to have had poetical intercourse

with Dante early as well as later in life; but even from the

little that remains, we may gather that Dante soon put an

end to any intimacy which may have existed between them.

That Cecco already poetized at the time to which the Vita

relates is evident from a date given in one of his

sonnets,—the 20th June, 1291, and from his sonnet raising

objections to the one at the close of Dante's autobiography.

When the latter was written he was probably on good

terms with the young Alighieri; but within no great while

afterwards they had discovered that they could not agree,

as is shown by a sonnet in which Cecco can find no words

bad enough for Dante, who has remonstrated with him

about Becchina.† Much later, as we may judge, he again

addresses Dante in an insulting tone, apparently while the

latter was living in exile at the court of Can Grande della
Transcribed Footnote (page 22):

* It may be mentioned (as proving how much of the poetry of

this period still remains in MS.) that Ubaldini, in his Glossary to

Barberino, published in 1640, cites as grammatical examples no

fewer than twenty-two short fragments from Cecco Angiolieri, one

of which alone is to be found among the sonnets which I have seen,

and which I believe are the only ones in print. Ubaldini quotes

them from the Strozzi MSS.

Transcribed Footnote (page 22):

† Of this sonnet I have seen two printed versions, in both of

which the text is so corrupt as to make them very contradictory in

important points; but I believe that by comparing the two I have

given its meaning correctly. (See page 213.)

page: 23

Scala. No other reason can well be assigned for saying

that he had ‘turned Lombard;’ while some of the insolent

allusions seem also to point to the time when Dante learnt

by experience ‘how bitter is another's bread and how steep

the stairs of his house.’
Why Cecco in this sonnet should describe himself as

having become a Roman, is more puzzling. Boccaccio

certainly speaks of his luckless journey to join a Papal legate,

but does not tell us whether fresh clothes and the wisdom of

experience served him in the end to become so far identified

with the Church of Rome. However, from the sonnet on his

father's death he appears (though the allusion is desperately

obscure) to have been then living at an abbey; and also,

from the one mentioned above, we may infer that he himself,

as well as Dante, was forced to sit at the tables of others:

coincidences which almost seem to afford a glimpse of the

phenomenal fact that the bosom of the Church was indeed

for a time the refuge of this shorn lamb. If so, we may

further conjecture that the wonderful crusade-sonnet was an

amende honorable then imposed on him, accompanied pro-

bably with more fleshly penance.
Though nothing indicates the time of Cecco Angiolieri's

death, I will venture to surmise that he outlived the writing

and revision of Dante's Inferno, if only by the token that he

is not found lodged in one of its meaner circles. It is easy

to feel sure that no sympathy can ever have existed for long

between Dante and a man like Cecco; however arrogantly

the latter, in his verses, might attempt to establish a likeness

and even an equality. We may accept the testimony of so

reverent a biographer as Boccaccio, that the Dante of later

years was far other than the silent and awe-struck lover of

the Vita Nuova; but he was still (as he proudly called

himself) ‘the singer of Rectitude,’ and his that ‘indignant

soul’ which made blessed the mother who had born him.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 23):
  • * ‘Alma sdegnosa,
  • Benedetta colei che in te s'incinse!’
( Inferno, C. VIII.)
page: 24
Leaving to his fate (whatever that may have been) the

Scamp of Dante's Circle, I must risk the charge of a con-

firmed taste for slang by describing Guido Orlandi as its

Bore. No other word could present him so fully. Very few

pieces of his exist besides the five I have given. In one of

these,* he rails against his political adversaries; in three,†

falls foul of his brother poets; and in the remaining one,‡

seems somewhat appeased (I think) by a judicious morsel of

flattery. I have already referred to a sonnet of his which is

said to have led to the composition of Guido Cavalcanti's

Canzone on the Nature of Love. He has another sonnet

beginning, ‘Per troppa sottiglianza il fil si rompe,’§ in which

he is certainly enjoying a fling at somebody, and I suspect at

Cavalcanti in rejoinder to the very poem which he himself

had instigated. If so, this stamps him a master-critic of the

deepest initiation. Of his life nothing is recorded; but no

wish perhaps need be felt to know much of him, as one

would probably have dropped his acquaintance. We

may be obliged to him, however, for his character of Guido

Cavalcanti (at page 154) which is boldly and vividly drawn.
Next follow three poets of whom I have given one speci-

men apiece. By Bernardo da Bologna ( page 156) no

other is known to exist, nor can anything be learnt of his

career. Gianni Alfani was a noble and distinguished

Florentine, a much graver man, it would seem, than one

could judge from this sonnet of his ( page 155 ), which belongs

rather to the school of Sir Pandarus of Troy.
Dino Compagni, the chronicler of Florence, is repre-

sented here by a sonnet addressed to Guido Cavalcanti,||

which is all the more interesting, as the same writer's his-
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

* Page 227.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

† Pages 137, 154, 200.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

‡ Page 160.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

§ This sonnet, as printed, has a gap in the middle; let us hope

(in so immaculate a censor) from unfitness for publication.

Transcribed Footnote (page 24):

|| Crescimbeni ( Ist. d. Volg. Poes. ) gives this sonnet from a

MS., where it is headed, ‘To Guido Guinicelli;’ but he surmises,

and I have no doubt correctly, that Cavalcanti is really the person

addressed in it.

page: 25

torical work furnishes so much of the little known about

Guido. Dino, though one of the noblest citizens of Florence,

was devoted to the popular cause, and held successively

various high offices in the state. The date of his birth is

not fixed, but he must have been at least thirty in 1289, as

he was one of the Priori in that year, a post which could not

be held by a younger man. He died at Florence in 1323.

Dino has rather lately assumed for the modern reader a

much more important position than he occupied before among

the early Italian poets. I allude to the valuable discovery,

in the Magliabecchian Library at Florence, of a poem by

him in nona rima containing 309 stanzas. It is entitled

‘L'Intelligenza,’ and is of an allegorical nature interspersed

with historical and legendary abstracts.*
I have placed Lapo Gianni in this my first division on

account of the sonnet by Dante ( page 143 ) in which he seems

undoubtedly to be the Lapo referred to. It has been sup-

posed by some that Lapo degli Uberti (father of Fazio, and

brother-in-law of Guido Cavalcanti) is meant; but this is

hardly possible. Dante and Guido seem to have been in

familiar intercourse with the Lapo of the sonnet at the time

when it and others were written; whereas no Uberti can

have been in Florence after the year 1267, when the Ghibel-

lines were expelled; the Uberti family (as I have mentioned

elsewhere) being the one of all others which was most

jealously kept afar and excluded from every amnesty. The

only information which I can find respecting Lapo Gianni is

the statement that he was a notary by profession. I have

also seen it somewhere asserted (though where I cannot

recollect, and am sure no authority was given) that he was a

cousin of Dante. We may equally infer him to have been

the Lapo mentioned by Dante in his treatise on the Vulgar

Tongue, as being one of the few who up to that time had

written verses in pure Italian.
Transcribed Footnote (page 25):

* See Documents inédits pour servir à l'histoire littéraire de l'Italie,

&c. par
A.F. Ozanam, ( Paris, 1850,) where the poem is printed


page: 26
Dino Frescobaldi's claim to the place given him here

will not be disputed when it is remembered that by his pious

care the seven first cantos of Dante's Hell were restored to

him in exile, after the Casa Alighieri in Florence had been

given up to pillage; by which restoration Dante was enabled

to resume his work. This sounds strange when we reflect

that a world without Dante would almost be a poorer planet.

Meanwhile, beyond this great fact of Dino's life, which

perhaps hardly occupied a day of it, there is no news to be

gleaned of him.
Giotto falls by right into Dante's circle, as one great

man comes naturally to know another. But he is said

actually to have lived in great intimacy with Dante, who

was about twelve years older than himself; Giotto having been

born in or near the year 1276, at Vespignano, fourteen miles

from Florence. He died in 1336, fifteen years after Dante. On

the authority of Benvenuto da Imola, (an early commentator

on the Commedia,) of Vasari, and others, it is said that Dante

visited Giotto while he was painting at Padua; that the great

poet furnished the great painter with the conceptions of a series

of subjects from the Apocalypse, which he painted at Naples;

and that Giotto, finally, passed some time with Dante in the

exile's last refuge at Ravenna. There is a tradition that Dante

also studied drawing with Giotto's master Cimabue; and

that he practised it in some degree is evident from the

passage in the Vita Nuova, where he speaks of his drawing

an angel. The reader will not need to be reminded of

Giotto's portrait of the youthful Dante, painted in the

Bargello at Florence, then the chapel of the Podestà. This

is the author of the Vita Nuova. That other portrait shown

us in the posthumous mask,—a face dead in exile after the

death of hope,—should front the first page of the Sacred

Poem to which Heaven and earth had set their hands; but

which might never bring him back to Florence, though it

had made him haggard for many years.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 26):

  • * ‘Se mai continga che il poema sacro
  • Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra,

page: 27
Giotto's Canzone on the doctrine of voluntary poverty,—

the only poem we have of his,—is a protest against a per-

version of gospel teaching which had gained ground in his

day to the extent of becoming a popular frenzy. People went

literally mad upon it; and to the reaction against this mad-

ness may also be assigned (at any rate partly) Cavalcanti's

poem on Poverty, which, as we have seen, is otherwise not

easily explained, if authentic. Giotto's canzone is all the

more curious when we remember his noble fresco at

Assisi, of Saint Francis wedded to Poverty.* It would

really almost seem as if the poem had been written as a sort

of safety-valve for the painter's true feelings, during the

composition of the picture. At any rate, it affords another

proof of the strong common sense and turn for humour which

all accounts attribute to Giotto.
I have next introduced, as not inappropriate to the series

of poems connected with Dante, Simone dall' Antella's

fine sonnet relating to the last enterprises of Henry of

Luxembourg, and to his then approaching end,—that death-

blow to the Ghibelline hopes which Dante so deeply shared.

This one sonnet is all we know of its author, besides his

Giovanni Quirino is another name which stands for-

lorn of any personal history. Fraticelli (in his well-known

and valuable edition of Dante's Minor Works) says that

there lived about 1250 a bishop of that name, belonging to a

Venetian family. It is true that the tone of the sonnet which

I give (and which is the only one attributed to this author)

seems foreign at least to the confessions of bishops. It might

seem credibly thus ascribed, however, from the fact that

Dante's sonnet probably dates from Ravenna, and that his

correspondent writes from some distance; while the poet
Transcribed Footnote (page 27):

  • Sì che m'ha fatto per più anni macro,
  • Vinca la crudeltà che fuor mi serra,’ &c.
( Parad. C. xxv.)

Transcribed Footnote (page 27):

* See Dante's reverential treatment of this subject, ( Parad.

C. xi.)

page: 28

might well have formed a friendship with a Venetian bishop

at the court of Verona.
For me Quirino's sonnet has great value; as Dante's

answer* to it enables me to wind up this series with the

name of its great chief; and, indeed, with what would almost

seem to have been his last utterance in poetry, at that

supreme juncture when he
  • ‘Slaked in his heart the fervour of desire,’

as at last he neared the very home
  • ‘Of Love which sways the sun and all the stars.’†
I am sorry to see that this necessary introduction to my

first division is longer than I could have wished. Among

the severely-edited books which had to be consulted in form-

ing this collection, I have often suffered keenly from the

buttonholders of learned Italy who will not let one go on

one's way; and have contracted a horror of those editions

where the text, hampered with numerals for reference,

struggles through a few lines at the top of the page, only to

stick fast at the bottom in a slough of verbal analysis. It

would seem unpardonable to make a book which should be

even as these; and I have thus found myself led on to what

I fear forms, by its length, an awkward intermezzo to the

volume, in the hope of saying at once the most of what was

to say; that so the reader may not find himself perpetually

worried with footnotes during the consideration of something

which may require a little peace. The glare of too many tapers

is apt to render a picture confused and inharmonious,

even when their smoke does not obscure or deface it.
Transcribed Footnote (page 28):

* In the case of the above two sonnets, and of all others inter-

changed between two poets, I have thought it best to place them to-

gether among the poems of one or the other correspondent, wherever

they seemed to have most biographical value; and the same with

several epistolary sonnets which have no answer.

Transcribed Footnote (page 28):

† The last line of the Paradise (Cayley's Translation).

page: [29]


In that part of the book of my memory before the

which is little that can be read, there is a rubric,

saying, Incipit Vita Nova .* Under such rubric I find

written many things; and among them the words which

I purpose to copy into this little book; if not all of

them, at the least their substance.
Nine times already since my birth had the heaven of

light returned to the selfsame point almost, as concerns

its own revolution, when first the glorious Lady of my

mind was made manifest to mine eyes; even she who

was called Beatrice by many who knew not wherefore.†

She had already been in this life for so long as that,

within her time, the starry heaven had moved towards
Transcribed Footnote (page [29]):

* ‘Here beginneth the new life.’

Transcribed Footnote (page [29]):

† In reference to the meaning of the name, ‘She who confers

blessing.’ We learn from Boccaccio that this first meeting took

place at a May Feast, given in the year 1274 by Folco Portinari,

father of Beatrice, who ranked among the principal citizens of

Florence: to which feast Dante accompanied his father, Alighiero


page: 30

the Eastern quarter one of the twelve parts of a degree;

so that she appeared to me at the beginning of her

ninth year almost, and I saw her almost at the end of

my ninth year. Her dress, on that day, was of a most

noble colour, a subdued and goodly crimson, girdled

and adorned in such sort as best suited with her very

tender age. At that moment, I say most truly that the

spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest

chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently that

the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in

trembling it said these words: Ecce deus fortior me, qui

veniens dominabitur mihi
.* At that moment the animate

spirit, which dwelleth in the lofty chamber whither all

the senses carry their perceptions, was filled with won-

der, and speaking more especially unto the spirits of

the eyes, said these words: Apparuit jam beatitudo

vestra.† At that moment the natural spirit, which

dwelleth there where our nourishment is administered,

began to weep, and in weeping said these words: Heu

miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps .‡
I say that, from that time forward, Love quite go-

verned my soul; which was immediately espoused to

him, and with so safe and undisputed a lordship, (by

virtue of strong imagination) that I had nothing left for

it but to do all his bidding continually. He oftentimes

commanded me to seek if I might see this youngest
Transcribed Footnote (page 30):

* ‘Here is a deity stronger than I; who, coming, shall rule

over me.’

Transcribed Footnote (page 30):

† ‘Your beatitude hath now been made manifest unto you.’

Transcribed Footnote (page 30):

‡ ‘Woe is me! how often shall I be disturbed from this time


page: 31

of the Angels: wherefore I in my boyhood often went

in search of her, and found her so noble and praise-

worthy that certainly of her might have been said those

words of the poet Homer, ‘She seemed not to be the

daughter of a mortal man, but of God.’* And albeit her

image, that was with me always, was an exultation of

Love to subdue me, it was yet of so perfect a quality

that it never allowed me to be overruled by Love with-

out the faithful counsel of reason, whensoever such

counsel was useful to be heard. But seeing that were

I to dwell overmuch on the passions and doings of such

early youth, my words might be counted something

fabulous, I will therefore put them aside; and passing

many things that may be conceived by the pattern of

these, I will come to such as are writ in my memory

with a better distinctness.
After the lapse of so many days that nine years

exactly were completed since the above-written appear-

ance of this most gracious being, on the last of those

days it happened that the same wonderful lady ap-

peared to me dressed all in pure white, between two

gentle ladies elder than she. And passing through a

street, she turned her eyes thither where I stood sorely

abashed: and by her unspeakable courtesy, which is

now guerdoned in the Great Cycle, she saluted me with

so virtuous a bearing that I seemed then and there to

behold the very limits of blessedness. The hour of her

most sweet salutation was certainly the ninth of that day;
Transcribed Footnote (page 31):
  • * Οὐδὲ ἐῴκει
  • Ἀνδρός γε θνητοϋ παϊς ἔμμεναι, ἀλλὰ θεοϊο.
( Iliad, xxiv. 258.)
page: 32
and because it was the first time that any words from

her reached mine ears, I came into such sweetness that

I parted thence as one intoxicated. And betaking me

to the loneliness of mine own room, I fell to thinking of

this most courteous lady, thinking of whom I was over-

taken by a pleasant slumber, wherein a marvellous vision

was presented to me: for there appeared to be in my room

a mist of the colour of fire, within the which I discerned the

figure of a lord of terrible aspect to such as should gaze

upon him, but who seemed therewithal to rejoice inwardly

that it was a marvel to see. Speaking he said many

things, among the which I could understand but few;

and of these, this: Ego dominus tuus.* In his arms it

seemed to me that a person was sleeping, covered only

with a blood-coloured cloth; upon whom looking very

attentively, I knew that it was the lady of the salutation

who had deigned the day before to salute me. And he

who held her held also in his hand a thing that was burn-

ing in flames; and he said to me, Vide cor tuum.† But

when he had remained with me a little while, I thought

that he set himself to awaken her that slept; after the

which he made her to eat that thing which flamed in

his hand; and she ate as one fearing. Then, having waited

again a space, all his joy was turned into most bitter

weeping; and as he wept he gathered the lady into his

arms, and it seemed to me that he went with her up

towards heaven: whereby such a great anguish came

upon me that my light slumber could not endure

through it, but was suddenly broken. And immediately
Transcribed Footnote (page 32):

* ‘I am thy master.’

Transcribed Footnote (page 32):

† ‘Behold thy heart.’

page: 33
Sig. D

having considered, I knew that the hour wherein this

vision had been made manifest to me was the fourth

hour (which is to say, the first of the nine last hours) of

the night.
Then, musing on what I had seen, I proposed to

relate the same to many poets who were famous in that

day: and for that I had myself in some sort the art of

discoursing with rhyme, I resolved on making a sonnet,

in the which, having saluted all such as are subject

unto Love, and entreated them to expound my vision,

I should write unto them those things which I had seen

in my sleep. And the sonnet I made was this:—
  • To every heart which the sweet pain doth move,
  • And unto which these words may now be brought
  • For true interpretation and kind thought,
  • Be greeting in our Lord's name, which is Love.
  • Of those long hours wherein the stars, above,
  • Wake and keep watch, the third was almost nought
  • When Love was shown me with such terrors fraught
  • As may not carelessly be spoken of.
  • He seem'd like one who is full of joy, and had
  • 10 My heart within his hand, and on his arm
  • My lady, with a mantle round her, slept;
  • Whom (having wakened her) anon he made
  • To eat that heart; she ate, as fearing harm.
  • Then he went out; and as he went, he wept.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first part

I give greeting, and ask an answer; in the second, I signify
page: 34

what thing has to be answered to. The second part com-

mences here: ‘Of those long hours.’
To this sonnet I received many answers, conveying

many different opinions; of the which, one was sent by

him whom I now call the first among my friends, and

it began thus, ‘Unto my thinking thou beheld'st all

worth.’* And indeed, it was when he learned that I was

he who had sent those rhymes to him, that our friendship

commenced. But the true meaning of that vision was

not then perceived by any one, though it be now evident

to the least skilful.
From that night forth, the natural functions of my

body began to be vexed and impeded, for I was given

up wholly to thinking of this most gracious creature:

whereby in short space I became so weak and so re-

duced that it was irksome to many of my friends to look

upon me; while others, being moved by spite, went

about to discover what it was my wish should be con-

cealed. Wherefore I, (perceiving the drift of their un-

kindly questions,) by Love's will, who directed me

according to the counsels of reason, told them how it

was Love himself who had thus dealt with me: and I

said so, because the thing was so plainly to be discerned

in my countenance that there was no longer any means

of concealing it. But when they went on to ask, ‘And

by whose help hath Love done this?’ I looked in their

faces smiling, and spake no word in return.
Transcribed Footnote (page 34):

* The friend of whom Dante here speaks was Guido Cavalcanti.

For his answer, and those of Cino da Pistoia and Dante da Maiano,

see their poems further on.

page: 35
Now it fell on a day, that this most gracious crea-

ture was sitting where words were to be heard of the

Queen of Glory;* and I was in a place whence mine

eyes could behold their beatitude: and betwixt her and

me, in a direct line, there sat another lady of a pleasant

favour; who looked round at me many times, marvelling

at my continued gaze which seemed to have her for its

object. And many perceived that she thus looked; so

that departing thence, I heard it whispered after me,

‘Look you to what a pass such a lady hath brought

him;’ and in saying this they named her who had been

midway between the most gentle Beatrice and mine

eyes. Therefore I was reassured, and knew that for

that day my secret had not become manifest. Then

immediately it came into my mind that I might make

use of this lady as a screen to the truth: and so well

did I play my part that the most of those who had

hitherto watched and wondered at me, now imagined

they had found me out. By her means I kept my secret

concealed till some years were gone over; and for my

better security, I even made divers rhymes in her

honour; whereof I shall here write only as much as

concerneth the most gentle Beatrice, which is but a very

little. Moreover, about the same time while this lady

was a screen for so much love on my part, I took the

resolution to set down the name of this most gracious

creature accompanied with many other women's names,

and especially with hers whom I spake of. And to this

end I put together the names of sixty the most beau-
Transcribed Footnote (page 35):

* i.e. in a church.

page: 36

tiful ladies in that city where God had placed mine own

lady; and these names I introduced in an epistle in the

form of a sirvent, which it is not my intention to tran-

scribe here. Neither should I have said anything of

this matter, did I not wish to take note of a certain

strange thing, to wit: that having written the list, I

found my lady's name would not stand otherwise than

ninth in order among the names of these ladies.
Now it so chanced with her by whose means I had

thus long time concealed my desire, that it behoved her

to leave the city I speak of, and to journey afar: where-

fore I, being sorely perplexed at the loss of so excellent

a defence, had more trouble than even I could before

have supposed. And thinking that if I spoke not some-

what mournfully of her departure, my former counter-

feiting would be the more quickly perceived, I deter-

mined that I would make a grievous sonnet* thereof;

the which I will write here, because it hath certain

words in it whereof my lady was the immediate cause,

as will be plain to him that understands. And the

sonnet was this:—
  • All ye that pass along Love's trodden way,
  • Pause ye awhile and say
  • If there be any grief like unto mine:
Transcribed Footnote (page 36):

* It will be observed that this poem is not what we now call a

sonnet. Its structure, however, is analogous to that of the sonnet,

being two sextetts followed by two quattrains, instead of two quat-

trains followed by two triplets. Dante applies the term sonnet to both

these forms of composition, and to no other.

page: 37
  • I pray you that you hearken a short space
  • Patiently, if my case
  • Be not a piteous marvel and a sign.
  • Love (never, certes, for my worthless part,
  • But of his own great heart,)
  • Vouchsafed to me a life so calm and sweet
  • 10That oft I heard folk question as I went
  • What such great gladness meant:—
  • They spoke of it behind me in the street.
  • But now that fearless bearing is all gone
  • Which with Love's hoarded wealth was given me;
  • Till I am grown to be
  • So poor that I have dread to think thereon.
  • And thus it is that I, being like as one
  • Who is ashamed and hides his poverty,
  • Without seem full of glee,
  • 20And let my heart within travail and moan.
This poem has two principal parts; for, in the first,

I mean to call the Faithful of Love in those words of

Jeremias the Prophet,
‘O vos omnes qui transitis per

viam, attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus,’ and

to pray them to stay and hear me. In the second I tell

where Love had placed me, with a meaning other than that

which the last part of the poem shows, and I say what I

have lost. The second part begins here: ‘Love, (never,

page: 38
A certain while after the departure of that lady, it

pleased the Master of the Angels to call into His glory a

damsel, young and of a gentle presence, who had been

very lovely in the city I speak of: and I saw her body

lying without its soul among many ladies, who held a

pitiful weeping. Whereupon, remembering that I had

seen her in the company of excellent Beatrice, I could

not hinder myself from a few tears; and weeping, I con-

ceived to say somewhat of her death, in guerdon of

having seen her somewhile with my lady; which thing I

spake of in the latter end of the verses that I writ in this

matter, as he will discern who understands. And I wrote

two sonnets, which are these:—
  • Weep, Lovers, sith Love's very self doth weep,
  • And sith the cause for weeping is so great;
  • When now so many dames, of such estate
  • In worth, show with their eyes a grief so deep:
  • For Death the churl has laid his leaden sleep
  • Upon a damsel who was fair of late,
  • Defacing all our earth should celebrate,—
  • Yea all save virtue, which the soul doth keep.
  • Now hearken how much Love did honour her.
  • 10 I myself saw him in his proper form
  • Bending above the motionless sweet dead,
  • And often gazing into Heaven; for there
  • The soul now sits which when her life was warm
  • Dwelt with the joyful beauty that is fled.
page: 39
This first sonnet is divided into three parts. In the first,

I call and beseech the Faithful of Love to weep; and I say

that their Lord weeps, and that they, hearing the reason

why he weeps, shall be more minded to listen to me. In the

second, I relate this reason. In the third, I speak of honour

done by Love to this Lady. The second part begins here,

‘When now so many dames;’ the third here, ‘Now

  • Death, alway cruel, Pity's foe in chief,
  • Mother who brought forth grief,
  • Merciless judgment and without appeal!
  • Since thou alone hast made my heart to feel
  • This sadness and unweal,
  • My tongue upbraideth thee without relief.
  • And now (for I must rid thy name of ruth)
  • Behoves me speak the truth
  • Touching thy cruelty and wickedness:
  • 10 Not that they be not known; but ne'ertheless
  • I would give hate more stress
  • With them that feed on love in very sooth.
  • Out of this world thou hast driven courtesy,
  • And virtue, dearly prized in womanhood;
  • And out of youth's gay mood
  • The lovely lightness is quite gone through thee
  • Whom now I mourn, no man shall learn from me
  • Save by the measures of these praises given.
  • page: 40
  • Whoso deserves not Heaven
  • 20May never hope to have her company.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 40):

* The commentators assert that the last two lines here do not

allude to the dead lady, but to Beatrice. This would make the

poem very clumsy in construction; yet there must be some covert

allusion to Beatrice, as Dante himself intimates. The only form in

which I can trace it consists in the implied assertion that such person

as had enjoyed the dead lady's society was worthy of heaven, and

that person was Beatrice. Or indeed the allusion to Beatrice might

be in the first poem, where he says that Love ‘ in forma vera’ (that

is, Beatrice,) mourned over the corpse; as he afterwards says of

Beatrice, ‘ Quella ha nome Amor.’ Most probably both allusions are


This poem is divided into four parts. In the first I

address Death by certain proper names of hers. In the

second, speaking to her, I tell the reason why I am moved to

denounce her. In the third, I rail against her. In the

fourth, I turn to speak to a person undefined, although defined

in my own conception. The second part commences here,

‘Since thou alone;’ the third here, ‘And now (for I must);’

the fourth here, ‘Whoso deserves not.’
Some days after the death of this lady, I had occasion

to leave the city I speak of, and to go thitherwards where

she abode who had formerly been my protection; albeit

the end of my journey reached not altogether so far.

And notwithstanding that I was visibly in the company

of many, the journey was so irksome that I had scarcely

sighing enough to ease my heart's heaviness; seeing that

as I went, I left my beatitude behind me. Wherefore

it came to pass that he who ruled me by virtue of my

most gentle lady was made visible to my mind, in the
page: 41

light habit of a traveller, coarsely fashioned. He ap-

peared to me troubled, and looked always on the ground;

saving only that sometimes his eyes were turned towards

a river which was clear and rapid, and which flowed

along the path I was taking. And then I thought that

Love called me and said to me these words: ‘I come

from that lady who was so long thy surety; for the

matter of whose return, I know that it may not be.

Wherefore I have taken that heart which I made thee

leave with her, and do bear it unto another lady, who, as

she was, shall be thy surety;’ (and when he named her,

I knew her well.) ‘And of these words I have spoken,

if thou shouldst speak any again, let it be in such sort as

that none shall perceive thereby that thy love was feigned

for her, which thou must now feign for another.’ And when

he had spoken thus, all my imagining was gone suddenly,

for it seemed to me that Love became a part of myself:

so that, changed as it were in mine aspect, I rode on full

of thought the whole of that day, and with heavy sighing.

And the day being over, I wrote this sonnet:—
  • A day agone, as I rode sullenly
  • Upon a certain path that liked me not,
  • I met Love midway while the air was hot,
  • Clothed lightly as a wayfarer might be.
  • And for the cheer he showed, he seemed to me
  • As one who hath lost lordship he had got;
  • Advancing tow'rds me full of sorrowful thought,
  • Bowing his forehead so that none should see.
  • Then as I went, he called me by my name,
  • page: 42
  • 10 Saying: ‘I journey since the morn was dim
  • Thence where I made thy heart to be: which now
  • I needs must bear unto another dame.’
  • Wherewith so much passed into me of him
  • That he was gone, and I discerned not how.
This sonnet has three parts. In the first part, I tell how

I met Love, and of his aspect. In the second, I tell what

he said to me, although not in full, through the fear I had

of discovering my secret. In the third, I say how he dis-

appeared. The second part commences here, ‘Then as I

went;’ the third here, ‘Wherewith so much.’
On my return, I set myself to seek out that lady whom

my master had named to me while I journeyed sighing.

And because I would be brief, I will now narrate that in

a short while I made her my surety, in such sort

that the matter was spoken of by many in terms scarcely

courteous; through the which I had oftenwhiles many

troublesome hours. And by this it happened (to

wit: by this false and evil rumour which seemed to mis-

fame me of vice) that she who was the destroyer of all evil

and the queen of all good, coming where I was, denied

me her most sweet salutation, in the which alone was my

And here it is fitting for me to depart a little from

this present matter, that it may be rightly understood of

what surpassing virtue her salutation was to me. To the

which end I say that when she appeared in any place, it

seemed to me, by the hope of her excellent salutation,

that there was no man mine enemy any longer; and such
page: 43

warmth of charity came upon me that most certainly in

that moment I would have pardoned whosoever had

done me an injury; and if one should then have ques-

tioned me concerning any matter, I could only have said

unto him ‘Love,’ with a countenance clothed in humble-

ness. And what time she made ready to salute me, the

spirit of Love, destroying all other perceptions, thrust forth

the feeble spirits of my eyes, saying, ‘Do homage unto

your mistress,’ and putting itself in their place to obey:

so that he who would, might then have beheld Love,

beholding the lids of mine eyes shake. And when this

most gentle lady gave her salutation, Love, so far from

being a medium beclouding mine intolerable beatitude,

then bred in me such an overpowering sweetness that my

body, being all subjected thereto, remained many times

helpless and passive. Whereby it is made manifest that

in her salutation alone was there any beatitude for me,

which then very often went beyond my endurance.
And now, resuming my discourse, I will go on to

relate that when, for the first time, this beatitude was

denied me, I became possessed with such grief that,

parting myself from others, I went into a lonely place to

bathe the ground with most bitter tears: and when, by

this heat of weeping, I was somewhat relieved, I betook

myself to my chamber, where I could lament unheard.

And there, having prayed to the Lady of all Mercies,

and having said also, ‘O Love, aid thou thy servant;’ I

went suddenly asleep like a beaten sobbing child. And

in my sleep, towards the middle of it, I seemed to see in

the room, seated at my side, a youth in very white rai-
page: 44

ment, who kept his eyes fixed on me in deep thought.

And when he had gazed some time, I thought that he

sighed and called to me in these words: ‘ Fili mi, tempus

est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra .’* And thereupon

I seemed to know him; for the voice was the same

wherewith he had spoken at other times in my sleep.

Then looking at him, I perceived that he was weeping

piteously, and that he seemed to be waiting for me to

speak. Wherefore, taking heart, I began thus: ‘Why

weepest thou, Master of all honour?’ And he made

answer to me: ‘ Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili

modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic .’†

And thinking upon his words, they seemed to me

obscure; so that again compelling myself unto speech, I

asked of him: ‘What thing is this, Master, that thou

hast spoken thus darkly?’ To the which he made

answer in the vulgar tongue: ‘Demand no more than may

be useful to thee.’ Whereupon I began to discourse with
Transcribed Footnote (page 44):

* ‘My son, it is time for us to lay aside our counterfeiting.’

Transcribed Footnote (page 44):

† ‘I am as the centre of a circle, to the which all parts of

the circumference bear an equal relation: but with thee it is not

thus.’ This phrase seems to have remained as obscure to commen-

tators as Dante found it at the moment. No one, as far as I know,

has even fairly tried to find a meaning for it. To me the following

appears a not unlikely one. Love is weeping on Dante's account,

and not on his own. He says, ‘I am the centre of a circle ( Amor

che muove il sole e le altre stelle): therefore all loveable objects,

whether in heaven or earth, or any part of the circle's circumference,

are equally near to me. Not so thou, who wilt one day lose Beatrice

when she goes to heaven.’ The phrase would thus contain an inti-

mation of the death of Beatrice, accounting for Dante being next told

not to inquire the meaning of the speech,—‘Demand no more than

may be useful to thee.’

page: 45

him concerning her salutation which she had denied me;

and when I had questioned him of the cause, he said

these words: ‘Our Beatrice hath heard from certain

persons, that the lady whom I named to thee while thou

journeyedst full of sighs, is sorely disquieted by thy

solicitations: and therefore this most gracious creature,

who is the enemy of all disquiet, being fearful of such

disquiet, refused to salute thee. For the which reason

(albeit, in very sooth, thy secret must needs have become

known to her by familiar observation) it is my will that

thou compose certain things in rhyme, in the which thou

shalt set forth how strong a mastership I have obtained

over thee, through her; and how thou wast hers even

from thy childhood. Also do thou call upon him that

knoweth these things to bear witness to them, bidding

him to speak with her thereof; the which I, who am he,

will do willingly. And thus she shall be made to know

thy desire; knowing which, she shall know likewise that

they were deceived who spake of thee to her. And so

write these things, that they shall seem rather to be

spoken by a third person; and not directly by thee to

her, which is scarce fitting. After the which, send them,

not without me, where she may chance to hear them;

but have fitted them with a pleasant music, into

the which I will pass whensoever it needeth.’ With

this speech he was away, and my sleep was broken

Whereupon, remembering me, I knew that I had

beheld this vision during the ninth hour of the day; and

I resolved that I would make a ditty, before I left my
page: 46

chamber, according to the words my master had spoken.

And this is the ditty that I made:—
  • Song, 'tis my will that thou do seek out Love,
  • And go with him where my dear lady is;
  • That so my cause, the which thy harmonies
  • Do plead, his better speech may clearly prove.
  • Thou goest, my Song, in such a courteous kind,
  • That even companionless
  • Thou may'st rely on thyself anywhere.
  • And yet, an' thou wouldst get thee a safe mind,
  • First unto Love address
  • 10Thy steps; whose aid, mayhap, 'twere ill to spare:
  • Seeing that she to whom thou mak'st thy prayer
  • Is, as I think, ill-minded unto me,
  • And that if Love do not companion thee,
  • Thou'lt have perchance small cheer to tell me of.
  • With a sweet accent, when thou com'st to her,
  • Begin thou in these words,
  • First having craved a gracious audience:
  • ‘He who hath sent me as his messenger,
  • Lady, thus much records,
  • 20 An thou but suffer him, in his defence.
  • Love, who comes with me, by thine influence
  • Can make this man do as it liketh him:
  • Wherefore, if this fault is or doth but seem
  • Do thou conceive: for his heart cannot move.’
page: 47
  • Say to her also: ‘Lady, his poor heart
  • Is so confirmed in faith
  • That all its thoughts are but of serving thee:
  • 'Twas early thine, and could not swerve apart.’
  • Then, if she wavereth,
  • 30 Bid her ask Love, who knows if these things be.
  • And in the end, beg of her modestly
  • To pardon so much boldness: saying too:—
  • ‘If thou declare his death to be thy due,
  • The thing shall come to pass, as doth behove.’
    Note: The indentation of line 31 is a typographical error carried over from the 1861 edition. In the other stanzas the seventh line is always aligned with the sixth, and in 1911 this line conforms to that same pattern.
  • Then pray thou of the Master of all ruth,
  • Before thou leave her there,
  • That he befriend my cause and plead it well.
  • ‘In guerdon of my sweet rhymes and my truth’
  • (Entreat him) ‘stay with her;
  • 40 Let not the hope of thy poor servant fail;
  • And if with her thy pleading should prevail,
  • Let her look on him and give peace to him.’
  • Gentle my Song, if good to thee it seem,
  • Do this: so worship shall be thine and love.
This ditty is divided into three parts. In the first, I tell

it whither to go, and I encourage it, that it may go the more

confidently, and I tell it whose company to join if it would

go with confidence and without any danger. In the second,

I say that which it behoves the ditty to set forth. In the

third, I give it leave to start when it pleases, recommending

its course to the arms of Fortune. The second part begins

here, ‘With a sweet accent;’ the third here, ‘Gentle my
page: 48

Song.’ Some might contradict me, and say that they under-

stand not whom I address in the second person, seeing that

the ditty is merely the very words I am speaking. And

therefore I say that this doubt I intend to solve and clear up

in this little book itself, at a more difficult passage, and then

let him understand who now doubts, or would now contra-

dict as aforesaid.
After this vision I have recorded, and having written

those words which Love had dictated to me, I began to

be harassed with many and divers thoughts, by each of

which I was sorely tempted; and in especial, there were

four among them that left me no rest. The first was

this: ‘Certainly the lordship of Love is good; seeing

that it diverts the mind from all mean things.’ The

second was this: ‘Certainly the lordship of Love is

evil; seeing that the more homage his servants pay to

him, the more grievous and painful are the torments

wherewith he torments them.’ The third was this: ‘The

name of Love is so sweet in the hearing that it would

not seem possible for its effects to be other than sweet;

seeing that the name must needs be like unto the thing

named: as it is written: Nomina sunt consequentia

rerum.’* And the fourth was this: ‘The lady whom

Love hath chosen out to govern thee is not as other

ladies, whose hearts are easily moved.’
And by each one of these thoughts I was so sorely

assailed that I was like unto him who doubteth which

path to take, and wishing to go, goeth not. And if I

bethought myself to seek out some point at the which all
Transcribed Footnote (page 48):

* ‘Names are the consequents of things.’

page: 49
Sig. E

these paths might be found to meet, I discerned but one

way, and that irked me; to wit, to call upon Pity, and

to commend myself unto her. And it was then that,

feeling a desire to write somewhat thereof in rhyme, I

wrote this sonnet:—
  • All my thoughts always speak to me of Love,
  • Yet have between themselves such difference
  • That while one bids me bow with mind and sense,
  • A second saith, ‘Go to: look thou above;’
  • The third one, hoping, yields me joy enough;
  • And with the last come tears, I scarce know whence:
  • All of them craving pity in sore suspense,
  • Trembling with fears that the heart knoweth of.
  • And thus, being all unsure which path to take,
  • 10 Wishing to speak I know not what to say,
  • And lose myself in amorous wanderings:
  • Until, (my peace with all of them to make,)
  • Unto mine enemy I needs must pray,
  • My lady Pity, for the help she brings.
This sonnet may be divided into four parts. In the

first, I say and propound that all my thoughts are concern-

ing Love. In the second, I say that they are diverse, and I

relate their diversity. In the third, I say wherein they all

seem to agree. In the fourth, I say that, wishing to speak

of Love, I know not from which of these thoughts to take my

argument; and that if I would take it from all, I shall

have to call upon mine enemy, my Lady Pity. ‘Lady’ I

say as in a scornful mode of speech. The second begins
page: 50

here, ‘Yet have between themselves;’ the third, ‘All of

them craving;’ the fourth, ‘And thus.’
After this battling with many thoughts, it chanced on

a day that my most gracious lady was with a gathering of

ladies in a certain place; to the which I was conducted

by a friend of mine; he thinking to do me a great

pleasure by showing me the beauty of so many women.

Then I, hardly knowing whereunto he conducted me, but

trusting in him (who yet was leading his friend to the last

verge of life), made question: ‘To what end are we come

among these ladies?’ and he answered: ‘To the end

that they may be worthily served.’ And they were

assembled around a gentlewoman who was given in

marriage on that day; the custom of the city being

that these should bear her company when she sat down

for the first time at table in the house of her husband.

Therefore I, as was my friend's pleasure, resolved to stay

with him and do honour to those ladies.
Note: Someone, perhaps Ellen Terry, has penciled a vertical line in the margin from the paragraph beginning “But as soon as” and continuing to the end of the sonnet on page 52.
But as soon as I had thus resolved, I began to feel a

faintness and a throbbing at my left side, which soon took

possession of my whole body. Whereupon I remember

that I covertly leaned my back unto a painting that ran

round the walls of that house; and being fearful lest my

trembling should be discerned of them, I lifted mine eyes

to look on those ladies, and then first perceived among

them the excellent Beatrice. And when I perceived her,

all my senses were overpowered by the great lordship

that Love obtained, finding himself so near unto that

most gracious being, until nothing but the spirits of sight

remained to me; and even these remained driven out of
page: 51

their own instruments because Love entered in that

honoured place of theirs, that so he might the better

behold her. And although I was other than at first, I

grieved for the spirits so expelled which kept up a sore

lament, saying: ‘If he had not in this wise thrust us

forth, we also should behold the marvel of this lady.’ By

this, many of her friends, having discerned my confusion,

began to wonder; and together with herself, kept whis-

pering of me and mocking me. Whereupon my friend,

who knew not what to conceive, took me by the hands,

and drawing me forth from among them, required to know

what ailed me. Then, having first held me at quiet for a

space until my perceptions were come back to me, I

made answer to my friend: ‘Of a surety I have now set

my feet on that point of life, beyond the which he must

not pass who would return.’*
Afterwards, leaving him, I went back to the room

where I had wept before; and again weeping and

ashamed, said: ‘If this lady but knew of my condition,

I do not think that she would thus mock at me; nay, I

am sure that she must needs feel some pity.’ And in my

weeping I bethought me to write certain words, in the

which, speaking to her, I should signify the occasion of
Transcribed Footnote (page 51):

* It is difficult not to connect Dante's agony at this wedding-

feast with our knowledge that in her twenty-first year Beatrice was

wedded to Simone de' Bardi. That she herself was the bride on

this occasion might seem out of the question, from the fact of its not

being in any way so stated: but on the other hand, Dante's silence

throughout the Vita Nuova as regards her marriage (which must

have brought deep sorrow even to his ideal love) is so startling, that

we might almost be led to conceive in this passage the only intimation

of it which he thought fit to give.

page: 52

my disfigurement, telling her also how I knew that she

had no knowledge thereof: which, if it were known, I was

certain must move others to pity. And then, because I

hoped that peradventure it might come into her hearing,

I wrote this sonnet.
  • Even as the others mock, thou mockest me;
  • Not dreaming, noble lady, whence it is
  • That I am taken with strange semblances,
  • Seeing thy face which is so fair to see:
  • For else, compassion would not suffer thee
  • To grieve my heart with such harsh scoffs as these.
  • Lo! Love, when thou art present, sits at ease,
  • And bears his mastership so mightily,
  • That all my troubled senses he thrusts out,
  • 10 Sorely tormenting some, and slaying some,
  • Till none but he is left and has free range
  • To gaze on thee. This makes my face to change
  • Into another's; while I stand all dumb,
  • And hear my senses clamour in their rout.
This sonnet I divide not into parts, because a division

is only made to open the meaning of the thing divided: and

this, as it is sufficiently manifest through the reasons given,

has no need of division. True it is that, amid the words

whereby is shown the occasion of this sonnet, dubious words

are to be found; namely, when I say that Love kills all my

spirits, but that the visual remain in life, only outside of

their own instruments. And this difficulty it is impossible

for any to solve who is not in equal guise liege unto Love;
page: 53

and, to those who are so, that is manifest which would clear

up the dubious words. And therefore it were not well for

me to expound this difficulty, inasmuch as my speaking would

be either fruitless or else superfluous.
A while after this strange disfigurement, I became

possessed with a strong conception which left me but

very seldom, and then to return quickly. And it was

this: ‘Seeing that thou comest into such scorn by the

companionship of this lady, wherefore seekest thou to

behold her? If she should ask thee this thing, what

answer couldst thou make unto her? yea, even though

thou wert master of all thy faculties, and in no way

hindered from answering.’ Unto the which, another

very humble thought said in reply: ‘If I were master

of all my faculties, and in no way hindered from an-

swering, I would tell her that no sooner do I image to

myself her marvellous beauty than I am possessed with

the desire to behold her, the which is of so great strength

that it kills and destroys in my memory all those things

which might oppose it; and it is therefore that the great

anguish I have endured thereby is yet not enough to re-

strain me from seeking to behold her.’ And then, because

of these thoughts, I resolved to write somewhat, wherein,

having pleaded mine excuse, I should tell her of what I

felt in her presence. Whereupon I wrote this sonnet:—
  • The thoughts are broken in my memory,
  • Thou lovely Joy, whene'er I see thy face;
  • When thou art near me, Love fills up the space,
  • Often repeating, ‘If death irk thee, fly.
  • page: 54
  • My face shows my heart's colour, verily,
  • Which, fainting, seeks for any leaning-place;
  • Till, in the drunken terror of disgrace,
  • The very stones seem to be shrieking, ‘Die!’
  • It were a grievous sin, if one should not
  • 10 Strive then to comfort my bewildered mind
  • (Though merely with a simple pitying)
  • For the great anguish which thy scorn has wrought
  • In the dead sight o' the eyes grown nearly blind,
  • Which look for death as for a blessed thing.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I

tell the cause why I abstain not from coming to this lady.

In the second, I tell what befalls me through coming to her;

and this part begins here, ‘When thou art near.’ And

also this second part divides into five distinct statements.

For, in the first, I say what Love, counselled by Reason,

tells me when I am near the lady. In the second, I set forth

the state of my heart by the example of the face. In the

third, I say how all ground of trust fails me. In the

fourth, I say that he sins who shows not pity of me, which

would give me some comfort. In the last, I say why

people should take pity; namely, for the piteous look which

comes into mine eyes; which piteous look is destroyed, that

is, appeareth not unto others, through the jeering of this

lady, who draws to the like action those who perad-

venture would see this piteousness. The second part

begins here, ‘My face shows;’ the third, ‘Till, in the

drunken terror;’ the fourth, ‘It were a grievous sin;’ the

fifth, ‘For the great anguish.’
page: 55
Thereafter, this sonnet bred in me desire to write

down in verse four other things touching my condition,

the which things it seemed to me that I had not yet

made manifest. The first among these was the grief

that possessed me very often, remembering the strange-

ness which Love wrought in me; the second was, how

Love many times assailed me so suddenly and with such

strength that I had no other life remaining except a

thought which spake of my lady: the third was, how,

when Love did battle with me in this wise, I would rise

up all colourless, if so I might see my lady, conceiving

that the sight of her would defend me against the assault

of Love, and altogether forgetting that which her pre-

sence brought unto me; and the fourth was, how, when

I saw her, the sight not only defended me not, but took

away the little life that remained to me. And I said

these four things in a sonnet, which is this:—
  • At whiles (yea oftentimes) I muse over
  • The quality of anguish that is mine
  • Through Love: then pity makes my voice to pine,
  • Saying, ‘Is any else thus, anywhere?’
  • Love smiteth me, whose strength is ill to bear;
  • So that of all my life is left no sign
  • Except one thought; and that, because 'tis thine,
  • Leaves not the body but abideth there.
  • And then if I, whom other aid forsook,
  • 10 Would aid myself, and innocent of art
  • Would fain have sight of thee as a last hope,
  • No sooner do I lift mine eyes to look
  • page: 56
  • Than the blood seems as shaken from my heart,
  • And all my pulses beat at once and stop.
This sonnet is divided into four parts, four things being

therein narrated; and as these are set forth above, I only

proceed to distinguish the parts by their beginnings. Where-

fore I say that the second part begins, ‘Love smiteth me;’

the third, ‘And then if I;’ the fourth, ‘No sooner do I

After I had written these three last sonnets, wherein

I spake unto my lady, telling her almost the whole of

my condition, it seemed to me that I should be silent,

having said enough concerning myself. But albeit I

spake not to her again, yet it behoved me afterward to

write of another matter, more noble than the foregoing.

And for that the occasion of what I then wrote may

be found pleasant in the hearing, I will relate it as briefly

as I may.
Through the sore change in mine aspect, the secret

of my heart was now understood of many. Which

thing being thus, there came a day when certain ladies

to whom it was well known (they having been with me

at divers times in my trouble) were met together for the

pleasure of gentle company. And as I was going that

way by chance, (but I think rather by the will of fortune,)

I heard one of them call unto me, and she that called

was a lady of very sweet speech. And when I had

come close up with them, and perceived that they had

not among them mine excellent lady, I was reassured;

and saluted them, asking of their pleasure. The ladies
page: 57

were many; divers of whom were laughing one to an-

other, while divers gazed at me as though I should speak

anon. But when I still spake not, one of them, who

before had been talking with another, addressed me by

my name, saying, ‘To what end lovest thou this lady,

seeing that thou canst not support her presence? Now

tell us this thing, that we may know it: for certainly the

end of such a love must be worthy of knowledge.’ And

when she had spoken these words, not she only, but all

they that were with her, began to observe me, waiting

for my reply. Whereupon, I said thus unto them:—

‘Ladies, the end and aim of my Love was but the salu-

tation of that lady of whom I conceive that ye are

speaking; wherein alone I found that beatitude which

is the goal of desire. And now that it hath pleased her

to deny me this, Love, my Master, of his great goodness,

hath placed all my beatitude there where my hope will

not fail me.’ Then those ladies began to talk closely

together; and as I have seen snow fall among the rain,

so was their talk mingled with sighs. But after a little,

that lady who had been the first to address me, addressed

me again in these words: ‘We pray thee that thou wilt

tell us wherein abideth this thy beatitude.’ And answer-

ing, I said but thus much: ‘In those words that do

praise my lady.’ To the which she rejoined, ‘If thy

speech were true, those words that thou didst write

concerning thy condition would have been written with

another intent.’
Then I, being almost put to shame because of her

answer, went out from among them; and as I walked,
page: 58
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin including all of page 58 and continuing to the end of the poem on page 61. The phrase “Ladies that have intelligence in love” and the sentence following receive special emphasis.

I said within myself: ‘Seeing that there is so much

beatitude in those words which do praise my lady,

wherefore hath my speech of her been different?’ And

then I resolved that thenceforward I would choose for

the theme of my writings only the praise of this most

gracious being. But when I had thought exceedingly,

it seemed to me that I had taken to myself a theme

which was much too lofty, so that I dared not begin;

and I remained during several days in the desire of

speaking, and the fear of beginning. After which it hap-

pened, as I passed one day along a path which lay

beside a stream of very clear water, that there came

upon me a great desire to say somewhat in rhyme; but

when I began thinking how I should say it, methought

that to speak of her were unseemly, unless I spoke to

other ladies in the second person; which is to say, not

to any other ladies; but only to such as are so called

because they are gentle, let alone for mere womanhood.

Whereupon I declare that my tongue spake as though

by its own impulse, and said, ‘Ladies that have intel-

ligence in love.’ These words I laid up in my mind

with great gladness, conceiving to take them as my com-

mencement. Wherefore, having returned to the city

I spake of, and considered thereof during certain days,

I began a poem with this beginning, constructed in the

mode which will be seen below in its division. The

poem begins here:—
  • Ladies that have intelligence in love,
  • Of mine own lady I would speak with you;
  • page: 59
  • Not that I hope to count her praises through,
  • But telling what I may, to ease my mind.
  • And I declare that when I speak thereof,
  • Love sheds such perfect sweetness over me
  • That if my courage failed not, certainly
  • To him my listeners must be all resign'd.
  • Wherefore I will not speak in such large kind
  • 10That mine own speech should foil me, which were base;
  • But only will discourse of her high grace
  • In these poor words, the best that I can find,
  • With you alone, dear dames and damozels:
  • 'Twere ill to speak thereof with any else.
  • An Angel, of his blessed knowledge, saith
  • To God: ‘Lord, in the world that Thou hast made,
  • A miracle in action is display'd,
  • By reason of a soul whose splendors fare
  • Even hither: and since Heaven requireth
  • 20 Nought saving her, for her it prayeth Thee,
  • Thy Saints crying aloud continually.’
  • Yet Pity still defends our earthly share
  • In that sweet soul; God answering thus the prayer:
  • ‘My well-belovèd, suffer that in peace
  • Your hope remain, while so My pleasure is,
  • There where one dwells who dreads the loss of her;
  • And who in Hell unto the doomed shall say,
  • ‘I have looked on that for which God's chosen pray.’
  • My lady is desired in the high Heaven:
  • 30 Wherefore, it now behoveth me to tell,
  • page: 60
  • Saying: Let any maid that would be well
  • Esteemed keep with her: for as she goes by,
  • Into foul hearts a deathly chill is driven
  • By Love, that makes ill thought to perish there;
  • While any who endures to gaze on her
  • Must either be made noble, or else die.
  • When one deserving to be raised so high
  • Is found, 'tis then her power attains its proof,
  • Making his heart strong for his soul's behoof
  • 40 With the full strength of meek humility.
  • Also this virtue owns she, by God's will:
  • Who speaks with her can never come to ill.
  • Love saith concerning her: ‘How chanceth it
  • That flesh, which is of dust, should be thus pure?’
  • Then, gazing always, he makes oath: ‘Forsure,
  • This is a creature of God till now unknown.’
  • She hath that paleness of the pearl that's fit
  • In a fair woman, so much and not more;
  • She is as high as Nature's skill can soar;
  • 50 Beauty is tried by her comparison.
  • Whatever her sweet eyes are turned upon,
  • Spirits of love do issue thence in flame,
  • Which through their eyes who then may look on them
  • Pierce to the heart's deep chamber every one.
  • And in her smile Love's image you may see;
  • Whence none can gaze upon her steadfastly.
  • Dear Song, I know thou wilt hold gentle speech
  • With many ladies, when I send thee forth:
  • page: 61
  • Wherefore, (being mindful that thou hadst thy birth
  • 60 From Love, and art a modest, simple child,)
  • Whomso thou meetest, say thou this to each:
  • ‘Give me good speed! To her I wend along
  • In whose much strength my weakness is made strong.’
  • And if, i' the end, thou wouldst not be beguiled
  • Of all thy labour, seek not the defiled
  • And common sort; but rather choose to be
  • Where man and woman dwell in courtesy.
  • So to the road thou shalt be reconciled,
  • And find the lady, and with the lady, Love.
  • 70Commend thou me to each, as doth behove.
This poem, that it may be better understood, I will

divide more subtly than the others preceding; and therefore

I will make three parts of it. The first part is a proem to

the words following. The second is the matter treated of.

The third is, as it were, a handmaid to the preceding words.

The second begins here, ‘An angel;’ the third here, ‘Dear

Song, I know.’ The first part is divided into four. In

the first, I say to whom I mean to speak of my lady, and

wherefore I will so speak. In the second, I say what she

appears to myself to be when I reflect upon her excellence,

and what I would utter if I lost not courage. In the third,

I say what it is I purpose to speak, so as not to be impeded

by faintheartedness. In the fourth, repeating to whom I

purpose speaking, I tell the reason why I speak to them.

The second begins here, ‘And I declare;’ the third here,

‘Wherefore I will not speak;’ the fourth here, ‘With you

alone.’ Then, when I say ‘An Angel,’ I begin treating of
page: 62

this lady: and this part is divided into two. In the first,

I tell what is understood of her in heaven. In the second,

I tell what is understood of her on earth: here, ‘My lady

is desired.’ This second part is divided into two; for, in

the first, I speak of her as regards the nobleness of her soul,

relating some of her virtues proceeding from her soul; in the

second, I speak of her as regards the nobleness of her body,

narrating some of her beauties: here, ‘Love saith concerning

her.’ This second part is divided into two, for, in the

first, I speak of certain beauties which belong to the whole

person; in the second, I speak of certain beauties which

belong to a distinct part of the person: here, ‘Whatever

her sweet eyes.’ This second part is divided into two; for,

in the one, I speak of the eyes, which are the beginning of

love; in the second, I speak of the mouth, which is the

end of love. And that every vicious thought may be dis-

carded herefrom, let the reader remember that it is above

written that the greeting of this lady, which was an act of

her mouth, was the goal of my desires, while I could receive

it. Then, when I say, ‘Dear Song, I know,’ I add a

stanza as it were handmaid to the others, wherein I say

what I desire from this my poem. And because this last

part is easy to understand, I trouble not myself with more

divisions. I say, indeed, that the further to open the mean-

ing of this poem, more minute divisions ought to be used;

but nevertheless he who is not of wit enough to understand

it by these which have been already made is welcome to leave

it alone; for certes I fear I have communicated its sense to

too many by these present divisions, if it so happened that

many should hear it.
page: 63
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin of this page. The phrase “what a thing love is” has been underlined.
When this song was a little gone abroad, a certain

one of my friends, hearing the same, was pleased to

question me, that I should tell him what thing love is;

it may be, conceiving from the words thus heard a hope

of me beyond my desert. Wherefore I, thinking that

after such discourse it were well to say somewhat of the

nature of Love, and also in accordance with my friend's

desire, proposed to myself to write certain words in the

which I should treat of this argument. And the sonnet

that I then made is this:—
  • Love and the gentle heart are one same thing,
  • Even as the wise man* in his ditty saith:
  • Each, of itself, would be such life in death
  • As rational soul bereft of reasoning.
  • 'Tis Nature makes them when she loves: a king
  • Love is, whose palace where he sojourneth
  • Is called the Heart; there draws he quiet breath
  • At first, with brief or longer slumbering.
  • Then beauty seen in virtuous womankind
  • 10 Will make the eyes desire, and through the heart
  • Send the desiring of the eyes again;
  • Where often it abides so long enshrin'd
  • That Love at length out of his sleep will start.
  • And women feel the same for worthy men.
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I

speak of him according to his power. In the second, I speak
Transcribed Footnote (page 63):

* Guido Guinicelli, in the canzone which begins, ‘Within the

gentle heart Love shelters him.’ (See Part II. page 291 .)

page: 64

of him according as his power translates itself into act.

The second part begins here, ‘Then beauty seen.’ The first

is divided into two. In the first, I say in what subject

this power exists. In the second, I say how this subject and

this power are produced together, and how the one regards

the other, as form does matter. The second begins here,

‘'Tis Nature.’ Afterwards when I say, ‘Then beauty seen

in virtuous womankind,’ I say how this power translates

itself into act; and, first, how it so translates itself in a

man, then how it so translates itself in a woman: here,

‘And women feel.’
Having treated of love in the foregoing, it appeared to

me that I should also say something in praise of my lady,

wherein it might be set forth how love manifested itself

when produced by her; and how not only she could

awaken it where it slept, but where it was not she could

marvellously create it. To the which end I wrote another

sonnet; and it is this:—
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin for this entire poem, and another calls attention to the end of the italicized description on page 65, beginning “O women, help.”
  • My lady carries love within her eyes;
  • All that she looks on is made pleasanter;
  • Upon her path men turn to gaze at her;
  • He whom she greeteth feels his heart to rise,
  • And droops his troubled visage, full of sighs,
  • And of his evil heart is then aware:
  • Hate loves, and pride becomes a worshipper.
  • O women, help to praise her in somewise.
  • Humbleness, and the hope that hopeth well,
  • 10 By speech of hers into the mind are brought,
  • page: 65
    Sig. F
  • And who beholds is blessèd oftenwhiles.
  • The look she hath when she a little smiles
  • Cannot be said, nor holden in the thought;
  • 'Tis such a new and gracious miracle.
This sonnet has three sections. In the first, I say how

this lady brings this power into action by those most noble

features, her eyes; and, in the third, I say this same as to

that most noble feature, her mouth. And between these two

sections is a little section, which asks, as it were, help for the

previous section and the subsequent; and it begins here, ‘O

women, help.’ The third begins here, ‘Humbleness.’ The

first is divided into three: for, in the first, I say how she

with power makes noble that which she looks upon; and this

is as much as to say that she brings Love, in power, thither

where he is not. In the second, I say how she brings Love,

in act, into the hearts of all those whom she sees. In the

third, I tell what she afterwards, with virtue, operates upon

their hearts. The second begins, ‘Upon her path;’ the third,

‘He whom she greeteth.’ Then, when I say, ‘O women,

help,’ I intimate to whom it is my intention to speak, calling

on women to help me to honour her. Then, when I say,

‘Humbleness,’ I say that same which is said in the first

part, regarding two acts of her mouth, one whereof is

her most sweet speech, and the other her marvellous smile.

Only, I say not of this last how it operates upon the hearts

of others, because memory cannot retain this smile, nor its

Not many days after this, (it being the will of the most

High God, who also from Himself put not away death),
page: 66

the father of wonderful Beatrice, going out of this life,

passed certainly into glory. Thereby it happened, as of

very sooth it might not be otherwise, that this lady was

made full of the bitterness of grief: seeing that such a

parting is very grievous unto those friends who are left,

and that no other friendship is like to that between

a good parent and a good child; and furthermore con-

sidering that this lady was good in the supreme degree,

and her father (as by many it hath been truly averred) of

exceeding goodness. And because it is the usage of that

city that men meet with men in such a grief, and women

with women, certain ladies of her companionship gathered

themselves unto Beatrice, where she kept alone in her

weeping: and as they passed in and out, I could hear

them speak concerning her, how she wept. At length

two of them went by me, who said: ‘Certainly she

grieveth in such sort that one might die for pity, beholding

her.’ Then, feeling the tears upon my face, I put up my

hands to hide them: and had it not been that I hoped

to hear more concerning her, (seeing that where I sat,

her friends passed continually in and out), I should

assuredly have gone thence to be alone, when I felt the

tears come. But as I still sat in that place, certain ladies

again passed near me, who were saying among them-

selves: ‘Which of us shall be joyful any more, who have

listened to this lady in her piteous sorrow?’ And there

were others who said as they went by me: ‘He that

sitteth here could not weep more if he had beheld her

as we have beheld her;’ and again: ‘He is so altered

that he seemeth not as himself.’ And still as the ladies
page: 67

passed to and fro, I could hear them speak after this

fashion of her and of me.
Wherefore afterwards, having considered and per-

ceiving that there was herein matter for poesy, I resolved

that I would write certain rhymes in the which should be

contained all that those ladies had said. And because I

would willingly have spoken to them if it had not been

for discreetness, I made in my rhymes as though I had

spoken and they had answered me. And thereof I wrote

two sonnets; in the first of which I addressed them as I

would fain have done; and in the second related their

answer, using the speech that I had heard from them, as

though it had been spoken unto myself. And the sonnets

are these:—
  • You that thus wear a modest countenance
  • With lids weigh'd down by the heart's heaviness,
  • Whence come you, that among you every face
  • Appears the same, for its pale troubled glance?
  • Have you beheld my lady's face, perchance,
  • Bow'd with the grief that Love makes full of grace?
  • Say now, ‘This thing is thus;’ as my heart says,
  • Marking your grave and sorrowful advance.
  • And if indeed you come from where she sighs
  • 10 And mourns, may it please you (for his heart's relief)
  • To tell how it fares with her unto him
  • Who knows that you have wept, seeing your eyes,
  • And is so grieved with looking on your grief
  • That his heart trembles and his sight grows dim.
page: 68
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I

call and ask these ladies whether they come from her, telling

them that I think they do, because they return the nobler.

In the second, I pray them to tell me of her; and the second

begins here, ‘And if indeed.’
  • Canst thou indeed be he that still would sing
  • Of our dear lady unto none but us?
  • For though thy voice confirms that it is thus,
  • Thy visage might another witness bring.
  • And wherefore is thy grief so sore a thing
  • That grieving thou mak'st others dolorous?
  • Hast thou too seen her weep, that thou from us
  • Canst not conceal thine inward sorrowing?
  • Nay, leave our woe to us: let us alone:
  • 10 'Twere sin if one should strive to soothe our woe,
  • For in her weeping we have heard her speak:
  • Also her look's so full of her heart's moan
  • That they who should behold her, looking so,
  • Must fall aswoon, feeling all life grow weak.
This sonnet has four parts, as the ladies in whose

person I reply had four forms of answer. And, because

these are sufficiently shown above, I stay not to explain the

purport of the parts, and therefore I only discriminate them.

The second begins here, ‘And wherefore is thy grief;’ the

third here, ‘Nay, leave our woe;’ the fourth, ‘Also her

page: 69
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin for all of pages 69-70, with another calling particular attention to passage beginning “At length, as my phantasy.”
A few days after this, my body became afflicted with

a painful infirmity, whereby I suffered bitter anguish for

many days, which at last brought me unto such weakness

that I could no longer move. And I remember that on

the ninth day, being overcome with intolerable pain, a

thought came into my mind concerning my lady: but

when it had a little nourished this thought, my mind

returned to its brooding over mine enfeebled body. And

then perceiving how frail a thing life is, even though

health keep with it, the matter seemed to me so pitiful

that I could not choose but weep; and weeping I said

within myself: ‘Certainly it must some time come to

pass that the very gentle Beatrice will die.’ Then, feel-

ing bewildered, I closed mine eyes; and my brain began

to be in travail as the brain of one frantic, and to have

such imaginations as here follow.
And at the first, it seemed to me that I saw certain

faces of women with their hair loosened, which called

out to me, ‘Thou shalt surely die;’ after the which,

other terrible and unknown appearances said unto me,

‘Thou art dead.’ At length, as my phantasy held on in

its wanderings, I came to be I knew not where, and to

behold a throng of dishevelled ladies wonderfully sad,

who kept going hither and thither weeping. Then the

sun went out, so that the stars showed themselves, and

they were of such a colour that I knew they must be

weeping: and it seemed to me that the birds fell dead

out of the sky, and that there were great earthquakes.

With that, while I wondered in my trance, and was filled

with a grievous fear, I conceived that a certain friend
page: 70

came unto me and said: ‘Hast thou not heard? She

that was thine excellent lady hath been taken out of

life.’ Then I began to weep very piteously; and not

only in mine imagination, but with mine eyes, which

were wet with tears. And I seemed to look towards

Heaven, and to behold a multitude of angels who were

returning upwards, having before them an exceedingly

white cloud: and these angels were singing together

gloriously, and the words of their song were these:

Osanna in excelsis:’ and there was no more that I

heard. Then my heart that was so full of love said unto

me: ‘It is true that our lady lieth dead;’ and it seemed

to me that I went to look upon the body wherein that

blessed and most noble spirit had had its abiding-place.

And so strong was this idle imagining, that it made me

to behold my lady in death; whose head certain ladies

seemed to be covering with a white veil; and who was

so humble of her aspect that it was as though she had

said, ‘I have attained to look on the beginning of peace.’

And therewithal I came unto such humility by the sight

of her, that I cried out upon Death, saying: ‘Now come

unto me, and be not bitter against me any longer: surely,

there where thou hast been, thou hast learned gentleness.

Wherefore come now unto me who do greatly desire

thee: seest thou not that I wear thy colour already?’

And when I had seen all those offices performed that

are fitting to be done unto the dead, it seemed to me

that I went back unto mine own chamber, and looked

up towards Heaven. And so strong was my phantasy,

that I wept again in very truth, and said with my true
page: 71

voice: ‘O excellent soul! how blessed is he that now

looketh upon thee!’
And as I said these words, with a painful anguish of

sobbing and another prayer unto Death, a young and

gentle lady, who had been standing beside me where

I lay, conceiving that I wept and cried out because of

the pain of mine infirmity, was taken with trembling

and began to shed tears. Whereby other ladies, who

were about the room, becoming aware of my discomfort

by reason of the moan that she made, (who indeed was

of my very near kindred,) led her away from where I

was, and then set themselves to awaken me, thinking

that I dreamed, and saying: ‘Sleep no longer, and be

not disquieted.’
Then, by their words, this strong imagination was

brought suddenly to an end, at the moment that I was

about to say, ‘O Beatrice! peace be with thee.’ And

already I had said, ‘O Beatrice!’ when being aroused, I

opened mine eyes, and knew that it had been a

deception. But albeit I had indeed uttered her name,

yet my voice was so broken with sobs, that it was not

understood by these ladies; so that in spite of the

sore shame that I felt, I turned towards them by

Love's counselling. And when they beheld me, they

began to say, ‘He seemeth as one dead,’ and to

whisper among themselves, ‘Let us strive if we may not

comfort him.’ Whereupon they spake to me many

soothing words, and questioned me moreover touching

the cause of my fear. Then I, being somewhat reassured,

and having perceived that it was a mere phantasy, said
page: 72

unto them, ‘This thing it was that made me afeard;’

and told them of all that I had seen, from the beginning

even unto the end, but without once speaking the name

of my lady. Also, after I had recovered from my sick-

ness, I bethought me to write these things in rhyme;

deeming it a lovely thing to be known. Whereof I wrote

this poem:—
  • A very pitiful lady, very young,
  • Exceeding rich in human sympathies,
  • Stood by, what time I clamour'd upon Death;
  • And at the wild words wandering on my tongue
  • And at the piteous look within mine eyes
  • She was affrighted, that sobs choked her breath.
  • So by her weeping where I lay beneath,
  • Some other gentle ladies came to know
  • My state, and made her go:
  • 10 Afterward, bending themselves over me,
  • One said, ‘Awaken thee!’
  • And one, ‘What thing thy sleep disquieteth?’
  • With that, my soul woke up from its eclipse,
  • The while my lady's name rose to my lips:
  • But utter'd in a voice so sob-broken,
  • So feeble with the agony of tears,
  • That I alone might hear it in my heart;
  • And though that look was on my visage then
  • Which he who is ashamed so plainly wears,
  • 20 Love made that I through shame held not apart,
  • But gazed upon them. And my hue was such
  • page: 73
  • That they look'd at each other and thought of death;
  • Saying under their breath
  • Most tenderly, ‘Oh, let us comfort him:’
  • Then unto me: ‘What dream
  • Was thine, that it hath shaken thee so much?’
  • And when I was a little comforted,
  • ‘This, ladies, was the dream I dreamt,’ I said.
  • ‘I was a-thinking how life fails with us
  • 30 Suddenly after such a little while;
  • When Love sobb'd in my heart, which is his home.
  • Whereby my spirit wax'd so dolorous
  • That in myself I said, with sick recoil:
  • “Yea, to my lady too this Death must come.”
  • And therewithal such a bewilderment
  • Possess'd me, that I shut mine eyes for peace;
  • And in my brain did cease
  • Order of thought, and every healthful thing.
  • Afterwards, wandering
  • 40 Amid a swarm of doubts that came and went,
  • Some certain women's faces hurried by,
  • And shriek'd to me, “Thou too shalt die, shalt die!”
  • ‘Then saw I many broken hinted sights
  • In the uncertain state I stepp'd into.
  • Meseem'd to be I know not in what place,
  • Where ladies through the street, like mournful lights,
  • Ran with loose hair, and eyes that frighten'd you
  • By their own terror, and a pale amaze:
  • The while, little by little, as I thought,
  • page: 74
  • 50The sun ceased, and the stars began to gather,
  • And each wept at the other;
  • And birds dropp'd in mid-flight out of the sky;
  • And earth shook suddenly;
  • And I was 'ware of one, hoarse and tired out,
  • Who ask'd of me: “Hast thou not heard it said? . . . .
  • Thy lady, she that was so fair, is dead.”
  • ‘Then lifting up mine eyes, as the tears came,
  • I saw the Angels, like a rain of manna,
  • In a long flight flying back Heavenward;
  • 60Having a little cloud in front of them,
  • After the which they went and said, “Hosanna;”
  • And if they had said more, you should have heard.
  • Then Love spoke thus: “Now all shall be made clear:
  • Come and behold our lady where she lies.”
  • These 'wildering phantasies
  • Then carried me to see my lady dead:
  • Even as I there was led,
  • Her ladies with a veil were covering her;
  • And with her was such very humbleness
  • 70That she appeared to say, “I am at peace.”
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin next to the last stanza.
  • ‘And I became so humble in my grief,
  • Seeing in her such deep humility,
  • That I said: “Death, I hold thee passing good
  • Henceforth, and a most gentle sweet relief,
  • Since my dear love has chosen to dwell with thee:
  • Pity, not hate, is thine, well understood.
  • Lo! I do so desire to see thy face
  • Note: The indentation of line 77 is a typographical error. In the other stanzas the seventh line is aligned with the sixth, and in 1911 this line conforms to that same pattern.
    page: 75
  • That I am like as one who nears the tomb;
  • My soul entreats thee, Come.”
  • 80 Then I departed, having made my moan;
  • And when I was alone
  • I said, and cast my eyes to the High Place:
  • “Blessed is he, fair soul, who meets thy glance!”
  • . . . . . . Just then you woke me, of your complai-
  • saùnce.’
This poem has two parts. In the first, speaking to a

person undefined, I tell how I was aroused from a vain

phantasy by certain ladies, and how I promised them to tell

what it was. In the second, I say how I told them. The

second part begins here, ‘I was a-thinking.’ The first part

divides into two. In the first, I tell that which certain

ladies, and which one singly, did and said because of my

phantasy, before I had returned into my right senses. In

the second, I tell what these ladies said to me after I had

left off this wandering: and it begins here, ‘But uttered in

a voice.’ Then, when I say, ‘I was a-thinking,’ I say how

I told them this my imagination; and concerning this I have

two parts. In the first, I tell, in order, this imagination.

In the second, saying at what time they called me, I covertly

thank them: and this part begins here, ‘Just then you woke

After this empty imagining, it happened on a day, as

I sat thoughtful, that I was taken with such a strong

trembling at the heart, that it could not have been other-

wise in the presence of my lady. Whereupon I per-

ceived that there was an appearance of Love beside me,
page: 76
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin from this page through the paragraph ending at the top of page 77.

and I seemed to see him coming from my lady; and he

said, not aloud but within my heart: ‘Now take heed

that thou bless the day when I entered into thee; for it

is fitting that thou shouldst do so.’ And with that my

heart was so full of gladness, that I could hardly believe

it to be of very truth mine own heart and not another.
A short while after these words which my heart spoke

to me with the tongue of Love, I saw coming towards me

a certain lady who was very famous for her beauty, and

of whom that friend whom I have already called the first

among my friends had long been enamoured. This

lady's right name was Joan; but because of her comeli-

ness (or at least it was so imagined) she was called of

many Primavera (Spring), and went by that name among

them. Then looking again, I perceived that the most

noble Beatrice followed after her. And when both these

ladies had passed by me, it seemed to me that Love

spake again in my heart, saying: ‘She that came first

was called Spring, only because of that which was to hap-

pen on this day. And it was I myself who caused that

name to be given her; seeing that as the Spring cometh

first in the year, so should she come first on this day,*

when Beatrice was to show herself after the vision of her

servant. And even if thou go about to consider her

right name, it is also as one should say, ‘She shall come

first;’ inasmuch as her name, Joan, is taken from that

John who went before the True Light, saying: ‘ Ego vox
Transcribed Footnote (page 76):

* There is a play in the original upon the words Primavera

(Spring) and prima verrà (she shall come first), to which I have

given as near an equivalent as I could.

page: 77
clamantis in deserto: “Parate viam Domini .”’* And also

it seemed to me that he added other words, to wit: ‘He

who should inquire delicately touching this matter, could

not but call Beatrice by mine own name, which is to say,

Love; beholding her so like unto me.’
Then I, having thought of this, imagined to write it

with rhymes and send it unto my chief friend; but set-

ting aside certain words† which seemed proper to be set

aside, because I believed that his heart still regarded the

beauty of her that was called Spring. And I wrote this

Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin next to this entire poem.
  • I felt a spirit of love begin to stir
  • Within my heart, long time unfelt till then;
  • And saw Love coming towards me, fair and fain,
  • (That I scarce knew him for his joyful cheer),
  • Saying, ‘Be now indeed my worshipper!’
  • And in his speech he laugh'd and laugh'd again.
  • Then, while it was his pleasure to remain,
  • I chanced to look the way he had drawn near,
  • And saw the Ladies Joan and Beatrice
  • 10 Approach me, this the other following,
  • One and a second marvel instantly.
Transcribed Footnote (page 77):

* ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare ye

the way of the Lord.”’

Transcribed Footnote (page 77):

† That is (as I understand it), suppressing, from delicacy towards

his friend, the words in which Love describes Joan as merely the

forerunner of Beatrice. And perhaps in the latter part of this sen-

tence a reproach is gently conveyed to the fickle Guido Cavalcanti,

who may already have transferred his homage (though Dante had

not then learned it) from Joan to Mandetta. (See his Poems.)

page: 78
  • And even as now my memory speaketh this,
  • Love spake it then: ‘The first is christen'd Spring;
  • The second Love, she is so like to me.’
This sonnet has many parts: whereof the first tells how

I felt awakened within my heart the accustomed tremor, and

how it seemed that Love appeared to me joyful from afar.

The second says how it appeared to me that Love spake

within my heart, and what was his aspect. The third

tells how, after he had in such wise been with me a space, I

saw and heard certain things. The second part begins here,

‘Saying, “Be now;”’ the third here, ‘Then, while it was

his pleasure.’ The third part divides into two. In the

first, I say what I saw. In the second, I say what I

heard; and it begins here, ‘Love spake it then.’
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin from here to the end of page 80.
It might be here objected unto me, (and even by one

worthy of controversy,) that I have spoken of Love as

though it were a thing outward and visible: not only a

spiritual essence, but as a bodily substance also. The

which thing, in absolute truth, is a fallacy; Love not

being of itself a substance, but an accident of substance.

Yet that I speak of Love as though it were a thing

tangible and even human, appears by three things which

I say thereof. And firstly, I say that I perceived Love

coming towards me; whereby, seeing that to come be-

speaks locomotion, and seeing also how philosophy

teacheth us that none but a corporeal substance hath

locomotion, it seemeth that I speak of Love as of a cor-

poreal substance. And secondly, I say that Love smiled;

and thirdly, that Love spake; faculties (and especially
page: 79

the risible faculty) which appear proper unto man:

whereby it further seemeth that I speak of Love as of a

man. Now that this matter may be explained, (as is fit-

ting,) it must first be remembered that anciently they who

wrote poems of Love wrote not in the vulgar tongue, but

rather certain poets in the Latin tongue. I mean, among

us, although perchance the same may have been among

others, and although likewise, as among the Greeks,

they were not writers of spoken language, but men of let-

ters, treated of these things.* And indeed it is not a

great number of years since poetry began to be made in

the vulgar tongue; the writing of rhymes in spoken lan-

guage corresponding to the writing in metre of Latin

verse, by a certain analogy. And I say that it is but a

little while, because if we examine the language of oco and

the language of † we shall not find in those tongues any

written thing of an earlier date than the last hundred and

fifty years. Also the reason why certain of a very mean

sort obtained at the first some fame as poets is, that

before them no man had written verses in the language

of sì: and of these, the first was moved to the writing of

such verses by the wish to make himself understood of a
Transcribed Footnote (page 79):

* On reading Dante's treatise De Vulgari Eloquio , it will be

found that the distinction which he intends here is not between one

language, or dialect, and another; but between ‘vulgar speech’

(that is, the language handed down from mother to son without any

conscious use of grammar or syntax,) and language as regulated by

grammarians and the laws of literary composition, and which Dante

calls simply ‘Grammar.’ A great deal might be said on the bearings

of the present passage, but it is no part of my plan to enter on such


Transcribed Footnote (page 79):

i.e. the languages of Provence and Tuscany.

page: 80
Manuscript Addition: !
Editorial Description: A penciled exclamation mark appears in the margin next to the first three lines of the page.
Note: The footnote receives particular emphasis with a penciled vertical line.

certain lady, unto whom Latin poetry was difficult. This

thing is against such as rhyme concerning other matters

than love; that mode of speech having been first used

for the expression of love alone.* Wherefore, seeing

that poets have a license allowed them that is not allowed

unto the writers of prose, and seeing also that they who

write in rhyme are simply poets in the vulgar tongue, it

becomes fitting and reasonable that a larger license

should be given to these than to other modern writers;

and that any metaphor or rhetorical similitude which is

permitted unto poets, should also be counted not un-

seemly in the rhymers of the vulgar tongue. Thus, if we

perceive that the former have caused inanimate things to

speak as though they had sense and reason, and to dis-

course one with another; yea, and not only actual things,

but such also as have no real existence, (seeing that they

have made things which are not, to speak; and often-

times written of those which are merely accidents as

though they were substances and things human;) it

should therefore be permitted to the latter to do the like;

which is to say, not inconsiderately, but with such suffi-

cient motive as may afterwards be set forth in prose.
Transcribed Footnote (page 80):

* It strikes me that this curious passage furnishes a reason,

hitherto (I believe) overlooked, why Dante put such of his lyrical

poems as relate to philosophy into the form of love-poems. He

liked writing in Italian rhyme rather than Latin metre; he thought

Italian rhyme ought to be confined to love-poems: therefore what-

ever he wrote (at this age) had to take the form of a love-poem.

Thus any poem by Dante not concerning love is later than his

twenty-seventh year (1291-2), when he wrote the prose of the Vita

the poetry having been written earlier, at the time of the

events referred to.

page: 81
Sig. G
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin from the phrase “neither did these ancient poets” to the end of the page.
That the Latin poets have done thus, appears through

Virgil, where he saith that Juno (to wit, a goddess hostile

to the Trojans) spake unto Æolus, master of the Winds;

as it is written in the first book of the Æneid, Æole,

namque tibi, etc.;
and that this master of the Winds made

reply: Tuus, o regina, quid optes—Explorare labor, mihi

jussa capessere fas est.
And through the same poet, the

inanimate thing speaketh unto the animate, in the third

book of the Æneid, where it is written: Dardanidæ duri,

etc. With Lucan, the animate thing speaketh to the in-

animate; as thus: Multum, Roma, tamen debes civilibus

. In Horace man is made to speak to his own in-

telligence as unto another person; (and not only hath

Horace done this but herein he followeth the excellent

Homer,) as thus in his Poetics: Dic mihi, Musa, virum,

. Through Ovid, Love speaketh as a human creature,

in the beginning of his discourse De Remediis Amoris: as

thus: Bella mihi video, bella parantur, ait. By which en-

samples this thing shall be made manifest unto such as

may be offended at any part of this my book. And lest

some of the common sort should be moved to jeering

hereat, I will here add, that neither did these ancient

poets speak thus without consideration, nor should they

who are makers of rhyme in our day write after the

same fashion, having no reason in what they write;

for it were a shameful thing if one should rhyme under

the semblance of metaphor or rhetorical similitude, and

afterwards, being questioned thereof, should be unable

to rid his words of such semblance, unto their right

understanding. Of whom, (to wit, of such as rhyme
page: 82
Note: Type-damage is evident in the 21st line of this page, in the word ‘without.’

thus foolishly,) myself and the first among my friends do

know many.
But returning to the matter of my discourse. This

excellent lady, of whom I spake in what hath gone

before, came at last into such favour with all men, that

when she passed anywhere folk ran to behold her; which

thing was a deep joy to me: and when she drew near

unto any, so much truth and simpleness entered into his

heart, that he dared neither to lift his eyes nor to return

her salutation: and unto this, many who have felt it can

bear witness. She went along crowned and clothed with

humility, showing no whit of pride in all that she heard

and saw: and when she had gone by, it was said of many,

‘This is not a woman, but one of the beautiful angels of

Heaven:’ and there were some that said: ‘This is surely

a miracle; blessed be the Lord, who hath power to work

thus marvellously.’ I say, of very sooth, that she showed

herself so gentle and so full of all perfection, that she

bred in those who looked upon her a soothing quiet

beyond any speech; neither could any look upon her

without sighing immediately. These things, and things

yet more wonderful, were brought to pass through her

miraculous virtue. Wherefore I, considering thereof and

wishing to resume the endless tale of her praises, resolved

to write somewhat wherein I might dwell on her sur-

passing influence; to the end that not only they who had

beheld her, but others also, might know as much con-

cerning her as words could give to the understanding.

And it was then that I wrote this sonnet:—
page: 83
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in next to this entire poem. Lines 9-11 receive particular emphasis.
  • My lady looks so gentle and so pure
  • When yielding salutation by the way,
  • That the tongue trembles and has nought to say,
  • And the eyes, which fain would see, may not endure.
  • And still, amid the praise she hears secure,
  • She walks with humbleness for her array;
  • Seeming a creature sent from Heaven to stay
  • On earth, and show a miracle made sure.
  • She is so pleasant in the eyes of men
  • 10That through the sight the inmost heart doth gain
  • A sweetness which needs proof to know it by:
  • And from between her lips there seems to move
  • A soothing spirit that is full of love,
  • Saying for ever to the spirit, ‘Sigh!’
This sonnet is so easy to understand, from what is

afore narrated, that it needs no division; and therefore,

leaving it, I say also that this excellent lady came into

such favour with all men, that not only she herself was

honoured and commended; but through her companion-

ship, honour and commendation came unto others.

Wherefore I, perceiving this and wishing that it should

also be made manifest to those that beheld it not, wrote

the sonnet here following; wherein is signified the power

which her virtue had upon other ladies:—
  • For certain he hath seen all perfectness
  • Who among other ladies hath seen mine:
  • They that go with her humbly should combine
  • To thank their God for such peculiar grace.
  • page: 84
  • So perfect is the beauty of her face
  • That it begets in no wise any sign
  • Of envy, but draws round her a clear line
  • Of love, and blessed faith, and gentleness.
  • Merely the sight of her makes all things bow:
  • 10 Not she herself alone is holier
  • Than all; but hers, through her, are raised above.
  • From all her acts such lovely graces flow
  • That truly one may never think of her
  • Without a passion of exceeding love.
This sonnet has three parts. In the first, I say in what

company this lady appeared most wondrous. In the second,

I say how gracious was her society. In the third, I tell of

the things which she, with power, worked upon others.

The second begins here, ‘They that go with her;’ the third

here, ‘So perfect.’ This last part divides into three. In

the first, I tell what she operated upon women, that is, by

their own faculties. In the second, I tell what she operated

in them through others. In the third, I say how she not

only operated in women, but in all people; and not only

while herself present, but, by memory of her, operated won-

drously. The second begins here, ‘Merely the sight;’ the

third here, ‘From all her acts.’
Thereafter on a day, I began to consider that which I

had said of my lady: to wit, in these two sonnets afore-

gone: and becoming aware that I had not spoken of her

immediate effect on me at that especial time, it seemed

to me that I had spoken defectively. Whereupon I

resolved to write somewhat of the manner wherein I was
page: 85

then subject to her influence, and of what her influence

then was. And conceiving that I should not be able to

say these things in the small compass of a sonnet, I began

therefore a poem with this beginning:—
  • Love hath so long possessd me for his own
  • And made his lordship so familiar
  • That he, who at first irked me, is now grown
  • Unto my heart as its best secrets are.
  • And thus, when he in such sore wise doth mar
  • My life that all its strength seems gone from it,
  • Mine inmost being then feels throughly quit
  • Of anguish, and all evil keeps afar.
  • Love also gathers to such power in me
  • 10 That my sighs speak, each one a grievous thing,
  • Always soliciting
  • My lady's salutation piteously.
  • Whenever she beholds me, it is so,
  • Who is more sweet than any words can show.

Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! facta est quasi

vidua domina gentium!

I was still occupied with this poem, (having composed

thereof only the above-written stanza,) when the Lord

God of justice called my most gracious lady unto Him-
Transcribed Footnote (page 85):

* ‘How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how

is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations!’—

Lamentations of Jeremiah , i, I.

page: 86

self, that she might be glorious under the banner of that

blessed Queen Mary, whose name had always a deep

reverence in the words of holy Beatrice. And because

haply it might be found good that I should say some-

what concerning her departure, I will herein declare what

are the reasons which make that I shall not do so.
And the reasons are three. The first is, that such

matter belongeth not of right to the present argument, if

one consider the opening of this little book. The second

is, that even though the present argument required it, my

pen doth not suffice to write in a fit manner of this thing.

And the third is, that were it both possible and of

absolute necessity, it would still be unseemly for me to

speak thereof, seeing that thereby it must behove me to

speak also mine own praises: a thing that in whosoever

doeth it is worthy of blame. For the which reasons, I

will leave this matter to be treated of by some other than

Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin next to the following two paragraphs.
Nevertheless, as the number nine, which number hath

often had mention in what hath gone before, (and not, as

it might appear, without reason), seems also to have

borne a part in the manner of her death: it is therefore

right that I should say somewhat thereof. And for this

cause, having first said what was the part it bore herein,

I will afterwards point out a reason which made that this

number was so closely allied unto my lady.
I say, then, that according to the division of time in

Italy, her most noble spirit departed from among us in

the first hour of the ninth day of the month; and according

to the division of time in Syria, in the ninth month of
page: 87
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin next to the footnote.
Manuscript Addition: X
Editorial Description: Penciled into the margin next to the sentence beginning “Also she was taken from.”

the year: seeing that Tismim, which with us is October,

is there the first month. Also she was taken from

among us in that year of our reckoning (to wit, of the

years of our Lord) in which the perfect number was nine

times multiplied within that century wherein she was born

into the world: which is to say, the thirteenth century

of Christians.*
And touching the reason why this number was so

closely allied unto her, it may peradventure be this.

According to Ptolemy, (and also to the Christian verity,)

the revolving heavens are nine; and according to the

common opinion among astrologers, these nine heavens

together have influence over the earth. Wherefore it

would appear that this number was thus allied unto her

for the purpose of signifying that, at her birth, all these

nine heavens were at perfect unity with each other as to

their influence. This is one reason that may be brought:

but more narrowly considering, and according to the

infallible truth, this number was her own self: that is to

say by similitude. As thus. The number three is the

root of the number nine; seeing that without the inter-

position of any other number, being multiplied merely by

itself, it produceth nine, as we manifestly perceive that

three times three are nine. Thus, three being of itself the
Transcribed Footnote (page 87):

* Beatrice Portinari will thus be found to have died during the

first hour of the 9th of June, 1290. And from what Dante says at

the commencement of this work, (viz. that she was younger than

himself by eight or nine months,) it may also be gathered that her

age, at the time of her death, was twenty-four years and three

months. The ‘perfect number’ mentioned in the present passage is

the number ten.

page: 88

efficient of nine, and the Great Efficient of Miracles

being of Himself Three Persons (to wit: the Father, the

Son, and the Holy Spirit), which, being Three, are also

One:—this lady was accompanied by the number nine to

the end that men might clearly perceive her to be a nine,

that is, a miracle, whose only root is the Holy Trinity.

It may be that a more subtile person would find for this

thing a reason of greater subtilty: but such is the reason

that I find, and that liketh me best.
After this most gracious creature had gone out from

among us, the whole city came to be as it were widowed

and despoiled of all dignity. Then I, left mourning in

this desolate city, wrote unto the principal persons

thereof, in an epistle, concerning its condition; taking

for my commencement those words of Jeremias: Quo-

modo sedet sola civitas! etc.
And I make mention of this,

that none may marvel wherefore I set down these words

before, in beginning to treat of her death. Also if any

should blame me, in that I do not transcribe that epistle

whereof I have spoken, I will make it mine excuse that I

began this little book with the intent that it should be

written altogether in the vulgar tongue; wherefore,

seeing that the epistle I speak of is in Latin, it belongeth

not to mine undertaking: more especially as I know that

my chief friend, for whom I write this book, wished also

that the whole of it should be in the vulgar tongue.
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in from here to the end of the page.
When mine eyes had wept for some while, until they

were so weary with weeping that I could no longer

through them give ease to my sorrow, I bethought me

that a few mournful words might stand me instead of
page: 89

tears. And therefore I proposed to make a poem, that

weeping I might speak therein of her for whom so much

sorrow had destroyed my spirit; and I then began ‘The

eyes that weep.’
That this poem may seem to remain the more widowed

at its close, I will divide it before writing it; and this

method I will observe henceforward. I say that this poor

little poem has three parts. The first is a prelude. In the

second, I speak of her. In the third, I speak pitifully to the

poem. The second begins here, ‘Beatrice is gone up;’ the

third here, ‘Weep, pitiful Song of mine.’ The first divides

into three. In the first, I say what moves me to speak. In

the second, I say to whom I mean to speak. In the third,

I say of whom I mean to speak. The second begins here,

‘And because often, thinking;’ the third here, ‘And I will

say.’ Then, when I say, ‘Beatrice is gone up,’ I speak of

her; and concerning this I have two parts. First, I tell

the cause why she was taken away from us: afterwards, I

say how one weeps her parting; and this part commences

here, ‘Wonderfully.’ This part divides into three. In the

first, I say who it is that weeps her not. In the second, I

say who it is that doth weep her. In the third, I speak of

my condition. The second begins here, ‘But sighing comes,

and grief;’ the third, ‘With sighs.’ Then, when I say,

‘Weep, pitiful Song of mine,’ I speak to this my song, telling

it what ladies to go to, and stay with.
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin next to the entire poem. The last half of stanza 2 receives particular emphasis.
  • The eyes that weep for pity of the heart
  • Have wept so long that their grief languisheth
  • And they have no more tears to weep withal:
  • page: 90
  • And now, if I would ease me of a part
  • Of what, little by little, leads to death,
  • It must be done by speech, or not at all.
  • And because often, thinking, I recall
  • How it was pleasant, ere she went afar,
  • To talk of her with you, kind damozels,
  • 10 I talk with no one else,
  • But only with such hearts as women's are.
  • And I will say,—still sobbing as speech fails,—
  • That she hath gone to Heaven suddenly,
  • And hath left Love below, to mourn with me.
  • Beatrice is gone up into high Heaven,
  • The kingdom where the angels are at peace;
  • And lives with them; and to her friends is dead.
  • Not by the frost of winter was she driven
  • Away, like others; nor by summer-heats;
  • 20 But through a perfect gentleness, instead.
  • For from the lamp of her meek lowlihead
  • Such an exceeding glory went up hence
  • That it woke wonder in the Eternal Sire,
  • Until a sweet desire
  • Entered Him for that lovely excellence,
  • So that He bade her to Himself aspire:
  • Counting this weary and most evil place
  • Unworthy of a thing so full of grace.
  • Wonderfully out of the beautiful form
  • 30 Soared her clear spirit, waxing glad the while;
  • And is in its first home, there where it is.
  • page: 91
  • Who speaks thereof, and feels not the tears warm
  • Upon his face, must have become so vile
  • As to be dead to all sweet sympathies.
  • Out upon him! an abject wretch like this
  • May not imagine anything of her,—
  • He needs no bitter tears for his relief.
  • But sighing comes, and grief,
  • And the desire to find no comforter,
  • 40 (Save only Death, who makes all sorrow brief,)
  • To him who for a while turns in his thought
  • How she hath been among us, and is not.
  • With sighs my bosom always laboureth
  • On thinking, as I do continually,
  • Of her for whom my heart now breaks apace;
  • And very often when I think of death,
  • Such a great inward longing comes to me
  • That it will change the colour of my face;
  • And, if the idea settles in its place,
  • 50All my limbs shake as with an ague-fit;
  • Till, starting up in wild bewilderment,
  • I do become so shent
  • That I go forth, lest folk misdoubt of it.
  • Afterward, calling with a sore lament
  • On Beatrice, I ask, ‘Canst thou be dead?’
  • And calling on her, I am comforted.
  • Grief with its tears, and anguish with its sighs,
  • Come to me now whene'er I am alone;
  • So that I think the sight of me gives pain.
  • page: 92
  • 60And what my life hath been, that living dies,
  • Since for my lady the New Birth's begun,
  • I have not any language to explain.
  • And so, dear ladies, though my heart were fain,
  • I scarce could tell indeed how I am thus.
  • All joy is with my bitter life at war;
  • Yea, I am fallen so far
  • That all men seem to say, ‘Go out from us,’
  • Eyeing my cold white lips, how dead they are.
  • But she, though I be bowed unto the dust,
  • 70Watches me; and will guerdon me, I trust.
  • Weep, piteous Song of mine, upon thy way,
  • To the dames going, and the damozels
  • For whom and for none else
  • Thy sisters have made music many a day.
  • Thou, that art very sad and not as they,
  • Go dwell thou with them as a mourner dwells.
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin to note the sentence beginning “And when we had a little spoken together.”
After I had written this poem, I received the visit of

a friend whom I counted as second unto me in the

degrees of friendship, and who, moreover, had been

united by the nearest kindred to that most gracious

creature. And when we had a little spoken together,

he began to solicit me that I would write somewhat

in memory of a lady who had died; and he disguised

his speech, so as to seem to be speaking of another who

was but lately dead: wherefore I, perceiving that his

speech was of none other than that blessed one herself,

told him that it should be done as he required. Then
page: 93

afterwards, having thought thereof, I imagined to give

vent in a sonnet to some part of my hidden lamentations;

but in such sort that it might seem to be spoken by this

friend of mine, to whom I was to give it. And the son-

net saith thus: ‘Stay now with me,’ &c.
This sonnet has two parts. In the first, I call the

Faithful of Love to hear me. In the second, I relate my

miserable condition. The second begins here, ‘Mark how

they force.’
  • Stay now with me, and listen to my sighs,
  • Ye piteous hearts, as pity bids ye do.
  • Mark how they force their way out and press through;
  • If they be once pent up, the whole life dies.
  • Seeing that now indeed my weary eyes
  • Oftener refuse than I can tell to you,
  • (Even though my endless grief is ever new,)
  • To weep and let the smothered anguish rise.
  • Also in sighing ye shall hear me call
  • 10 On her whose blessèd presence doth enrich
  • The only home that well befitteth her:
  • And ye shall hear a bitter scorn of all
  • Sent from the inmost of my spirit in speech
  • That mourns its joy and its joy's minister.
But when I had written this sonnet, bethinking me

who he was to whom I was to give it, that it might

appear to be his speech, it seemed to me that this was

but a poor and barren gift for one of her so near kindred.

Wherefore, before giving him this sonnet, I wrote two
page: 94

stanzas of a poem: the first being written in very

sooth as though it were spoken by him, but the other

being mine own speech, albeit, unto one who should not

look closely, they would both seem to be said by the

same person. Nevertheless, looking closely, one must

perceive that it is not so, inasmuch as one does not call

this most gracious creature his lady, and the other does,

as is manifestly apparent. And I gave the poem and

the sonnet unto my friend, saying that I had made them

only for him.
The poem begins, ‘Whatever while,’ and has two parts.

In the first, that is, in the first stanza, this my dear friend,

her kinsman, laments. In the second, I lament; that is, in

the other stanza, which begins, ‘For ever.’ And thus it

appears that in this poem two persons lament, of whom one

laments as a brother, the other as a servant.
  • Whatever while the thought comes over me
  • That I may not again
  • Behold that lady whom I mourn for now,
  • About my heart my mind brings constantly
  • So much of extreme pain
  • That I say, Soul of mine, why stayest thou?
  • Truly the anguish, soul, that we must bow
  • Beneath, until we win out of this life,
  • Gives me full oft a fear that trembleth:
  • 10 So that I call on Death
  • Even as on Sleep one calleth after strife,
  • Saying, Come unto me. Life showeth grim
  • And bare; and if one dies, I envy him.
page: 95
  • For ever, among all my sighs which burn,
  • There is a piteous speech
  • That clamours upon death continually:
  • Yea, unto him doth my whole spirit turn
  • Since first his hand did reach
  • My lady's life with most foul cruelty.
  • 20 But from the height of woman's fairness, she,
  • Going up from us with the joy we had,
  • Grew perfectly and spiritually fair;
  • That so she spreads even there
  • A light of Love which makes the Angels glad,
  • And even unto their subtle minds can bring
  • A certain awe of profound marvelling.
Note: The preceding two works are not “sonnets” per se, consisting of thirteen-line stanzas.
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin next to the sentence beginning “Perceiving whom.”
On that day which fulfilled the year since my lady

had been made of the citizens of eternal life, remem-

bering me of her as I sat alone, I betook myself to

draw the resemblance of an angel upon certain tablets.

And while I did thus, chancing to turn my head, I

perceived that some were standing beside me to whom

I should have given courteous welcome, and that they

were observing what I did: also I learned afterwards

that they had been there a while before I perceived

them. Perceiving whom, I arose for salutation, and

said: ‘Another was with me.’*
Afterwards, when they had left me, I set myself

again to mine occupation, to wit, to the drawing figures
Transcribed Footnote (page 95):

* Thus according to some texts. The majority, however, add

the words, ‘And therefore was I in thought:’ but the shorter speech

is perhaps the more forcible and pathetic.

page: 96

of angels: in doing which, I conceived to write of this

matter in rhyme, as for her anniversary, and to address

my rhymes unto those who had just left me. It was

then that I wrote the sonnet which saith, ‘That lady:’

and as this sonnet hath two commencements, it be-

hoveth me to divide it with both of them here.
I say that, according to the first, this sonnet has three

parts. In the first, I say that this lady was then in my

memory. In the second, I tell what Love therefore did

with me. In the third, I speak of the effects of Love. The

second begins here, ‘Love knowing;’ the third here, ‘Forth

went they.’ This part divides into two. In the one, I say

that all my sighs issued speaking. In the other, I say how

some spoke certain words different from the others. The

second begins here, ‘And still.’ In this same manner is it

divided with the other beginning, save that, in the first part,

I tell when this lady had thus come into my mind, and this

I say not in the other.
  • That lady of all gentle memories
  • Had lighted on my soul;—whose new abode
  • Lies now, as it was well ordained of God,
  • Among the poor in heart, where Mary is.
  • Love, knowing that dear image to be his,
  • Woke up within the sick heart sorrow-bow'd,
  • Unto the sighs which are its weary load
  • Saying, ‘Go forth.’ And they went forth, I wis;
  • Forth went they from my breast that throbbed and ached;
  • 10 With such a pang as oftentimes will bathe
  • Mine eyes with tears when I am left alone.
  • page: 97
    Sig. H
  • And still those sighs which drew the heaviest breath
  • Came whispering thus: ‘O noble intellect!
  • It is a year today that thou art gone.’
Second Commencement.
  • That lady of all gentle memories
  • Had lighted on my soul;—for whose sake flow'd
  • The tears of Love; in whom the power abode
  • Which led you to observe while I did this.
  • Love, knowing that dear image to be his, &c.
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin to note the two sentences following the phrase “and then perceived a young and very beautiful lady.”
Then, having sat for some space sorely in thought

because of the time that was now past, I was so filled

with dolorous imaginings that it became outwardly mani-

fest in mine altered countenance. Whereupon, feeling

this and being in dread lest any should have seen me,

I lifted mine eyes to look; and then perceived a young

and very beautiful lady, who was gazing upon me from

a window with a gaze full of pity, so that the very sum

of pity appeared gathered together in her. And seeing

that unhappy persons, when they beget compassion in

others, are then most moved unto weeping, as though

they also felt pity for themselves, it came to pass that

mine eyes began to be inclined unto tears. Wherefore,

becoming fearful lest I should make manifest mine

abject condition, I rose up, and went where I could not

be seen of that lady; saying afterwards within myself:

‘Certainly with her also must abide most noble Love.’

And with that, I resolved upon writing a sonnet, wherein,
page: 98

speaking unto her, I should say all that I have just said.

And as this sonnet is very evident, I will not divide it:—
  • Mine eyes beheld the blessed pity spring
  • Into thy countenance immediately
  • A while agone, when thou beheldst in me
  • The sickness only hidden grief can bring;
  • And then I knew thou wast considering
  • How abject and forlorn my life must be;
  • And I became afraid that thou shouldst see
  • My weeping, and account it a base thing.
  • Therefore I went out from thee; feeling how
  • 10 The tears were straightway loosened at my heart
  • Beneath thine eyes' compassionate control.
  • And afterwards I said within my soul:
  • ‘Lo! with this lady dwells the counterpart
  • Of the same Love who holds me weeping now.’
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin to note the last half of this paragraph.
It happened after this, that whensoever I was seen of

this lady, she became pale and of a piteous countenance,

as though it had been with love; whereby she remem-

bered me many times of my own most noble lady, who

was wont to be of a like paleness. And I know that

often, when I could not weep nor in any way give ease

unto mine anguish, I went to look upon this lady, who

seemed to bring the tears into my eyes by the mere sight

of her. Of the which thing I bethought me to speak

unto her in rhyme, and then made this sonnet: which

begins, ‘Love's pallor,’ and which is plain without being

divided, by its exposition aforesaid:—
page: 99
  • Love's pallor and the semblance of deep ruth
  • Were never yet shown forth so perfectly
  • In any lady's face, chancing to see
  • Grief's miserable countenance uncouth,
  • As in thine, lady, they have sprung to soothe,
  • When in mine anguish thou hast looked on me;
  • Until sometimes it seems as if, through thee,
  • My heart might almost wander from its truth.
  • Yet so it is, I cannot hold mine eyes
  • 10 From gazing very often upon thine
  • In the sore hope to shed those tears they keep;
  • And at such time, thou mak'st the pent tears rise
  • Even to the brim, till the eyes waste and pine;
  • Yet cannot they, while thou art present, weep.
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin from this paragraph to the bottom of the page.
At length, by the constant sight of this lady, mine

eyes began to be gladdened overmuch with her company;

through which thing many times I had much unrest, and

rebuked myself as a base person: also, many times I

cursed the unsteadfastness of mine eyes, and said to them

inwardly: ‘Was not your grievous condition of weeping

wont one while to make others weep? And will ye

now forget this thing because a lady looketh upon you?

who so looketh merely in compassion of the grief ye

then showed for your own blessed lady. But whatso ye

can, that do ye, accursed eyes! many a time will

I make you remember it! for never, till death dry

you up, should ye make an end of your weeping.’

And when I had spoken thus unto mine eyes, I was

taken again with extreme and grievous sighing. And
page: 100

to the end that this inward strife which I had under-

gone might not be hidden from all saving the miserable

wretch who endured it, I proposed to write a sonnet,

and to comprehend in it this horrible condition. And

I wrote this which begins, ‘The very bitter weeping.’
The sonnet has two parts. In the first, I speak to

my eyes, as my heart spoke within myself. In the second, I re-

move a difficulty, showing who it is that speaks thus: and

this part begins here, ‘So far.’ It well might receive other

divisions also; but this would be useless, since it is manifest

by the preceding exposition.
  • ‘The very bitter weeping that ye made
  • So long a time together, eyes of mine,
  • Was wont to make the tears of pity shine
  • In other eyes full oft, as I have said.
  • But now this thing were scarce rememberèd
  • If I, on my part, foully would combine
  • With you, and not recall each ancient sign
  • Of grief, and her for whom your tears were shed.
  • It is your fickleness that doth betray
  • 10 My mind to fears, and makes me tremble thus
  • What while a lady greets me with her eyes.
  • Except by death, we must not any way
  • Forget our lady who is gone from us.’
  • So far doth my heart utter, and then sighs.
The sight of this lady brought me into so unwonted a

condition that I often thought of her as of one too dear

unto me; and I began to consider her thus: ‘This lady
page: 101
Note: A vertical line has been penciled in the margin to note the phrase beginning “it seemed to me that I should address.”

is young, beautiful, gentle, and wise: perchance it was

Love himself who set her in my path, that so my life

might find peace.’ And there were times when I thought

yet more fondly, until my heart consented unto its rea-

soning. But when it had so consented, my thought would

often turn round upon me, as moved by reason, and

cause me to say within myself: ‘What hope is this which

would console me after so base a fashion, and which hath

taken the place of all other imagining?’ Also there was

another voice within me, that said: ‘And wilt thou,

having suffered so much tribulation through Love, not

escape while yet thou mayest from so much bitterness?

Thou must surely know that this thought carries with it

the desire of Love, and drew its life from the gentle eyes

of that lady who vouchsafed thee so much pity.’ Where-

fore I, having striven sorely and very often with myself,

bethought me to say somewhat thereof in rhyme. And

seeing that in the battle of doubts, the victory most often

remained with such as inclined towards the lady of whom

I speak, it seemed to me that I should address this

sonnet unto her: in the first line whereof, I call that

thought which spake of her a gentle thought, only

because it spoke of one who was gentle; being of itself

most vile.*
In this sonnet I make myself into two, according as my

thoughts were divided one from the other. The one part I
Transcribed Footnote (page 101):

* Boccaccio tells us that Dante was married to Gemma Donati

about a year after the death of Beatrice. Can Gemma then be ‘the

lady of the window,’ his love for whom Dante so contemns? Such

a passing conjecture (when considered together with the interpret-

page: 102
Transcribed Footnote (page 102):

ation of this passage in Dante's later work, the Convito) would of

course imply an admission of what I believe to lie at the heart of all

true Dantesque commentary; that is, the existence always of the

actual events even where the allegorical superstructure has been

raised by Dante himself.

call Heart, that is, appetite; the other, Soul, that is, reason;

and I tell what one saith to the other. And that it is fitting

to call the appetite Heart, and the reason Soul, is manifest

enough to them to whom I wish this to be open. True it is

that, in the preceding sonnet, I take the part of the Heart

against the Eyes; and that appears contrary to what I say

in the present; and therefore I say that, there also, by the

Heart I mean appetite, because yet greater was my desire to

remember my most gentle lady than to see this other, although

indeed I had some appetite towards her, but it appeared

slight: wherefrom it appears that the one statement is not

contrary to the other. This sonnet has three parts. In the

first, I begin to say to this lady how my desires turn all

towards her. In the second, I say how the Soul, that is, the

reason, speaks to the Heart, that is, to the appetite. In the

third, I say how the latter answers. The second begins

here, ‘And what is this?’ the third here, ‘And the heart

  • A gentle thought there is will often start,
  • Within my secret self, to speech of thee:
  • Also of Love it speaks so tenderly
  • That much in me consents and takes its part.
  • ‘And what is this,’ the soul saith to the heart,
  • ‘That cometh thus to comfort thee and me,
  • And thence where it would dwell, thus potently
  • page: 103
  • Can drive all other thoughts by its strange art?’
  • And the heart answers: ‘Be no more at strife
  • 10 'Twixt doubt and doubt: this is Love's messenger
  • And speaketh but his words, from him received;
  • And all the strength it owns and all the life
  • It draweth from the gentle eyes of her
  • Who, looking on our grief, hath often grieved.’
But against this adversary of reason, there rose up in

me on a certain day, about the ninth hour, a strong

visible phantasy, wherein I seemed to behold the most

gracious Beatrice, habited in that crimson raiment which

she had worn when I had first beheld her; also she

appeared to me of the same tender age as then. Where-

upon I fell into a deep thought of her: and my

memory ran back, according to the order of time, unto all

those matters in the which she had borne a part; and my

heart began painfully to repent of the desire by which it

had so basely let itself be possessed during so many days,

contrary to the constancy of reason.
And then, this evil desire being quite gone from me,

all my thoughts turned again unto their excellent Beatrice.

And I say most truly that from that hour I thought con-

stantly of her with the whole humbled and ashamed

heart; the which became often manifest in sighs, that

had among them the name of that most gracious creature,

and how she departed from us. Also it would come to

pass very often, through the bitter anguish of some one

thought, that I forgot both it, and myself, and where I

was. By this increase of sighs, my weeping, which before
page: 104

had been somewhat lessened, increased in like manner;

so that mine eyes seemed to long only for tears and to

cherish them, and came at last to be circled about with

red as though they had suffered martyrdom: neither

were they able to look again upon the beauty of any face

that might again bring them to shame and evil: from

which things it will appear that they were fitly guerdoned

for their unsteadfastness. Wherefore I, (wishing that mine

abandonment of all such evil desires and vain tempta-

tions should be certified and made manifest, beyond all

doubts which might have been suggested by the rhymes

aforewritten) proposed to write a sonnet, wherein I should

express this purport. And I then wrote, ‘Woe's me!’
I said, ‘Woe's me!’ because I was ashamed of the

trifling of mine eyes. This sonnet I do not divide, since its

purport is manifest enough.
  • Woe's me! by dint of all these sighs that come
  • Forth of my heart, its endless grief to prove,
  • Mine eyes are conquered, so that even to move
  • Their lids for greeting is grown troublesome.
  • They wept so long that now they are grief's home
  • And count their tears all laughter far above:
  • They wept till they are circled now by Love
  • With a red circle in sign of martyrdom.
  • These musings, and the sighs they bring from me,
  • 10 Are grown at last so constant and so sore
  • That Love swoons in my spirit with faint breath;
  • Hearing in those sad sounds continually
  • The most sweet name that my dead lady bore,
  • With many grievous words touching her death.
page: 105
About this time, it happened that a great number of

persons undertook a pilgrimage, to the end that they

might behold that blessed portraiture bequeathed unto us

by our Lord Jesus Christ as the image of His beautiful

countenance,* (upon which countenance my dear lady

now looketh continually.) And certain among these

pilgrims, who seemed very thoughtful, passed by a path

which is well-nigh in the midst of the city where

my most gracious lady was born, and abode, and at last

Then I, beholding them, said within myself: ‘These

pilgrims seem to be come from very far; and I think

they cannot have heard speak of this lady, or know any-

thing concerning her. Their thoughts are not of her,

but of other things; it may be, of their friends who are

far distant, and whom we, in our turn, know not.’ And

I went on to say: ‘I know that if they were of a country

near unto us, they would in some wise seem disturbed,

passing through this city which is so full of grief.’ And I

said also: ‘If I could speak with them a space, I am

certain that I should make them weep before they went
Transcribed Footnote (page 105):

* The Veronica ( Vera icon, or true image); that is, the napkin

with which a woman was said to have wiped our Saviour's face on

His way to the cross, and which miraculously retained its likeness.

Dante makes mention of it also in the Commedia (Parad. xxi. 103),

where he says:—

  • ‘Qual è colui che forse di Croazia
  • Viene a veder la Veronica nostra,
  • Che per l'antica fama non si sazia
  • Ma dice nel pensier fin che si mostra:
  • Signor mio Gesù Cristo, Iddio verace,
  • Or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra?’ etc.

page: 106

forth of this city; for those things that they would hear

from me must needs beget weeping in any.’
And when the last of them had gone by me, I be-

thought me to write a sonnet, showing forth mine inward

speech; and that it might seem the more pitiful, I made

as though I had spoken it indeed unto them. And I

wrote this sonnet, which beginneth: ‘Ye pilgrim-folk.’

I made use of the word pilgrim for its general significa-

tion; for ‘pilgrim’ may be understood in two senses,

one general, and one special. General, so far as any

man may be called a pilgrim who leaveth the place of his

birth; whereas, more narrowly speaking, he only is a

pilgrim who goeth towards or frowards the House of St.

James. For there are three separate denominations

proper unto those who undertake journeys to the glory of

God. They are called Palmers who go beyond the seas

eastward, whence often they bring palm-branches. And

Pilgrims, as I have said, are they who journey unto the

holy House of Gallicia; seeing that no other apostle was

buried so far from his birth-place as was the blessed

Saint James. And there is a third sort who are called

Romers; in that they go whither these whom I have

called pilgrims went: which is to say, unto Rome.
This sonnet is not divided, because its own words suffi-

ciently declare it.
  • Ye pilgrim-folk, advancing pensively
  • As if in thought of distant things, I pray,
  • Is your own land indeed so far away—
  • As by your aspect it would seem to be—
  • page: 107
  • That this our heavy sorrow leaves you free
  • Though passing through the mournful town mid-way;
  • Like unto men that understand to-day
  • Nothing at all of her great misery?
  • Yet if ye will but stay, whom I accost,
  • 10 And listen to my words a little space,
  • At going ye shall mourn with a loud voice.
  • It is her Beatrice that she hath lost;
  • Of whom the least word spoken holds such grace
  • That men weep hearing it, and have no choice.
A while after these things, two gentle ladies sent unto

me, praying that I would bestow upon them certain of

these my rhymes. And I (taking into account their

worthiness and consideration,) resolved that I would

write also a new thing, and send it them together with

those others, to the end that their wishes might be more

honourably fulfilled. Therefore I made a sonnet, which

narrates my condition, and which I caused to be conveyed

to them, accompanied with the one preceding, and with

that other which begins, ‘Stay now with me and listen to

my sighs.’ And the new sonnet is, ‘Beyond the sphere.’
This sonnet comprises five parts. In the first, I tell

whither my thought goeth, naming the place by the name of

one of its effects. In the second, I say wherefore it goeth up,

and who makes it go thus. In the third, I tell what it saw,

namely, a lady honoured. And I then call it a ‘Pilgrim

Spirit,’ because it goes up spiritually, and like a pilgrim who

is out of his known country. In the fourth, I say how the

spirit sees her such (that is, in such quality) that I cannot
page: 108

understand her; that is to say, my thought rises into the

quality of her in a degree that my intellect cannot compre-

hend, seeing that our intellect is, towards those blessed souls,

like our eye weak against the sun; and this the Philosopher

says in the Second of the Metaphysics. In the fifth, I say

that, although I cannot see there whither my thought carries

me—that is, to her admirable essence—I at least understand

this, namely, that it is a thought of my lady, because I often

hear her name therein. And, at the end of this fifth part, I

say, ‘Ladies mine,’ to show that they are ladies to whom I

speak. The second part begins, ‘A new perception;’ the

third, ‘When it hath reached;’ the fourth, ‘It sees her

such;’ the fifth, ‘And yet I know.’ It might be divided yet

more nicely, and made yet clearer; but this division may pass,

and therefore I stay not to divide it further.
  • Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest space
  • Now soars the sigh that my heart sends above:
  • A new perception born of grieving Love
  • Guideth it upward the untrodden ways.
  • When it hath reached unto the end, and stays,
  • It sees a lady round whom splendours move
  • In homage; till, by the great light thereof
  • Abashed, the pilgrim spirit stands at gaze.
  • It sees her such, that when it tells me this
  • 10 Which it hath seen, I understand it not,
  • It hath a speech so subtile and so fine.
  • And yet I know its voice within my thought
  • Often remembereth me of Beatrice:
  • So that I understand it, ladies mine.
page: 109
After writing this sonnet, it was given unto me to

behold a very wonderful vision:* wherein I saw things

which determined me that I would say nothing further of

this most blessed one, until such time as I could dis-

course more worthily concerning her. And to this end

I labour all I can; as she well knoweth. Wherefore if

it be His pleasure through whom is the life of all things,

that my life continue with me a few years, it is my hope

that I shall yet write concerning her what hath not before

been written of any woman. After the which, may it

seem good unto Him who is the Master of Grace, that

my spirit should go hence to behold the glory of its

lady: to wit, of that blessed Beatrice who now gazeth

continually on His countenance qui est per omnia sæcula

.† Laus Deo.
Transcribed Footnote (page 109):

* This we may believe to have been the Vision of Hell, Purga-

tory, and Paradise, which furnished the triple argument of the

‘Divina Commedia.’ The Latin words ending the Vita Nuova are

almost identical with those at the close of the letter in which Dante,

on concluding the Paradise, and accomplishing the hope here ex-

pressed, dedicates his great work to Can Grande della Scala.

Transcribed Footnote (page 109):

† ‘Who is blessed throughout all ages.’

page: 110
Note: The inital letter of each poem throughout the remainder of the book is set as a dropped capital.



Sent with the Vita Nuova.
  • Master Brunetto, this my little maid
  • Is come to spend her Easter-tide with you;
  • Not that she reckons feasting as her due,—
  • Whose need is hardly to be fed, but read.
  • Not in a hurry can her sense be weigh'd,
  • Nor mid the jests of any noisy crew:
  • Ah! and she wants a little coaxing too
  • Before she'll get into another's head.
  • But if you do not find her meaning clear,
  • 10 You've many Brother Alberts* hard at hand,
  • Whose wisdom will respond to any call.
  • Consult with them and do not laugh at her;
  • And if she still is hard to understand,
  • Apply to Master Janus last of all.
Transcribed Footnote (page 110):

* Probably in allusion to Albert of Cologne. Giano (Janus),

which follows, was in use as an Italian name, as for instance Giano

della Bella; but it seems possible that Dante is merely playfully

advising his preceptor to avail himself of the twofold insight of

Janus the double-faced.

page: 111


Of Beatrice de' Portinari, on All Saints' Day .
Transcribed Footnote (page 111):

* This and the six following pieces (with the possible exception

of the canzone at page 115) seem so certainly to have been written at

the same time as the poetry of the Vita Nuova, that it becomes diffi-

cult to guess why they were omitted from that work. Other poems

in Dante's Canzoniere refer in a more general manner to his love for

Beatrice, but each among those I allude to bears the impress of some

special occasion.

  • Last All Saints' holy-day, even now gone by,
  • I met a gathering of damozels:
  • She that came first, as one doth who excels,
  • Had Love with her, bearing her company:
  • A flame burn'd forward through her steadfast eye,
  • As when in living fire a spirit dwells:
  • So, gazing with the boldness which prevails
  • O'er doubt, I saw an angel visibly.
  • As she pass'd on, she bow'd her mild approof
  • 10 And salutation to all men of worth,
  • Lifting the soul to solemn thoughts aloof.
  • In Heaven itself that lady had her birth,
  • I think, and is with us for our behoof:
  • Blessed are they who meet her on the earth.
page: 112


To certain Ladies; when Beatrice was lamenting

her Father's Death.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 112):

* See the Vita Nuova, at page 66.

  • Whence come you, all of you so sorrowful?
  • An it may please you, speak for courtesy.
  • I fear for my dear lady's sake, lest she
  • Have made you to return thus filled with dule.
  • O gentle ladies, be not hard to school
  • In gentleness, but to some pause agree,
  • And something of my lady say to me,
  • For with a little my desire is full.
  • Howbeit it be a heavy thing to hear:
  • 10 For love now utterly has thrust me forth,
  • With hand for ever lifted, striking fear.
  • See if I be not worn unto the earth:
  • Yea, and my spirit must fail from me here,
  • If, when you speak, your words are of no worth.
page: 113
Sig. I


To the same Ladies; with their Answer.
  • ‘Ye ladies, walking past me piteous-eyed,
  • Who is the lady that lies prostrate here?
  • Can this be even she my heart holds dear?
  • Nay, if it be so, speak, and nothing hide.
  • Her very aspect seems itself beside,
  • And all her features of such altered cheer
  • That to my thinking they do not appear
  • Hers who makes others seem beatified.’
  • ‘If thou forget to know our lady thus,
  • 10 Whom grief o'ercomes, we wonder in no wise,
  • For also the same thing befalleth us.
  • Yet if thou watch the movement of her eyes,
  • Of her thou shalt be straightway conscious.
  • O weep no more! thou art all wan with sighs.’
page: 114


He will gaze upon Beatrice.
  • Because mine eyes can never have their fill
  • Of looking at my lady's lovely face,
  • I will so fix my gaze
  • That I may become blessed, beholding her.
  • Even as an angel, up at his great height
  • Standing amid the light,
  • Becometh blessed by only seeing God:—
  • So, though I be a simple earthly wight,
  • Yet none the less I might,
  • 10 Beholding her who is my heart's dear load,
  • Be blessed, and in the spirit soar abroad.
  • Such power abideth in that gracious one;
  • Albeit felt of none
  • Save of him who, desiring, honours her.
page: 115


A Complaint of his Lady's scorn.
Transcribed Footnote (page 115):

* This poem seems probably referable to the time during which

Beatrice denied her salutation to Dante. (See the Vita Nuova, at

page 42 et seq.)

  • Love, since it is thy will that I return
  • 'Neath her usurped control
  • Who is thou know'st how beautiful and proud;
  • Enlighten thou her heart, so bidding burn
  • Thy flame within her soul
  • That she rejoice not when my cry is loud.
  • Be thou but once endowed
  • With sense of the new peace, and of this fire,
  • And of the scorn wherewith I am despised,
  • 10And wherefore death is my most fierce desire;
  • And then thou'lt be apprised
  • Of all. So if thou slay me afterward,
  • Anguish unburthened shall make death less hard.
  • O Lord, thou knowest very certainly
  • That thou didst make me apt
  • To serve thee. But I was not wounded yet,
  • When under heaven I beheld openly
  • The face which thus hath rapt
  • page: 116
  • My soul. Then all my spirits ran elate
  • 20 Upon her will to wait.
  • And she, the peerless one who o'er all worth
  • Is still her proper beauty's worshipper,
  • Made semblance then to guide them safely forth:
  • And they put faith in her:
  • Till, gathering them within her garment all,
  • She turned their blessed peace to tears and gall.
  • Then I, (for I could hear how they complained,)
  • As sympathy impelled,
  • Full oft to seek her presence did arise.
  • 30And mine own soul (which better had refrained)
  • So much my strength upheld
  • That I could steadily behold her eyes.
  • This in thy knowledge lies,
  • Who then didst call me with so mild a face
  • That I hoped solace from my greater load:
  • And when she turned the key on my dark place,
  • Such ruth thy grace bestowed
  • Upon my grief, and in such piteous kind,
  • That I had strength to bear, and was resign'd.
  • 40For love of the sweet favour's comforting
  • Did I become her thrall;
  • And still her every movement gladdened me
  • With triumph that I served so sweet a thing:
  • Pleasures and blessings all
  • I set aside, my perfect hope to see:
  • Till her proud contumely—
  • page: 117
  • That so mine aim might rest unsatisfied—
  • Covered the beauty of her countenance.
  • So straightway fell into my living side,
  • 50 To slay me, the swift lance:
  • While she rejoiced and watched my bitter end,
  • Only to prove what succour thou wouldst send.
  • I therefore, weary with my love's constraint,
  • To death's deliverance ran,
  • That out of terrible grief I might be brought:
  • For tears had broken me and left me faint
  • Beyond the lot of man,
  • Until each sigh must be my last, I thought.
  • Yet still this longing wrought
  • 60So much of torment for my soul to bear,
  • That with the pang I swooned and fell to earth.
  • Then, as in trance, 'twas whispered at mine ear,
  • How in this constant girth
  • Of anguish, I indeed at length must die:
  • So that I dreaded Love continually.
  • Master, thou knowest now
  • The life which in thy service I have borne:
  • Not that I tell it thee to disallow
  • Control, who still to thy behest am sworn.
  • 70 Yet if through this my vow
  • I remain dead, nor help they will confer,
  • Do thou at least, for God's sake, pardon her.
page: 118


He beseeches Death for the Life of Beatrice .
  • Death, since I find not one with whom to grieve,
  • Nor whom this grief of mine may move to tears,
  • Whereso I be or whitherso I turn:
  • Since it is thou who in my soul wilt leave
  • No single joy, but chill'st it with just fears
  • And makest it in fruitless hopes to burn:
  • Since thou, Death, and thou only, canst decern
  • Wealth to my life, or want, at thy free choice:—
  • It is to thee that I lift up my voice,
  • 10 Bowing my face that's like a face just dead.
  • I come to thee, as to one pitying,
  • In grief for that sweet rest which nought can bring
  • Again, if thou but once be enterèd
  • Into her life whom my heart cherishes
  • Even as the only portal of its peace.
  • Death, how most sweet the peace is that thy grace
  • Can grant to me, and that I pray thee for,
  • Thou easily mayst know by a sure sign,
  • If in mine eyes thou look a little space
  • 20 And read in them the hidden dread they store,—
  • page: 119
  • If upon all thou look which proves me thine.
  • Since the fear only maketh me to pine
  • After this sort,—what will mine anguish be
  • When her eyes close, of dreadful verity,
  • In whose light is the light of mine own eyes?
  • But now I know that thou wouldst have my life
  • As hers, and joy'st thee in my fruitless strife.
  • Yet I do think this which I feel implies
  • That soon, when I would die to flee from pain,
  • 30I shall find none by whom I may be slain.
  • Death, if indeed thou smite this gentle one
  • Whose outward worth but tells the intellect
  • How wondrous is the miracle within,—
  • Thou biddest Virtue rise up and begone,
  • Thou dost away with Mercy's best effect,
  • Thou spoil'st the mansion of God's sojourning;
  • Yea, unto nought her beauty thou dost bring
  • Which is above all other beauties, even
  • In so much as befitteth one whom Heaven
  • 40 Sent upon earth in token of its own.
  • Thou dost break through the perfect trust which hath
  • Been alway her companion in Love's path:
  • The light once darken'd which was hers alone,
  • Love needs must say to them he ruleth o'er,
  • ‘I have lost the noble banner that I bore.’
  • Death, have some pity then for all the ill
  • Which cannot choose but happen if she die,
  • And which will be the sorest ever known.
  • page: 120
  • Slacken the string, if so it be thy will,
  • 50 That the sharp arrow leave it not,—thereby
  • Sparing her life, which if it flies is flown.
  • O Death, for God's sake, be some pity shown!
  • Restrain within thyself, even at its height,
  • The cruel wrath which moveth thee to smite
  • Her in whom God hath set so much of grace.
  • Show now some ruth if 'tis a thing thou hast!
  • I seem to see Heaven's gate, that is shut fast,
  • Open, and angels filling all the space
  • About me,—come to fetch her soul whose laud
  • 60Is sung by saints and angels before God.
  • Song, thou must surely see how fine a thread
  • This is that my last hope is holden by,
  • And what I should be brought to without her.
  • Therefore for thy plain speech and lowlihead
  • Make thou no pause: but go immediately,
  • (Knowing thyself for my heart's minister,)
  • And with that very meek and piteous air
  • Thou hast, stand up before the face of Death,
  • To wrench away the bar that prisoneth
  • 70 And win unto the place of the good fruit.
  • And if indeed thou shake by thy soft voice
  • Death's mortal purpose,—haste thee and rejoice
  • Our lady with the issue of thy suit.
  • So yet awhile our earthly nights and days
  • Shall keep the blessed spirit that I praise.
page: 121


On the 9 th of June, 1290.
  • Upon a day, came Sorrow in to me,
  • Saying, ‘I've come to stay with thee a while;’
  • And I perceived that she had ushered Bile
  • And Pain into my house for company.
  • Wherefore I said, ‘Go forth—away with thee!’
  • But like a Greek she answered, full of guile,
  • And went on arguing in an easy style.
  • Then, looking, I saw Love come silently,
  • Habited in black raiment, smooth and new,
  • 10 Having a black hat set upon his hair;
  • And certainly the tears he shed were true.
  • So that I asked, ‘What ails thee, trifler?’
  • Answering he said: ‘A grief to be gone through;
  • For our own lady's dying, brother dear.’
page: 122



He rebukes Cino for Fickleness.
  • I thought to be for ever separate,
  • Fair Master Cino, from these rhymes of yours;
  • Since further from the coast, another course,
  • My vessel now must journey with her freight.*
  • Yet still, because I hear men name your state
  • As his whom every lure doth straight beguile,
  • I pray you lend a very little while
  • Unto my voice your ear grown obdurate.
  • The man after this measure amorous,
  • 10 Who still at his own will is bound and loosed,
  • How slightly Love him wounds is lightly known.
  • If on this wise your heart in homage bows,
  • I pray you for God's sake it be disused,
  • So that the deed and the sweet words be one.
Transcribed Footnote (page 122):

* This might seem to suggest that the present sonnet was written

about the same time as the close of the Vita Nuova, and that an

allusion may also here be intended to the first conception of Dante's

great work.

page: 123


He answers Dante, confessing his unsteadfast Heart .
  • Dante, since I from my own native place
  • In heavy exile have turned wanderer,
  • Far distant from the purest joy which e'er
  • Had issued from the Fount of joy and grace,
  • I have gone weeping through the world's dull space,
  • And me proud Death, as one too mean, doth spare;
  • Yet meeting Love, Death's neighbour, I declare
  • That still his arrows hold my heart in chase.
  • Nor from his pitiless aim can I get free,
  • 10 Nor from the hope which comforts my weak will,
  • Though no true aid exists which I could share.
  • One pleasure ever binds and looses me;
  • That so, by one same Beauty lured, I still
  • Delight in many women here and there.
page: 124



Written in Exile.
  • Because I find not whom to speak withal
  • Anent that lord whose I am as thou art,
  • Behoves that in thine ear I tell some part
  • Of this whereof I gladly would say all.
  • And deem thou nothing else occasional
  • Of my long silence while I kept apart,
  • Except this place, so guilty at the heart
  • That the right has not who will give it stall.
  • Love comes not here to any woman's face,
  • 10 Nor any man here for his sake will sigh,
  • For unto such ‘Thou fool!’ were straightway said.
  • Ah! Master Cino, how the time turns base,
  • And mocks at us, and on our rhymes says ‘Fie!’
  • Since truth has been thus thinly harvested.
page: 125


He answers the foregoing Sonnet, and prays Dante, in the

name of Beatrice, to continue his great Poem .
  • I know not, Dante, in what refuge dwells
  • The truth, which with all men is out of mind;
  • For long ago it left this place behind,
  • Till in its stead at last God's thunder swells.
  • Yet if our shifting life too clearly tells
  • That here the truth has no reward assign'd,—
  • 'Twas God, remember, taught it to mankind,
  • And even among the fiends preach'd nothing else.
  • Then, though the kingdoms of the earth be torn,
  • 10 Where'er thou set thy feet, from Truth's control,
  • Yet unto me thy friend this prayer accord:—
  • Beloved, O my brother, sorrow-worn,
  • Even in that lady's name who is thy goal,
  • Sing on till thou redeem thy plighted word!*
Transcribed Footnote (page 125):

* That is, the pledge given at the end of the Vita Nuova . This

may perhaps have been written in the early days of Dante's exile,

before his resumption of the interrupted Commedia.

page: 126


Of Beauty and Duty.
  • Two ladies to the summit of my mind
  • Have clomb, to hold an argument of love.
  • The one has wisdom with her from above,
  • For every noblest virtue well designed:
  • The other, beauty's tempting power refined
  • And the high charm of perfect grace approve:
  • And I, as my sweet Master's will doth move,
  • At feet of both their favours am reclined.
  • Beauty and Duty in my soul keep strife,
  • 10 At question if the heart such course can take
  • And 'twixt two ladies hold its love complete.
  • The fount of gentle speech yields answer meet,
  • That Beauty may be loved for gladness' sake,
  • And Duty in the lofty ends of life.
page: 127


Of the Lady Pietra degli Scrovigni.
  • To the dim light and the large circle of shade
  • I have clomb, and to the whitening of the hills,
  • There where we see no colour in the grass.
  • Nathless my longing loses not its green,
  • It has so taken root in the hard stone
  • Which talks and hears as though it were a lady.
  • Utterly frozen is this youthful lady
  • Even as the snow that lies within the shade;
    Transcribed Footnote (page 127):

    * I have translated this piece both on account of its great and

    peculiar beauty, and also because it affords an example of a form of

    composition which I have met with in no Italian writer before

    Dante's time, though it is not uncommon among the Provençal poets

    (see Dante, De Vulg. Eloq .). I have headed it with the name of a

    Paduan lady, to whom it is surmised by some to have been addressed

    during Dante's exile; but this must be looked upon as a rather

    doubtful conjecture, and I have adopted the name chiefly to mark it

    at once as not referring to Beatrice.

    page: 128
  • For she is no more moved than is a stone
  • 10By the sweet season which makes warm the hills
  • And alters them afresh from white to green,
  • Covering their sides again with flowers and grass.
  • When on her hair she sets a crown of grass
  • The thought has no more room for other lady;
  • Because she weaves the yellow with the green
  • So well that Love sits down there in the shade,—
  • Love who has shut me in among low hills
  • Faster than between walls of granite-stone.
  • She is more bright than is a precious stone;
  • 20The wound she gives may not be healed with grass:
  • I therefore have fled far o'er plains and hills
  • For refuge from so dangerous a lady;
  • But from her sunshine nothing can give shade,—
  • Not any hill, nor wall, nor summer-green.
  • A while ago, I saw her dressed in green,—
  • So fair, she might have wakened in a stone
  • This love which I do feel even for her shade;
  • And therefore, as one woos a graceful lady,
  • I wooed her in a field that was all grass
  • 30Girdled about with very lofty hills.
  • Yet shall the streams turn back and climb the hills
  • Before Love's flame in this damp wood and green
  • Burn, as it burns within a youthful lady,
  • For my sake, who would sleep away in stone
  • page: 129
    Sig. K
  • My life, or feed like beasts upon the grass,
  • Only to see her garments cast a shade.
  • How dark soe'er the hills throw out their shade,
  • Under her summer-green the beautiful lady
  • Covers it, like a stone covered in grass.
page: 130


A Curse for a fruitless Love.
  • My curse be on the day when first I saw
  • The brightness in those treacherous eyes of
  • thine,—
  • The hour when from my heart thou cam'st to draw
  • My soul away, that both might fail and pine:
  • My curse be on the skill that smooth'd each line
  • Of my vain songs,—the music and just law
  • Of art, by which it was my dear design
  • That the whole world should yield thee love and awe.
  • Yea, let me curse mine own obduracy,
  • 10 Which firmly holds what doth itself confound—
  • To wit, thy fair perverted face of scorn:
  • For whose sake Love is oftentimes forsworn
  • So that men mock at him: but most at me
  • Who would hold fortune's wheel and turn it round.
Transcribed Footnote (page 130):

* I have separated this sonnet from the pieces bearing on the

Vita Nuova, as it is naturally repugnant to connect it with Beatrice.

I cannot, however, but think it possible that it may have been the

bitter fruit of some bitterest moment in those hours when Dante

endured her scorn.

page: [131]




He interprets Dante's Dream, related in the first Sonnet of the

the Vita Nuova.*
  • Unto my thinking, thou beheld'st all worth,
  • All joy, as much of good as man may know,
  • If thou wert in his power who here below
  • Is honour's righteous lord throughout this earth.
  • Where evil dies, even there he has his birth,
  • Whose justice out of pity's self doth grow.
  • Softly to sleeping persons he will go,
  • And, with no pain to them, their hearts draw forth.
  • Thy heart he took, as knowing well, alas!
  • 10 That Death had claimed thy lady for a prey:
  • In fear whereof, he fed her with thy heart.
  • But when he seemed in sorrow to depart,
  • Sweet was thy dream; for by that sign, I say,
  • Surely the opposite shall come to pass.†
Transcribed Footnote (page [131]):

* See the Vita Nuova, at page 33.

Transcribed Footnote (page [131]):

† This may refer to the belief that, towards morning, dreams go

by contraries.

page: 132


To his Lady Joan, of Florence.
  • Flowers hast thou in thyself, and foliage,
  • And what is good, and what is glad to see;
  • The sun is not so bright as thy visàge;
  • All is stark naught when one hath looked on thee;
  • There is not such a beautiful personage
  • Anywhere on the green earth verily;
  • If one fear love, thy bearing sweet and sage
  • Comforteth him, and no more fear hath he.
  • Thy lady friends and maidens ministering
  • 10 Are all, for love of thee, much to my taste:
  • And much I pray them that in everything
  • They honour thee even as thou meritest,
  • And have thee in their gentle harbouring:
  • Because among them all thou art the best.
page: 133


He compares all Things with his Lady, and finds them

  • Beauty in woman; the high will's decree;
  • Fair knighthood armed for manly exercise;
  • The pleasant song of birds; love's soft replies;
  • The strength of rapid ships upon the sea;
  • The serene air when light begins to be;
  • The white snow, without wind that falls and lies;
  • Fields of all flower; the place where waters rise;
  • Silver and gold; azure in jewellery:—
  • Weighed against these, the sweet and quiet worth
  • 10 Which my dear lady cherishes at heart
  • Might seem a little matter to be shown;
  • Being truly, over these, as much apart
  • As the whole heaven is greater than this earth.
  • All good to kindred natures cleaveth soon.
page: 134


A Rapture concerning his Lady.
  • Who is she coming, whom all gaze upon,
  • Who makes the air all tremulous with light,
  • And at whose side is Love himself? that none
  • Dare speak, but each man's sighs are infinite.
  • Ah me! how she looks round from left to right,
  • Let Love discourse: I may not speak thereon.
  • Lady she seems of such high benison
  • As makes all others graceless in men's sight.
  • The honour which is hers cannot be said;
  • 10 To whom are subject all things virtuous,
  • While all things beauteous own her deity
  • Ne'er was the mind of man so nobly led
  • Nor yet was such redemption granted us
  • That we should ever know her perfectly.
page: 135


Of his Lady among other Ladies.
  • With other women I beheld my love;—
  • Not that the rest were women to mine eyes,
  • Who only as her shadows seemed to move.
  • I do not praise her more than with the truth,
  • Nor blame I these if it be rightly read.
  • But while I speak, a thought I may not soothe
  • Says to my senses: ‘Soon shall ye be dead,
  • If for my sake your tears ye will not shed.’
  • And then the eyes yield passage, at that thought,
  • 10To the heart's weeping, which forgets her not.
page: 136



Of a consecrated Image resembling his Lady .
  • Guido, an image of my lady dwells
  • At San Michele in Orto, consecrate
  • And duly worshipped. Fair in holy state
  • She listens to the tale each sinner tells:
  • And among them that come to her, who ails
  • The most, on him the most doth blessing wait.
  • She bids the fiend men's bodies abdicate;
  • Over the curse of blindness she prevails,
  • And heals sick languors in the public squares.
  • 10 A multitude adores her reverently:
  • Before her face two burning tapers are;
  • Her voice is uttered upon paths afar.
  • Yet through the Lesser Brethren's* jealousy
  • She is named idol; not being one of theirs.
Transcribed Footnote (page 136):

* The Franciscans, in profession of deeper poverty and humility

than belonged to other Orders, called themselves Fratres minores.

page: 137



In answer to the foregoing Sonnet.
  • If thou hadst offered, friend, to blessed Mary
  • A pious voluntary,
  • As thus: ‘Fair rose, in holy garden set:’
  • Thou then hadst found a true similitude:
  • Because all truth and good
  • Are hers, who was the mansion and the gate
  • Wherein abode our High Salvation,
  • Conceived in her, a Son,
  • Even by the angel's greeting whom she met.
  • 10Be thou assured that if one cry to her,
  • Confessing, ‘I did err,’
  • For death she gives him life; for she is great.
  • Ah! how mayst thou be counselled to implead
  • With God thine own misdeed,
  • page: 138
  • And not another's? Ponder what thou art;
  • And humbly lay to heart
  • That Publican who wept his proper need.
  • The Lesser Brethren cherish the divine
  • Scripture and church-doctrine;
  • 20Being appointed keepers of the faith
  • Whose preaching succoureth:
  • For what they preach is our best medicine.
page: 139


Of the Eyes of a certain Mandetta, of Thoulouse, which

resemble those of his Lady Joan, of Florence.
  • A certain youthful lady in Thoulouse,
  • Gentle and fair, of cheerful modesty,
  • Is in her eyes, with such exact degree,
  • Of likeness unto mine own lady, whose
  • I am, that through the heart she doth abuse
  • The soul to sweet desire. It goes from me
  • To her; yet, fearing, saith not who is she
  • That of a truth its essence thus subdues.
  • This lady looks on it with the sweet eyes
  • 10 Whose glance did erst the wounds of Love anoint
  • Through its true lady's eyes which are as they.
  • Then to the heart returns it, full of sighs,
  • Wounded to death by a sharp arrow's point
  • Wherewith this lady speeds it on its way.
page: 140


He reveals, in a Dialogue, his increasing Love for Mandetta .
  • Being in thought of love, I chanced to see
  • Two youthful damozels.
  • One sang: ‘Our life inhales
  • All love continually.’
  • Their aspect was so utterly serene,
  • So courteous, of such quiet nobleness,
  • That I said to them: ‘Yours, I well may ween,
  • 'Tis of all virtue to unlock the place.
  • Ah! damozels, do not account him base
  • 10 Whom thus his wound subdues:
  • Since I was at Thoulouse,
  • My heart is dead in me.’
  • They turn'd their eyes upon me in so much
  • As to perceive how wounded was my heart;
  • While, of the spirits born of tears, one such
  • Had been begotten through the constant smart.
  • Then seeing me, abashed, to turn apart,
  • page: 141
  • One of them said, and laugh'd:
  • ‘Love, look you, by his craft
  • 20 Holds this man thoroughly.’
  • But with grave sweetness, after a brief while,
  • She who at first had laughed on me replied,
  • Saying: ‘This lady, who by Love's great guile
  • Her countenance in thy heart has glorified,
  • Look'd thee so deep within the eyes, Love sigh'd
  • And was awakened there.
  • If it seem ill to bear,
  • In him thy hope must be.’
  • The second piteous maiden, of all ruth,
  • 30 Fashioned for sport in Love's own image, said:
  • ‘This stroke, whereof thy heart bears trace in sooth,
  • From eyes of too much puïssance was shed,
  • Whence in thy heart such brightness enterèd,
  • Thou mayst not look thereon.
  • Say, of those eyes that shone
  • Canst thou remember thee?’
  • Then said I, yielding answer therewithal
  • Unto this virgin's difficult behest:
  • ‘A lady of Thoulouse, whom Love doth call
  • 40 Mandetta, sweetly kirtled and enlac'd,
  • I do remember to my sore unrest.
  • Yea, by her eyes indeed
  • My life has been decreed
  • To death inevitably.’
page: 142
  • Go, Ballad, to the city, even Thoulouse,
  • And softly entering the Dauràde,* look round
  • And softly call, that so there may be found
  • Some lady who for compleasaunce may choose
  • To show thee her who can my life confuse.
  • 50 And if she yield thee way,
  • Lift thou thy voice and say:
  • ‘For grace I come to thee.’
Transcribed Footnote (page 142):

* The ancient church of the Daurade still exists at Thoulouse. It

was so called from the golden effect of the mosaics adorning it.

page: 143



He imagines a pleasant Voyage for Guido, Lapo Gianni,

and himself, with their three Ladies.
  • Guido, I wish that Lapo, thou, and I,
  • Could be by spells conveyed, as it were now,
  • Upon a barque, with all the winds that blow
  • Across all seas at our good will to hie.
  • So no mischance nor temper of the sky
  • Should mar our course with spite or cruel slip;
  • But we, observing old companionship,
  • To be companions still should long thereby.
  • And Lady Joan, and Lady Beatrice,
  • 10 And her the thirtieth on my roll,* with us
  • Should our good wizard set, o'er seas to move
  • And not to talk of anything but love:
  • And they three ever to be well at ease
  • As we should be, I think, if this were thus.
Transcribed Footnote (page 143):

* That is, his list of the sixty most beautiful ladies of Florence,

referred to in the Vita Nuova; among whom Lapo Gianni's lady,

Lagia, would seem to have stood thirtieth.

page: 144



Guido answers the foregoing Sonnet, speaking with shame

of his changed Love.
  • If I were still that man, worthy to love,
  • Of whom I have but the remembrance now,
  • Or if the lady bore another brow,
  • To hear this thing might bring me joy thereof.
  • But thou, who in Love's proper court dost move,
  • Even there where hope is born of grace,—see how
  • My very soul within me is brought low:
  • For a swift archer, whom his feats approve,
  • Now bends the bow, which Love to him did yield,
  • 10 In such mere sport against me, it would seem
  • As though he held his lordship for a jest.
  • Then hear the marvel which is sorriest:—
  • My sorely wounded soul forgiveth him,
  • Yet knows that in his act her strength is kill'd.
page: 145
Sig. L



He reports, in a feigned Vision, the successful Issue of Lapo

Gianni's Love.
  • Dante, a sigh that rose from the heart's core
  • Assailed me, while I slumbered, suddenly:
  • So that I woke o' the instant, fearing sore
  • Lest it came thither in Love's company:
  • Till, turning, I beheld the servitor
  • Of lady Lagia: ‘Help me,’ so said he,
  • ‘O help me, Pity.’ Though he said no more,
  • So much of Pity's essence entered me,
  • That I was ware of Love, those shafts he wields
  • 10 A-whetting, and preferred the mourner's quest
  • To him, who straightway answered on this wise:
  • ‘Go tell my servant that the lady yields,
  • And that I hold her now at his behest:
  • If he believe not, let him note her eyes.’
page: 146



He mistrusts the Love of Lapo Gianni.
  • I pray thee, Dante, shouldst thou meet with Love
  • In any place where Lapo then may be,
  • That there thou fail not to mark heedfully
  • If Love with lover's name that man approve;
  • If to our Master's will his lady move
  • Aright, and if himself show fealty:
  • For ofttimes, by ill custom, ye may see
  • This sort profess the semblance of true love.
  • Thou know'st that in the court where Love holds sway,
  • 10 A law subsists, that no man who is vile
  • Can service yield to a lost woman there.
  • If suffering aught avail the sufferer,
  • Thou straightway shalt discern our lofty style,
  • Which needs the badge of honour must display.
page: 147


On the Detection of a false Friend.*
  • Love and the Lady Lagia, Guido and I,
  • Unto a certain lord are bounden all,
  • Who has released us—know ye from whose thrall?
  • Yet I'll not speak, but let the matter die:
  • Since now these three no more are held thereby,
  • Who in such homage at his feet did fall
  • That I myself was not more whimsical,
  • In him conceiving godship from on high.
  • Let Love be thank'd the first, who first discern'd
  • 10 The truth; and that wise lady afterward,
  • Who in fit time took back her heart again;
  • And Guido next, from worship wholly turn'd;
  • And I, as he. But if ye have not heard,
  • I shall not tell how much I loved him then.
Transcribed Footnote (page 147):

* I should think, from the mention of Lady Lagia, that this might

refer again to Lapo Gianni, who seems (one knows not why) to have

fallen into disgrace with his friends. The Guido mentioned is pro-

bably Guido Orlandi.

page: 148


He speaks of a third Love of his.
  • O thou that often hast within thine eyes
  • A Love who holds three shafts,—know thou
  • from me
  • That this my sonnet would commend to thee
  • (Come from afar) a soul in heavy sighs,
  • Which even by Love's sharp arrow wounded lies.
  • Twice did the Syrian archer shoot, and he
  • Now bends his bow the third time, cunningly,
  • That, thou being here, he wound me in no wise.
  • Because the soul would quicken at the core
  • 10 Thereby, which now is near to utter death,
  • From those two shafts, a triple wound that yield.
  • The first gives pleasure, yet disquieteth;
  • And with the second is the longing for
  • The mighty gladness by the third fulfill'd.
page: 149


Of a continual Death in Love.
  • Though thou, indeed, hast quite forgotten ruth,
  • Its steadfast truth my heart abandons not;
  • But still its thought yields service in good part
  • To that hard heart in thee.
  • Alas! who hears believes not I am so.
  • Yet who can know? of very surety, none.
  • From Love is won a spirit, in some wise,
  • Which dies perpetually:
  • And, when at length in that strange ecstasy
  • 10 The heavy sigh will start,
  • There rains upon my heart
  • A love so pure and fine,
  • That I say: ‘Lady, I am wholly thine.’*
Transcribed Footnote (page 149):

* I may take this opportunity of mentioning that, in every case

where an abrupt change of metre occurs in one of my translations, it

is so also in the original poem.

page: 150


To a Friend who does not pity his Love.
  • If I entreat this lady that all grace
  • Seem not unto her heart an enemy
  • Foolish and evil thou declarest me,
  • And desperate in idle stubbornness.
  • Whence is such cruel judgment thine, whose face,
  • To him that looks thereon, professeth thee
  • Faithful, and wise, and of all courtesy,
  • And made after the way of gentleness?
  • Alas! my soul within my heart doth find
  • 10 Sighs, and its grief by weeping doth enhance,
  • That, drowned in bitter tears, those sighs depart:
  • And then there seems a presence in the mind,
  • As of a lady's thoughtful countenance
  • Come to behold the death of the poor heart
page: 151


He perceives that his highest Love is gone from him .
  • Through this my strong and new misaventure,
  • All now is lost to me
  • Which most was sweet in Love's supremacy.
  • So much of life is dead in its control,
  • That she, my pleasant lady of all grace,
  • Is gone out of the devastated soul:
  • I see her not, nor do I know her place;
  • Nor even enough of virtue with me stays
  • To understand, ah me!
  • 10The flower of her exceeding purity.
  • Because there comes—to kill that gentle thought
  • With saying that I shall not see her more—
  • This constant pain wherewith I am distraught,
  • Which is a burning torment very sore,
  • Wherein I know not whom I should implore.
  • Thrice thanked the Master be
  • Who turns the grinding wheel of misery!
page: 152
  • Full of great anguish in a place of fear
  • The spirit of my heart lies sorrowing,
  • 20Through Fortune's bitter craft. She lured it here,
  • And gave it o'er to Death, and barbed the sting;
  • She wrought that hope which was a treacherous thing;
  • In Time, which dies from me,
  • She made me lose mine hour of ecstasy.
  • For you, perturbed and fearful words of mine,
  • Whither it like yourselves, even thither go;
  • But always burthened with shame's troublous sign,
  • And on my lady's name still calling low.
  • For me, I must abide in such deep woe
  • 30 That all who look shall see
  • Death's shadow on my face assuredly.
page: 153


Of his Pain from a new Love.
  • Why from the danger did not mine eyes start,—
  • Why not become even blind,—ere through my
  • sight
  • Within my soul thou ever couldst alight
  • To say: ‘Dost thou not hear me in thy heart?’
  • New torment then, the old torment's counterpart,
  • Filled me at once with such a sore affright,
  • That, Lady, lady, (I said,) destroy not quite
  • Mine eyes and me! O help us where thou art!
  • Thou hast so left mine eyes, that Love is fain—
  • 10 Even Love himself—with pity uncontroll'd
  • To bend above them, weeping for their loss:
  • Saying: If any man feel heavy pain,
  • This man's more painful heart let him behold:
  • Death has it in her hand, cut like a cross.
page: 154

Prolonged Sonnet.

He finds fault with the Conceits of the foregoing Sonnet .
Note: The following poem is not, in the strict sense, a “sonnet,” and is designated by Rossetti a “prolonged sonnet,” consisting as it does of a fourteen-line stanza and a couplet.
  • Friend, well I know thou knowest well to bear
  • Thy sword's-point, that it pierce the close-locked
  • mail:
  • And like a bird to flit from perch to pale:
  • And out of difficult ways to find the air:
  • Largely to take and generously to share:
  • Thrice to secure advantage: to regale
  • Greatly the great, and over lands prevail.
  • In all thou art, one only fault is there:
  • For still among the wise of wit thou say'st
  • 10 That Love himself doth weep for thine estate;
  • And yet, no eyes no tears: lo now, thy whim!
  • Soft, rather say: This is not held in haste;
  • But bitter are the hours and passionate,
  • To him that loves, and love is not for him.
  • For me, (by usage strengthened to forbear
  • From carnal love,) I fall not in such snare.
page: 155


On the part of a Lady of Pisa.
  • Guido, that Gianni who, a day agone,
  • Sought thee, now greets thee (ay and thou mayst
  • laugh!)
  • On that same Pisan beauty's sweet behalf
  • Who can deal love-wounds even as thou hast done.
  • She asked me whether thy good will were prone
  • For service unto Love who troubles her,
  • If she to thee in suchwise should repair
  • That, save by him and Gualtier, 'twere not known:—
  • For thus her kindred of ill augury
  • 10 Should lack the means wherefrom there might be
  • plann'd
  • Worse harm than lying speech that smites afar.
  • I told her that thou hast continually
  • A goodly sheaf of arrows to thy hand,
  • Which well should stead her in such gentle war.
Transcribed Footnote (page 155):

* From a passage in Ubaldini's Glossary (1640) to the ‘Docu-

menti d'Amore’ of Francesco Barberino (1300), I judge that Guido

answered the above sonnet, and that Alfani made a rejoinder, from

which a scrap there printed appears to be taken. The whole piece

existed, in Ubaldini's time, among the Strozzi MSS.

page: 156



He writes to Guido, telling him of the Love which a certain

Pinella showed on seeing him.
  • Unto that lowly lovely maid, I wis,
  • So poignant in the heart was thy salute,
  • That she changed countenance, remaining mute.
  • Wherefore I asked: ‘Pinella, how is this?
  • Hast heard of Guido? know'st thou who he is?’
  • She answered, ‘Yea;’ then paused, irresolute;
  • But I saw well how the love-wounds acute
  • Were widened, and the star which Love calls his
  • Filled her with gentle brightness perfectly.
  • 10 ‘But, friend, an't please thee, I would have it told,’
  • She said, ‘how I am known to him through thee.
  • Yet since, scarce seen, I knew his name of old,—
  • Even as the riddle is read, so must it be.
  • Oh! send him love of mine a thousand-fold!’
page: 157



Guido answers, commending Pinella, and saying that

the Love he can offer her is already shared by many noble

  • The fountain-head that is so bright to see
  • Gains as it runs in virtue and in sheen,
  • Friend Bernard; and for her who spoke with thee,
  • Even such the flow of her young life has been:
  • So that when Love discourses secretly
  • Of things the fairest he has ever seen,
  • He says there is no fairer thing than she,
  • A lowly maid as lovely as a queen.
  • And for that I am troubled, thinking of
  • 10 That sigh wherein I burn upon the waves
  • Which drift her heart,—poor barque, so ill bested!—
  • Unto Pinella a great river of love
  • I send, that's full of sirens, and whose slaves
  • Are beautiful and richly habited.
page: 158



He reproves Guido for his Arrogance in Love .
  • No man may mount upon a golden stair,
  • Guido my master, to Love's palace-sill:
  • No key of gold will fit the lock that's there,
  • Nor heart there enter without pure goodwill.
  • Not if he miss one courteous duty, dare
  • A lover hope he should his love fulfil;
  • But to his lady must make meek repair,
  • Reaping with husbandry her favours still.
  • And thou but know'st of Love (I think) his name:
  • 10 Youth holds thy reason in extremities:
  • Only on thine own face thou turn'st thine eyes;
  • Fairer than Absalom's account'st the same;
  • And think'st, as rosy moths are drawn by flame,
  • To draw the women from their balconies.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 158):

* It is curious to find these poets perpetually rating one another

for the want of constancy in love. Guido is rebuked, as above, by

Dino Compagni; Cino da Pistoia by Dante ( p. 122); and Dante by

Guido ( p. 161), who formerly, as we have seen ( p. 146), had confided

to him his doubts of Lapo Gianni.

page: 159



In praise of Guido Orlandi's Lady.
  • A lady in whom love is manifest—
  • That love which perfect honour doth adorn—
  • Hath ta'en the living heart out of thy breast,
  • Which in her keeping to new life is born:
  • For there by such sweet power it is possest
  • As even is felt of Indian unicorn:*
  • And all its virtue now, with fierce unrest,
  • Unto thy soul makes difficult return.
  • For this thy lady is virtue's minister
  • 10 In suchwise that no fault there is to show,
  • Save that God made her mortal on this ground.
  • And even herein His wisdom shall be found:
  • For only thus our intellect could know
  • That heavenly beauty which resembles her.
Transcribed Footnote (page 159):

* In old representations, the unicorn is often seen with his head

in a virgin's lap.

page: 160


He answers the foregoing Sonnet, declaring himself his

lady's Champion.
  • To sound of trumpet rather than of horn,
  • I in Love's name would hold a battle-play
  • Of gentlemen in arms on Easter Day;
  • And, sailing without oar or wind, be borne
  • Unto my joyful beauty; all that morn
  • To ride round her, in her cause seeking fray
  • Of arms with all but thee, friend, who dost say
  • The truth of her, and whom all truths adorn.
  • And still I pray Our Lady's grace above,
  • 10 Most reverently, that she whom my thoughts bear
  • In sweet remembrance own her Lord supreme.
  • Holding her honour dear, as doth behove,—
  • In God who therewithal sustaineth her
  • Let her abide, and not depart from Him.
page: 161
Sig. M



He rebukes Dante for his way of Life, after the Death

of Beatrice.*
  • I come to thee by daytime constantly,
  • But in thy thoughts too much of baseness find:
  • Greatly it grieves me for thy gentle mind.
  • And for thy many virtues gone from thee.
  • It was thy wont to shun much company,
  • Unto all sorry concourse ill inclin'd:
  • And still thy speech of me, heartfelt and kind,
  • Had made me treasure up thy poetry.
  • But now I dare not, for thine abject life,
  • 10 Make manifest that I approve thy rhymes;
  • Nor come I in such sort that thou mayst know.
  • Ah! prythee read this sonnet many times:
  • So shall that evil one who bred this strife
  • Be thrust from thy dishonoured soul and go.
Transcribed Footnote (page 161):

* This interesting sonnet must refer to the same period of Dante's

life regarding which he has made Beatrice address him in words of

noble reproach when he meets her in Eden. ( Purg. C. xxx.)

page: 162


Concerning a Shepherd-maid.
  • Within a copse I met a shepherd-maid,
  • More fair, I said, than any star to see.
  • She came with waving tresses pale and bright,
  • With rosy cheer, and loving eyes of flame,
  • Guiding the lambs beneath her wand aright.
  • Her naked feet still had the dews on them,
  • As, singing like a lover, so she came;
  • Joyful, and fashioned for all ecstasy.
  • I greeted her at once, and question made
  • 10 What escort had she through the woods in spring?
  • But with soft accents she replied and said
  • That she was all alone there, wandering;
  • Moreover: ‘Do you know, when the birds sing,
  • My heart's desire is for a mate,’ said she.
  • While she was telling me this wish of hers,
  • The birds were all in song throughout the wood.
  • ‘Even now then,’ said my thought, ‘the time recurs,
  • With mine own longing to assuage her mood.’
  • page: 163
  • And so, in her sweet favour's name, I sued
  • 20That she would kiss there and embrace with me.
  • She took my hand to her with amorous will,
  • And answered that she gave me all her heart,
  • And drew me where the leaf is fresh and still,
  • Where spring the wood-flowers in the shade apart.
  • And on that day, by Joy's enchanted art,
  • There Love in very presence seemed to be.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 163):

* The glossary to Barberino, already mentioned, refers to the

existence, among the Strozzi MSS., of a poem by Lapo di Farinata

degli Uberti, written in answer to the above ballata of Cavalcanti.

As this respondent was no other than Guido's brother-in-law, one

feels curious to know what he said to the peccadilloes of his sister's

husband. But I fear the poem cannot yet have been published, as I

have sought for it in vain at all my printed sources of information.

page: 164


Of an ill-favoured Lady.
  • Just look, Manetto, at that wry-mouthed minx;
  • Merely take notice what a wretch it is;
  • How well contrived in her deformities,
  • How beastly favoured when she scowls and blinks.
  • Why, with a hood on (if one only thinks)
  • Or muffle of prim veils and scapularies,—
  • And set together, on a day like this,
  • Some pretty lady with the odious sphinx;—
  • Why, then thy sins could hardly have such weight,
  • 10 Nor thou be so subdued from Love's attack,
  • Nor so possessed in Melancholy's sway,
  • But that perforce thy peril must be great
  • Of laughing till the very heart-strings crack:
  • Either thou'dst die, or thou must run away.
page: 165



After the Pope's Interdict, when the great Houses were

leaving Florence.
  • Nero, thus much for tidings in thine ear.
  • They of the Buondelmonti quake with dread,
  • Nor by all Florence may be comforted,
  • Noting in thee the lion's ravenous cheer;
  • Who more than any dragon giv'st them fear,
  • In ancient evil stubbornly array'd;
  • Neither by bridge nor bulwark to be stay'd,
  • But only by King Pharaoh's sepulchre.
  • Oh, in what monstrous sin dost thou engage,—
  • 10 All these which are of loftiest blood to drive
  • Away, that none dare pause but all take wing!
  • Yet sooth it is, thou might'st redeem the pledge
  • Even yet, and save thy naked soul alive,
  • Wert thou but patient in the bargaining.
page: 166


In Exile at Sarzana.
  • Because I think not ever to return,
  • Ballad, to Tuscany,—
  • Go therefore thou for me
  • Straight to my lady's face,
  • Who, of her noble grace,
  • Shall show thee courtesy.
  • Thou seekest her in charge of many sighs,
  • Full of much grief and of exceeding fear.
  • But have good heed thou come not to the eyes
  • 10 Of such as are sworn foes to gentle cheer:
  • For, certes, if this thing should chance,—from her
  • Thou then couldst only look
  • For scorn, and such rebuke
  • As needs must bring me pain;—
  • Yea, after death again
  • Tears and fresh agony.
  • Surely thou knowest, Ballad, how that Death
  • Assails me, till my life is almost sped:
  • page: 167
  • Thou knowest how my heart still travaileth
  • 20 Through the sore pangs which in my soul are bred:—
  • My body being now so nearly dead,
  • It cannot suffer more.
  • Then, going, I implore
  • That this my soul thou take
  • (Nay, do so for my sake,)
  • When my heart sets it free.
  • Ah! Ballad, unto thy dear offices
  • I do commend my soul, thus trembling;
  • That thou mayst lead it, for pure piteousness,
  • 30 Even to that lady's presence whom I sing.
  • Ah! Ballad, say thou to her, sorrowing,
  • Whereso thou meet her then:—
  • ‘This thy poor handmaiden
  • Is come, nor will be gone,
  • Being parted now from one
  • Who served Love painfully.’
  • Thou also, thou bewildered voice and weak
  • That goest forth in tears from my grieved heart,
  • Shalt, with my soul and with this ballad, speak
  • 40 Of my dead mind, when thou dost hence depart,
  • Unto that lady (piteous as thou art!)
  • Who is so calm and bright
  • It shall be deep delight
  • To feel her presence there.
  • And thou, Soul, worship her
  • Still in her purity.
page: 168


A Song of Fortune.
Transcribed Footnote (page 168):

* This and the three following Canzoni are only to be found in

the later collections of Guido Cavalcanti's poems. I have included

them on account of their interest if really his, and especially for the

beauty of the last among them; but must confess to some doubts of

their authenticity.

Note: The f in the phrase ‘of their authenticity’ is slightly raised above the line.
  • Lo! I am she who makes the wheel to turn;
  • Lo! I am she who gives and takes away;
  • Blamed idly, day by day,
  • In all mine acts by you, ye humankind.
  • For whoso smites his visage and doth mourn,
  • What time he renders back my gifts to me,
  • Learns then that I decree
  • No state which mine own arrows may not find.
  • Who clomb must fall:—this bear ye well in mind,
  • 10Nor say, because he fell, I did him wrong.
  • Yet mine is a vain song:
  • For truly ye may find out wisdom when
  • King Arthur's resting-place is found of men.
  • Ye make great marvel and astonishment
  • What time ye see the sluggard lifted up
  • page: 169
  • And the just man to drop,
  • And ye complain on God and on my sway.
  • O humankind, ye sin in your complaint:
  • For He, that Lord who made the world to live,
  • 20 Lets me not take or give
  • By mine own act, but as he wills I may.
  • Yet is the mind of man so castaway,
  • That it discerns not the supreme behest.
  • Alas! ye wretchedest,
  • And chide ye at God also? Shall not He
  • Judge between good and evil righteously?
  • Ah! had ye knowledge how God evermore,
  • With agonies of soul and grievous heats,
  • As on an anvil beats
  • 30 On them that in this earth hold high estate,—
  • Ye would choose little rather than much store,
  • And solitude than spacious palaces;
  • Such is the sore disease
  • Of anguish that on all their days doth wait.
  • Behold if they be not unfortunate,
  • When oft the father dares not trust the son!
  • O wealth, with thee is won
  • A worm to gnaw for ever on his soul
  • Whose abject life is laid in thy control!
  • 40If also ye take note what piteous death
  • They ofttimes make, whose hoards were manifold,
  • Who cities had and gold
  • And multitudes of men beneath their hand;
  • page: 170
  • Then he among you that most angereth
  • Shall bless me saying, ‘Lo! I worship thee
  • That I was not as he
  • Whose death is thus accurst throughout the land.’
  • But now your living souls are held in band
  • Of avarice, shutting you from the true light
  • 50 Which shows how sad and slight
  • Are this world's treasured riches and array
  • That still change hands a hundred times a-day.
  • For me,—could envy enter in my sphere,
  • Which of all human taint is clean and quit,—
  • I well might harbour it
  • When I behold the peasant at his toil.
  • Guiding his team, untroubled, free from fear,
  • He leaves his perfect furrow as he goes,
  • And gives his field repose
  • 60 From thorns and tares and weeds that vex the soil:
  • Thereto he labours, and without turmoil
  • Entrusts his work to God, content if so
  • Such guerdon from it grow
  • That in that year his family shall live:
  • Nor care nor thought to other things will give.
  • But now ye may no more have speech of me,
  • For this mine office craves continual use:
  • Ye therefore deeply muse
  • Upon those things which ye have heard the while:
  • 70Yea, and even yet remember heedfully
  • How this my wheel a motion hath so fleet,
  • page: 171
  • That in an eyelid's beat
  • Him whom it raised it maketh low and vile.
  • None was, nor is, nor shall be of such guile,
  • Who could, or can, or shall, I say, at length
  • Prevail against my strength.
  • But still those men that are my questioners
  • In bitter torment own their hearts perverse.
  • Song, that wast made to carry high intent
  • 80 Dissembled in the garb of humbleness,—
  • With fair and open face
  • To Master Thomas let thy course be bent.
  • Say that a great thing scarcely may be pent
  • In little room: yet always pray that he
  • Commend us, thee and me,
  • To them that are more apt in lofty speech:
  • For truly one must learn ere he can teach.
page: 172


A Song against Poverty.
  • O Poverty, by thee the soul is wrapp'd
  • With hate, with envy, dolefulness, and doubt.
  • Even so be thou cast out,
  • And even so he that speaks thee otherwise.
  • I name thee now, because my mood is apt
  • To curse thee, bride of every lost estate,
  • Through whom are desolate
  • On earth all honourable things and wise.
  • Within thy power, each blessed condition dies:
  • 10By thee, men's minds with sore mistrust are made
  • Fantastic and afraid:—
  • Thou, hated worse than Death, by just accord,
  • And with the loathing of all hearts abhorr'd.
  • Yea, rightly art thou hated worse than Death,
  • For he at length is longed for in the breast.
  • But not with thee, wild beast,
  • Was ever aught found beautiful or good.
  • For life is all that man can lose by death,
  • Not fame, and the fair summits of applause;
  • 20 His glory shall not pause,
  • page: 173
  • But live in men's perpetual gratitude.
  • While he who on thy naked sill has stood,
  • Though of great heart and worthy everso,
  • He shall be counted low.
  • Then let the man thou troublest never hope
  • To spread his wings in any lofty scope.
  • Hereby my mind is laden with a fear,
  • And I will take some thought to shelter me.
  • For this I plainly see:—
  • 30 Through thee, to fraud the honest man is led;
  • To tyranny the just lord turneth here,
  • And the magnanimous soul to avarice.
  • Of every bitter vice
  • Thou, to my thinking, art the fount and head,
  • From thee no light in any wise is shed,
  • Who bringest to the paths of dusky hell.
  • I therefore see full well,
  • That death, the dungeon, sickness, and old age,
  • Weigh'd against thee, are blessèd heritage.
  • 40And what though many a goodly hypocrite,
  • Lifting to thee his veritable prayer,
  • Call God to witness there
  • How this thy burden moved not Him to wrath.
  • Why, who may call (of them that muse aright)
  • Him poor, who of the whole can say, 'Tis Mine?
  • Methinks I well divine
  • That want, to such, should seem an easy path.
  • God, who made all things, all things had and hath;
  • page: 174
  • Nor any tongue may say that He was poor,
  • 50 What while He did endure
  • For man's best succour among men to dwell:
  • Since to have all, with Him, was possible.
  • Song, thou shalt wend upon thy journey now:
  • And, if thou meet with folk who rail at thee,
  • Saying that poverty
  • Is not even sharper than thy words allow,—
  • Unto such brawlers briefly answer thou,
  • To tell them they are hypocrites; and then
  • Say mildly, once again,
  • 60That I, who am nearly in a beggar's case,
  • Might not presume to sing my proper praise.
page: 175


He laments the Presumption and Incontinence of his Youth .
  • The devastating flame of that fierce plague,
  • The foe of virtue, fed with others' peace
  • More than itself foresees,
  • Being still shut in to gnaw its own desire;
  • Its strength not weakened, nor its hues more vague,
  • For all the benison that virtue sheds,
  • But which for ever spreads
  • To be a living curse that shall not tire:
  • Or yet again, that other idle fire
  • 10Which flickers with all change as winds may please:
  • One whichsoe'er of these
  • At length has hidden the true path from me
  • Which twice man may not see,
  • And quenched the intelligence of joy, till now
  • All solace but abides in perfect woe.
  • Alas! the more my painful spirit grieves,
  • The more confused with miserable strife
  • Is that delicious life
  • Which sighing it recalls perpetually:
  • page: 176
  • 20But its worst anguish, whence it still receives
  • More pain than death, is sent, to yield the sting
  • Of perfect suffering,
  • By him who is my lord and governs me;
  • Who holds all gracious truth in fealty,
  • Being nursed in those four sisters' fond caress
  • Through whom comes happiness.
  • He now has left me; and I draw my breath
  • Wound in the arms of Death,
  • Desirous of her: she is cried upon
  • 30In all the prayers my heart puts up alone.
  • How fierce aforetime and how absolute
  • That wheel of flame which turned within my head,
  • May never quite be said,
  • Because there are not words to speak the whole.
  • It slew my hope whereof I lack the fruit,
  • And stung the blood within my living flesh
  • To be an intricate mesh
  • Of pain beyond endurance or control;
  • Withdrawing me from God, who gave my soul
  • 40To know the sign where honour has its seat
  • From honour's counterfeit.
  • So in its longing my heart finds not hope,
  • Nor knows what door to ope;
  • Since, parting me from God, this foe took thought
  • To shut those paths wherein He may be sought.
  • My second enemy, thrice armed in guile,
  • As wise and cunning to mine overthrow
  • page: 177
    Sig. N
  • As her smooth face doth show,
  • With yet more shameless strength holds mastery.
  • 50My spirit, naked of its light and vile,
  • Is lit by her with her own deadly gleam,
  • Which makes all anguish seem
  • As nothing to her scourges that I see.
  • O thou the body of grace, abide with me
  • As thou wast once in the once joyful time;
  • And though thou hate my crime,
  • Fill not my life with torture to the end;
  • But in thy mercy, bend
  • My steps, and for thine honour, back again;
  • 60Till finding joy through thee, I bless my pain.
  • Since that first frantic devil without faith
  • Fell, in thy name, upon the stairs that mount
  • Unto the limpid fount
  • Of thine intelligence,—withhold not now
  • Thy grace, nor spare my second foe from death.
  • For lo! on this my soul has set her trust;
  • And failing this, thou must
  • Prove false to truth and honour, seest thou!
  • Then, saving light and throne of strength, allow
  • 70My prayer, and vanquish both my foes at last;
  • That so I be not cast
  • Into that woe wherein I fear to end.
  • Yet if it is ordain'd
  • That I must die ere this be perfected,—
  • Ah! yield me comfort after I am dead.
page: 178
  • Ye unadornèd words obscure of sense,
  • With weeping and with sighing go from me,
  • And bear mine agony
  • (Not to be told by words, being too intense,)
  • 80 To His intelligence
  • Who moved by virtue shall fulfil my breath
  • In human life or compensating death.
page: 179


A Dispute with Death.
  • ‘O sluggish, hard, ingrate, what doest thou?
  • Poor sinner, folded round with heavy sin,
  • Whose life to find out joy alone is bent.
  • I call thee, and thou fall'st to deafness now;
  • And, deeming that my path whereby to win
  • Thy seat is lost, there sitt'st thee down content,
  • And hold'st me to thy will subservient.
  • But I into thy heart have crept disguised:
  • Among thy senses and thy sins I went,
  • 10By roads thou didst not guess, unrecognised.
  • Tears will not now suffice to bid me go,
  • Nor countenance abased, nor words of woe.’
  • Now, when I heard the sudden dreadful voice
  • Wake thus within to cruel utterance,
  • Whereby the very heart of hearts did fail,
  • My spirit might not any more rejoice,
  • But fell from its courageous pride at once,
  • And turned to fly, where flight may not avail.
  • Then slowly 'gan some strength to re-inhale
  • 20The trembling life which heard that whisper speak,
  • And had conceived the sense with sore travail;
  • page: 180
  • Till in the mouth it murmured, very weak,
  • Saying: ‘Youth, wealth, and beauty, these have I:
  • O Death! remit thy claim,—I would not die.’
  • Small sign of pity in that aspect dwells
  • Which then had scattered all my life abroad
  • Till there was comfort with no single sense:
  • And yet almost in piteous syllables,
  • When I had ceased to speak, this answer flow'd:
  • 30 ‘Behold what path is spread before thee hence;
  • Thy life has all but a day's permanence.
  • And is it for the sake of youth there seems
  • In loss of human years such sore offence?
  • Nay, look unto the end of youthful dreams.
  • What present glory does thy hope possess,
  • That shall not yield ashes and bitterness?’
  • But, when I looked on Death made visible,
  • From my heart's sojourn brought before mine eyes,
  • And holding in her hand my grievous sin,
  • 40I seemed to see my countenance, that fell,
  • Shake like a shadow: my heart uttered cries,
  • And my soul wept the curse that lay therein.
  • Then Death: ‘Thus much thine urgent prayer
  • shall win:—
  • I grant thee the brief interval of youth
  • At natural pity's strong soliciting.’
  • And I (because I knew that moment's ruth
  • But left my life to groan for a frail space)
  • Fell in the dust upon my weeping face.
page: 181
  • So, when she saw me thus abashed and dumb,
  • 50 In loftier words she weighed her argument,
  • That new and strange it was to hear her speak;
  • Saying: ‘The path thy fears withhold thee from
  • Is thy best path. To folly be not shent,
  • Nor shrink from me because thy flesh is weak.
  • Thou seest how man is sore confused, and eke
  • How ruinous Chance makes havoc of his life,
  • And grief is in the joys that he doth seek;
  • Nor ever pauses the perpetual strife
  • 'Twixt fear and rage; until beneath the sun
  • 60His perfect anguish be fulfilled and done.’
  • ‘O Death! thou art so dark and difficult,
  • That never human creature might attain
  • By his own will to pierce thy secret sense;
  • Because, foreshadowing thy dread result,
  • He may not put his trust in heart or brain,
  • Nor power avails him, nor intelligence.
  • Behold how cruelly thou takest hence
  • These forms so beautiful and dignified,
  • And chain'st them in thy shadow chill and dense,
  • 70And forcest them in narrow graves to hide;
  • With pitiless hate subduing still to thee
  • The strength of man and woman's delicacy.’
  • ‘Not for thy fear the less I come at last,
  • For this thy tremor, for thy painful sweat.
  • Take therefore thought to leave (for lo! I call:)
  • Kinsfolk and comrades, all thou didst hold fast,—
  • page: 182
  • Thy father and thy mother,—to forget
  • All these thy brethren, sisters, children, all.
  • Cast sight and hearing from thee; let hope fall;
  • 80Leave every sense and thy whole intellect,
  • These things wherein thy life made festival:
  • For I have wrought thee to such strange effect
  • That thou hast no more power to dwell with these
  • As living man. Let pass thy soul in peace.’
  • Yea, Lord. O thou, the Builder of the spheres,
  • Who, making me, didst shape me, of thy grace,
  • In thine own image and high counterpart;
  • Do thou subdue my spirit, long perverse,
  • To weep within thy will a certain space,
  • 90 Ere yet thy thunder come to rive my heart.
  • Set in my hand some sign of what thou art,
  • Lord God, and suffer me to seek out Christ,—
  • Weeping, to seek him in thy ways apart;
  • Until my sorrow have at length suffic'd
  • In some accepted instant to atone
  • For sins of thought, for stubborn evil done.
  • Dishevell'd and in tears, go, song of mine,
  • To break the hardness of the heart of man:
  • Say how his life began
  • 100From dust, and in that dust doth sink supine:
  • Yet, say, the unerring spirit of grief shall guide
  • His soul, being purified,
  • To seek its Maker at the heavenly shrine.
page: [183]




He interprets Dante's Dream, related in the first Sonnet

of the Vita Nuova.*
  • Each lover's longing leads him naturally
  • Unto his lady's heart his heart to show;
  • And this it is that Love would have thee know
  • By the strange vision which he sent to thee.
  • With thy heart therefore, flaming outwardly,
  • In humble guise he fed thy lady so,
  • Who long had lain in slumber, from all woe
  • Folded within a mantle silently.
  • Also, in coming, Love might not repress
  • 10 His joy, to yield thee thy desire achieved,
  • Whence heart should unto heart true service bring.
  • But understanding the great love-sickness
  • Which in thy lady's bosom was conceived,
  • He pitied her, and wept in vanishing.
Transcribed Footnote (page [183]):

* See ante, page 33 .

page: 184



On the Death of Beatrice Portinari.
  • Albeit my prayers have not so long delay'd,
  • But craved for thee, ere this, that Pity and Love
  • Which only bring our heavy life some rest;
  • Yet is not now the time so much o'erstay'd
  • But that these words of mine which tow'rds thee move
  • Must find thee still with spirit dispossess'd,
  • And say to thee: ‘In Heaven she now is bless'd,
  • Even as the blessèd name men called her by;
  • While thou dost ever cry,
  • 10 ‘Alas! the blessing of mine eyes is flown!’
  • Behold, these words set down
  • Are needed still, for still thou sorrowest.
  • Then hearken; I would yield advisedly
  • Some comfort: Stay these sighs; give ear to me.
  • We know for certain that in this blind world
  • Each man's subsistence is of grief and pain,
  • Still trailed by fortune through all bitterness.
  • Blessèd the soul which, when its flesh is furl'd
  • Within a shroud, rejoicing doth attain
  • 20 To Heaven itself, made free of earthly stress.
  • page: 185
  • Then wherefore sighs thy heart in abjectness,
  • Which for her triumph should exult aloud?
  • For He the Lord our God
  • Hath called her, hearkening what her Angel said,
  • To have Heaven perfected.
  • Each saint for a new thing beholds her face,
  • And she the face of our Redemption sees,
  • Conversing with immortal substances.
  • Why now do pangs of torment clutch thy heart
  • 30 Which with thy love should make thee overjoy'd,
  • As him whose intellect hath passed the skies?
  • Behold, the spirits of thy life depart
  • Daily to Heaven with her, they so are buoy'd
  • With their desire, and Love so bids them rise.
  • O God! and thou, a man whom God made wise,
  • To nurse a charge of care, and love the same!
  • I tell thee in His Name
  • From sin of sighing grief to hold thy breath,
  • Nor let thy heart to death,
  • 40 Nor harbour death's resemblance in thine eyes.
  • God hath her with Himself eternally,
  • Yet she inhabits every hour with thee.
  • Be comforted, Love cries, be comforted!
  • Devotion pleads, Peace, for the love of God!
  • O yield thyself to prayers so full of grace;
  • And make thee naked now of this dull weed
  • Which 'neath thy foot were better to be trod;
  • For man through grief despairs and ends his days.
    page: 186
  • How ever shouldst thou see the lovely face
  • 50If any desperate death should once be thine?
  • From justice so condign
  • Withdraw thyself even now; that in the end
  • Thy heart may not offend
  • Against thy soul, which in the holy place,
  • In Heaven, still hopes to see her and to be
  • Within her arms. Let this hope comfort thee.
  • Look thou into the pleasure wherein dwells
  • Thy lovely lady who is in Heaven crown'd,
  • Who is herself thy hope in Heaven, the while
  • 60To make thy memory hallowed she avails;
  • Being a soul within the deep Heaven bound,
  • A face on thy heart painted, to beguile
  • Thy heart of grief which else should turn it vile.
  • Even as she seemed a wonder here below,
  • On high she seemeth so,—
  • Yea, better known, is there more wondrous yet.
  • And even as she was met
  • First by the angels with sweet song and smile,
  • Thy spirit bears her back upon the wing,
  • 70Which often in those ways is journeying.
  • Of thee she entertains the blessèd throngs,
  • And says to them: ‘While yet my body thrave
  • On earth, I gat much honour which he gave,
  • Commending me in his commended songs.’
  • Also she asks alway of God our Lord
  • To give thee peace according to His word.
page: 187



He conceives of some Compensation in Death .*
  • Dante, whenever this thing happeneth,—
  • That Love's desire is quite bereft of Hope,
  • (Seeking in vain at ladies' eyes some scope
  • Of joy, through what the heart for ever saith,)—
  • I ask thee, can amends be made by Death?
  • Is such sad pass the last extremity?—
  • Or may the Soul that never feared to die
  • Then in another body draw new breath?
  • Lo! thus it is through her who governs all
  • 10 Below,—that I, who entered at her door,
  • Now at her dreadful window must fare forth.
  • Yea, and I think through her it doth befall
  • That even ere yet the road is travelled o'er
  • My bones are weary and life is nothing worth.
Transcribed Footnote (page 187):

* Among Dante's Epistles there is a Latin letter to Cino, which

I should judge was written in reply to this Sonnet.

page: 188


To his Lady Selvaggia Vergiolesi; likening his Love

to a Search for Gold.
  • I am all bent to glean the golden ore
  • Little by little from the river-bed;
  • Hoping the day to see
  • When Crœsus shall be conquered in my store.
  • Therefore, still sifting where the sands are spread,
  • I labour patiently:
  • Till, thus intent on this thing and no more,—
  • If to a vein of silver I were led,
  • It scarce could gladden me.
  • 10And, seeing that no joy's so warm i' the core
  • As this whereby the heart is comforted
  • And the desire set free,—
  • Therefore thy bitter love is still my scope,
  • Lady, from whom it is my life's sore theme
  • More painfully to sift the grains of hope
  • Than gold out of that stream.
page: 189


To Love, in great Bitterness.
  • O Love, O thou that, for my fealty,
  • Only in torment dost thy power employ,
  • Give me, for God's sake, something of thy joy,
  • That I may learn what good there is in thee.
  • Yea, for, if thou art glad with grieving me,
  • Surely my very life thou shalt destroy
  • When thou renew'st my pain, because the joy
  • Must then be wept for with the misery.
  • He that had never sense of good, nor sight,
  • 10 Esteems his ill estate but natural,
  • Which so is lightlier borne: his case is mine.
  • But, if thou wouldst uplift me for a sign,
  • Bidding me drain the curse and know it all,
  • I must a little taste its opposite.
page: 190


Death is not without but within him.
  • This fairest lady, who, as well I wot,
  • Found entrance by her beauty to my soul,
  • Pierced through mine eyes my heart, which erst was
  • whole,
  • Sorely, yet makes as though she knew it not;
  • Nay, turns upon me now, to anger wrought,
  • Dealing me harshness for my pain's best dole,
  • And is so changed by her own wrath's control,
  • That I go thence, in my distracted thought
  • Content to die; and, mourning, cry abroad
  • 10 On Death, as upon one afar from me;
  • But Death makes answer from within my heart.
  • Then, hearing her so hard at hand to be,
  • I do commend my spirit unto God;
  • Saying to her too, ‘Ease and peace thou art.’
page: 191


A Trance of Love.
  • Vanquished and weary was my soul in me,
  • And my heart gasped after its much lament,
  • When sleep at length the painful languor sent.
  • And, as I slept (and wept incessantly),—
  • Through the keen fixedness of memory
  • Which I had cherished ere my tears were spent,
  • I passed to a new trance of wonderment;
  • Wherein a visible spirit I could see,
  • Which caught me up, and bore me to a place
  • 10 Where my most gentle lady was alone;
  • And still before us a fire seemed to move,
  • Out of the which methought there came a moan,
  • Uttering, ‘Grace, a little season, grace!
  • I am of one that hath the wings of Love.’
page: 192


Of the Grave of Selvaggia, on the Monte della Sambuca .
  • I was upon the high and blessed mound,
  • And kissed, long worshipping, the stones and
  • grass,
  • There on the hard stones prostrate, where, alas!
  • That pure one laid her forehead in the ground.
  • Then were the springs of gladness sealed and bound,
  • The day that unto Death's most bitter pass
  • My sick heart's lady turned her feet, who was
  • Already in her gracious life renown'd.
  • So in that place I spake to Love, and cried:
  • 10‘O sweet my god, I am one whom Death may claim
  • Hence to be his; for lo! my heart lies here.’
  • Anon, because my Master lent no ear,
  • Departing, still I called Selvaggia's name.
  • So with my moan I left the mountain-side.
page: 193
Sig. O


His Lament for Selvaggia.
  • Ay me, alas! the beautiful bright hair
  • That shed reflected gold
  • O'er the green growths on either side the way:
  • Ay me! the lovely look, open and fair,
  • Which my heart's core doth hold
  • With all else of that best-remembered day;
  • Ay me! the face made gay
  • With joy that Love confers;
  • Ay me! that smile of hers
  • 10 Where whiteness as of snow was visible
  • Among the roses at all seasons red!
  • Ay me! and was this well,
  • O Death, to let me live when she is dead?
  • Ay me! the calm, erect, dignified walk;
  • Ay me! the sweet salute,—
  • The thoughtful mind,—the wit discreetly worn;
  • Ay me! the clearness of her noble talk,
  • Which made the good take root
  • In me, and for the evil woke my scorn;
  • 20 Ay me! the longing born
  • page: 194
  • Of so much loveliness,—
  • The hope, whose eager stress
  • Made other hopes fall back to let it pass,
  • Even till my load of love grew light thereby!
  • These thou hast broken, as glass,
  • O Death, who makest me, alive, to die!
  • Ay me! Lady, the lady of all worth;—
  • Saint, for whose single shrine
  • All other shrines I left, even as Love will'd;—
  • 30Ay me! what precious stone in the whole earth,
  • For that pure fame of thine
  • Worthy the marble statue's base to yield?
  • Ay me! fair vase fullfill'd
  • With more than this world's good,—
  • By cruel chance and rude
  • Cast out upon the steep path of the mountains
  • Where Death has shut thee in between hard stones!
  • Ay me! two languid fountains
  • Of weeping are these eyes, which joy disowns.
  • 40Ay me, sharp Death! till what I ask is done
  • And my whole life is ended utterly,—
  • Answer—must I weep on
  • Even thus, and never cease to moan Ay me?
page: 195



He owes nothing to Guido as a Poet.
  • What rhymes are thine which I have ta'en
  • from thee,
  • Thou Guido, that thou ever say'st I thieve?*
  • 'Tis true, fine fancies gladly I receive,
  • But when was aught found beautiful in thee?
  • Nay, I have searched my pages diligently,
  • And tell the truth, and lie not, by your leave.
  • From whose rich store my web of songs I weave
  • Love knoweth well, well knowing them and me.
  • No artist I,—all men may gather it;
  • 10 Nor do I work in ignorance of pride,
  • (Though the world reach alone the coarser sense;)
  • But am a certain man of humble wit
  • Who journeys with his sorrow at his side,
  • For a heart's sake, alas! that is gone hence.
Transcribed Footnote (page 195):

* I have not examined Cino's poetry with special reference to

this accusation; but there is a Canzone of his in which he speaks of

having conceived an affection for another lady from her resemblance

to Selvaggia. Perhaps Guido considered this as a sort of plagiarism

de facto on his own change of love through Mandetta's likeness to


page: 196


He impugns the verdicts of Dante's Commedia.
  • This book of Dante's, very sooth to say,
  • Is just a poet's lovely heresy,
  • Which by a lure as sweet as sweet can be
  • Draws other men's concerns beneath its sway;
  • While, among stars' and comets' dazzling play,
  • It beats the right down, lets the wrong go free,
  • Shows some abased, and others in great glee,
  • Much as with lovers is Love's ancient way.
  • Therefore his vain decrees, wherein he lied,
  • 10 Fixing folks' nearness to the Fiend their foe,
  • Must be like empty nutshells flung aside.
  • Yet through the rash false witness set to grow,
  • French and Italian vengeance on such pride
  • May fall, like Antony's on Cicero.
page: 197


He condemns Dante for not naming, in the Commedia

his friend Onesto di Boncima, and his Lady Selvaggia .
  • Among the faults we in that book descry
  • Which has crowned Dante lord of rhyme and
  • thought,
  • Are two so grave that some attaint is brought
  • Unto the greatness of his soul thereby.
  • One is, that, holding with Sordello high
  • Discourse, and with the rest who sang and taught,
  • He of Onesto di Boncima* nought
  • Has said, who was to Arnauld Daniel† nigh.
  • The other is, that when he says he came
  • 10 To see, at summit of the sacred stair,
  • His Beatrice among the heavenly signs,—
  • He, looking in the bosom of Abraham,
  • Saw not that highest of all women there
  • Who joined Mount Sion to the Apennines.‡
Transcribed Footnote (page 197):

* Between this poet and Cino various friendly sonnets were

interchanged, which may be found in the Italian collections. There

is also one Sonnet by Onesto to Cino, with his answer, both of which

are far from being affectionate or respectful. They are very obscure

however, and not specially interesting.

Transcribed Footnote (page 197):

† The Provençal poet, mentioned in C. xxvi. of the Purgatory.

Transcribed Footnote (page 197):

‡ That is, sanctified the Apennines by her burial on the Monte

della Sambuca.

page: [198]




He interprets Dante Alighieri's Dream, related in the first

Sonnet of the Vita Nuova.*
  • Of that wherein thou art a questioner
  • Considering, I make answer briefly thus,
  • Good friend, in wit but little prosperous:
  • And from my words the truth thou shalt infer,—
  • So hearken to thy dream's interpreter.
  • If, sound of frame, thou soundly canst discuss
  • In reason,—then, to expel this overplus
  • Of vapours which hath made thy speech to err,
  • See that thou lave and purge thy stomach soon.
  • 10 But if thou art afflicted with disease,
  • Know that I count it mere delirium.
  • Thus of my thought I write thee back the sum:
  • Nor my conclusions can be changed from these
  • Till to the leech thy water I have shown.
Transcribed Footnote (page [198]):

* See ante, page 33 .

page: 199


He craves interpreting of a Dream of his.
  • Thou that art wise, let wisdom minister
  • Unto my dream, that it be understood.
  • To wit: A lady, of her body fair,
  • And whom my heart approves in womanhood,
  • Bestowed on me a wreath of flowers, fair-hued
  • And green in leaf, with gentle loving air;
  • After the which, meseemed I was stark nude
  • Save for a smock of hers that I did wear.
  • Whereat, good friend, my courage gat such growth
  • 10 That to mine arms I took her tenderly:
  • With no rebuke the beauty laughed unloth,
  • And as she laughed I kissed continually.
  • I say no more, for that I pledged mine oath,
  • And that my mother, who is dead, was by.
page: 200


He interprets the Dream* related in the foregoing Sonnet .
  • On the last words of what you write to me
  • I give you my opinion at the first.
  • To see the dead must prove corruption nursed
  • Within you, by your heart's own vanity.
  • The soul should bend the flesh to its decree:
  • Then rule it, friend, as fish by line amerced.
  • As to the smock, your lady's gift, the worst
  • Of words were not too bad for speech so free.
Transcribed Footnote (page 200):

* There exist no fewer than six answers by different poets, inter-

preting Dante da Maiano's dream. I have chosen Guido Orlandi's,

much the most matter-of-fact of the six, because it is diverting to find

the writer again in his antagonistic mood. Among the five remaining

answers, in all of which the vision is treated as a very mysterious

matter, one is attributed to Dante Alighieri, but seems so doubtful

that I have not translated it. Indeed it would do the greater Dante,

if he really wrote it, little credit as a lucid interpreter of dreams;

though it might have some interest, as giving him (when compared

with the sonnet at page 198) a decided advantage over his lesser

namesake in point of courtesy.

page: 201
  • It is a thing unseemly to declare
  • 10 The love of gracious dame or damozel,
  • And therewith for excuse to say, I dream'd.
  • Tell us no more of this, but think who seem'd
  • To call you: mother came to whip you well.
  • Love close, and of Love's joy you'll have your share.
page: 202


To his Lady Nina, of Sicily.
  • So greatly thy great pleasaunce pleasured me,
  • Gentle my lady, from the first of all,
  • That counting every other blessing small
  • I gave myself up wholly to know thee:
  • And since I was made thine, thy courtesy
  • And worth, more than of earth, celestial,
  • I learned, and from its freedom did enthrall
  • My heart, the servant of thy grace to be.
  • Wherefore I pray thee, joyful countenance,
  • 10 Humbly, that it incense or irk thee not,
  • If I, being thine, do wait upon thy glance.
  • More to solicit, I am all afraid:
  • Yet, lady, twofold is the gift, we wot,
  • Given to the needy unsolicited.
page: 203


He thanks his Lady for the Joy he has had from her .
  • Wonderful countenance and royal neck,
  • I have not found your beauty's parallel;
  • Nor at her birth might any yet prevail
  • The likeness of these features to partake.
  • Wisdom is theirs, and mildness: for whose sake
  • All grace seems stol'n, such perfect grace to swell;
  • Fashioned of God beyond delight to dwell
  • Exalted. And herein my pride I take
  • Who of this garden have possessïon,
  • 10 So that all worth subsists for my behoof
  • And bears itself according to my will.
  • Lady, in thee such pleasaunce hath its fill
  • That whoso is content to rest thereon
  • Knows not of grief, and holds all pain aloof.
page: [204]




On the last Sonnet of the Vita Nuova.*
  • Dante Alighieri, Cecco, your good friend
  • And servant, gives you greeting as his lord,
  • And prays you for the sake of Love's accord,
  • (Love being the Master before whom you bend,)
  • That you will pardon him if he offend,
  • Even as your gentle heart can well afford.
  • All that he wants to say is just one word
  • Which partly chides your sonnet at the end.
  • For where the measure changes, first you say
  • 10 You do not understand the gentle speech
  • A spirit made touching your Beatrice:
  • And next you tell your ladies how, straightway,
  • You understand it. Wherefore (look you) each
  • Of these your words the other's sense denies.
Transcribed Footnote (page [204]):

See ante, page 108 .

page: 205


He will not be too deeply in Love.
  • I am enamoured, and yet not so much
  • But that I'd do without it easily;
  • And my own mind thinks all the more of me
  • That Love has not quite penned me in his hutch.
  • Enough if for his sake I dance and touch
  • The lute, and serve his servants cheerfully:
  • An overdose is worse than none would be:
  • Love is no lord of mine, I'm proud to vouch.
  • So let no woman who is born conceive
  • 10 That I'll be her liege slave, as I see some,
  • Be she as fair and dainty as she will.
  • Too much of love makes idiots, I believe:
  • I like not any fashion that turns glum
  • The heart, and makes the visage sick and ill.
page: 206


Of Love in Men and Devils.
  • The man who feels not, more or less, somewhat
  • Of love in all the years his life goes round
  • Should be denied a grave in holy ground
  • Except with usurers who will bate no groat:
  • Nor he himself should count himself a jot
  • Less wretched than the meanest beggar found.
  • Also the man who in Love's robe is gown'd
  • May say that Fortune smiles upon his lot.
  • Seeing how love has such nobility
  • 10 That if it entered in the lord of Hell
  • 'Twould rule him more than his fire's ancient sting;
  • He should be glorified to eternity,
  • And all his life be always glad and well
  • As is a wanton woman in the spring.
page: 207


Of Love, in honour of his mistress Becchina .
  • Whatever good is naturally done
  • Is born of Love as fruit is born of flower:
  • By Love all good is brought to its full power:
  • Yea, Love does more than this; for he finds none
  • So coarse but from his touch some grace is won
  • And the poor wretch is altered in an hour.
  • So let it be decreed that Death devour
  • The beast who says that Love's a thing to shun.
  • A man's just worth the good that he can hold,
  • 10 And where no love is found, no good is there;
  • On that there's nothing that I would not stake.
  • So now, my Sonnet, go as you are told
  • To lovers and their sweethearts everywhere,
  • And say I made you for Becchina's sake.
page: 208


Of Becchina, the Shoemaker's Daughter.
  • Why, if Becchina's heart were diamond,
  • And all the other parts of her were steel,
  • As cold to love as snows when they congeal
  • In lands to which the sun may not get round;
  • And if her father were a giant crown'd
  • And not a donkey born to stitching shoes;
  • Or I were but an ass myself;—to use
  • Such harshness, scarce could to her praise redound.
  • Yet if she'd only for a minute hear,
  • 10 And I could speak if only pretty well,
  • I'd let her know that I'm her happiness;
  • That I'm her life should also be made clear,
  • With other things that I've no need to tell;
  • And then I feel quite sure she'd answer Yes.
page: 209
Sig. P


To Messer Angiolieri, his Father.
  • If I'd a sack of florins, and all new,
  • (Packed tight together, freshly coined and fine,)
  • And Arcidosso and Montegiovi mine,*
  • And quite a glut of eagle-pieces too,—
  • It were but as three farthings to my view
  • Without Becchina. Why then all these plots
  • To whip me, daddy? Nay, but tell me,—what's
  • My sin, or all the sin of Turks, to you?
  • For I protest, (or may I be struck dead!)
  • 10 My love's so firmly planted in its place,
  • Whipping nor hanging now could change the grain.
  • And if you want my reason on this head,
  • It is that whoso looks her in the face,
  • Though he were old, gets back his youth again.
Transcribed Footnote (page 209):

* Perhaps the names of his father's estates.

page: 210


Of the 20 th June, 1291.
  • I'm full of everything I do not want
  • And have not that wherein I should find ease;
  • For alway till Becchina brings me peace
  • The heavy heart I bear must toil and pant.
  • That so all written paper would prove scant
  • (Though in its space the Bible you might squeeze,)
  • To say how like the flames of furnaces
  • I burn, remembering what she used to grant.
  • Because the stars are fewer in heaven's span
  • 10 Than all those kisses wherewith I kept tune
  • All in an instant (I who now have none!)
  • Upon her mouth (I and no other man!)
  • So sweetly on the twentieth day of June
  • In the new year* twelve-hundred-ninety-one.
Transcribed Footnote (page 210):

* The year, according to the calendar of those days, began on

the 25th March. The alteration to 1st January was made in 1582

by the Pope, and immediately adopted by all Catholic countries,

but by England not till 1752. There is some added vividness in

remembering that Cecco's unplatonic love-encounter dates twelve

days after the first death-anniversary of Beatrice (9th of June, 1291),

when Dante tells us that he ‘drew the resemblance of an angel upon

certain tablets.’ (See ante, page 95.)

page: 211


In absence from Becchina.
  • My heart's so heavy with a hundred things
  • That I feel dead a hundred times a-day;
  • Yet death would be the least of sufferings,
  • For life's all suffering save what's slept away:
  • Though even in sleep there is no dream but brings
  • From dream-land such dull torture as it may.
  • And yet one moment would pluck out these stings,
  • If for one moment she were mine to-day
  • Who gives my heart the anguish that it has.
  • 10 Each thought that seeks my heart for its abode
  • Becomes a wan and sorrow-stricken guest:
  • Sorrow has brought me to so sad a pass
  • That men look sad to meet me on the road;
  • Nor any road is mine that leads to rest.
page: 212


Of Becchina in a rage.
  • When I behold Becchina in a rage,
  • Just like a little lad I trembling stand
  • Whose master tells him to hold out his hand;
  • Had I a lion's heart, the sight would wage
  • Such war against it, that in that sad stage
  • I'd wish my birth might never have been plann'd,
  • And curse the day and hour that I was bann'd
  • With such a plague for my life's heritage.
  • Yet even if I should sell me to the Fiend,
  • 10 I must so manage matters in some way
  • That for her rage I may not care a fig;
  • Or else from death I cannot long be screen'd.
  • So I'll not blink the fact, but plainly say
  • It's time I got my valour to grow big.
page: 213


He rails against Dante, who had censured his homage to

  • Dante Alighieri in Becchina's praise
  • Won't have me sing, and bears him like my lord.
  • He's but a pinchbeck florin, on my word;
  • Sugar he seems, but salt's in all his ways;
  • He looks like wheaten bread, who's bread of maize;
  • He's but a sty, though like a tower in height;
  • A falcon, till you find that he's a kite;
  • Call him a cock!—a hen's more like his case.
  • Go now to Florence, Sonnet of my own,
  • 10 And there with dames and maids hold pretty parles,
  • And say that all he is doth only seem.
  • And I meanwhile will make him better known
  • Unto the Count of Provence, good King Charles;*
  • And in this way we'll singe his skin for him.
Transcribed Footnote (page 213):

* This may be either Charles II. King of Naples and Count of

Provence, or more probably his son Charles Martel, King of Hungary.

We know from Dante that a friendship subsisted between himself

and the latter prince, who visited Florence in 1295, and died in the

same year, in his father's lifetime, ( Paradise, C. viii.)

page: 214


Of his four Tormentors.
  • I'm caught, like any thrush the nets surprise,
  • By Daddy and Becchina, Mammy and Love.
  • As to the first-named, let thus much suffice,—
  • Each day he damns me, and each hour thereof;
  • Becchina wants so much of all that's nice,
  • Not Mahomet himself could yield enough:
  • And Love still sets me doting in a trice
  • On trulls who'd seem the Ghetto's proper stuff.
  • My mother don't do much because she can't,
  • 10 But I may count it just as good as done,
  • Knowing the way and not the will's her want.
  • To-day I tried a kiss with her—just one—
  • To see if I could make her sulks avaunt:
  • She said, ‘The devil rip you up, my son!’
page: 215


Concerning his Father.
  • The dreadful and the desperate hate I bear
  • My father (to my praise, not to my shame,)
  • Will make him live more than Methusalem;
  • Of this I've long ago been made aware.
  • Now tell me, Nature, if my hate's not fair.
  • A glass of some thin wine not worth a name
  • One day I begged, (he has whole butts o' the same,)
  • And he had almost killed me, I declare.
  • ‘Good Lord, if I had asked for vernage-wine!’
  • 10 Said I; for if he'd spit into my face
  • I wish'd to see for reasons of my own.
  • Now say that I mayn't hate this plague of mine!
  • Why, if you knew what I know of his ways,
  • You'd tell me that I ought to knock him down.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 215):

* I have thought it necessary to soften one or two expressions in

this sonnet.

page: 216


Of all he would do.
  • If I were fire, I'd burn the world away;
  • If I were wind, I'd turn my storms thereon;
  • If I were water, I'd soon let it drown;
  • If I were God, I'd sink it from the day;
  • If I were Pope, I'd never feel quite gay
  • Until there was no peace beneath the sun;
  • If I were Emperor, what would I have done?—
  • I'd lop men's heads all round in my own way.
  • If I were Death, I'd look my father up;
  • 10 If I were Life, I'd run away from him;
  • And treat my mother to like calls and runs.
  • If I were Cecco, (and that's all my hope,)
  • I'd pick the nicest girls to suit my whim,
  • And other folk should get the ugly ones.
page: 217


He is passed all Help.
  • For a thing done, repentance is no good,
  • Nor to say after, Thus would I have done:
  • In life, what's left behind is vainly rued;
  • So let a man get used his hurt to shun;
  • For on his legs he hardly may be stood
  • Again, if once his fall be well begun.
  • But to show wisdom's what I never could;
  • So where I itch I scratch now, and all's one.
  • I'm down, and cannot rise in any way;
  • 10 For not a creature of my nearest kin
  • Would hold me out a hand that I could reach.
  • I pray you do not mock at what I say;
  • For so my love's good grace may I not win
  • If ever sonnet held so true a speech!
page: 218


Of why he is unhanged.
  • Whoever without money is in love
  • Had better build a gallows and go hang;
  • He dies not once, but oftener feels the pang
  • Than he who was cast down from Heaven above.
  • And certes, for my sins, it's plain enough,
  • If Love's alive on earth, that he's myself,
  • Who would not be so cursed with want of pelf
  • If others paid my proper dues thereof.
  • Then why am I not hanged by my own hands?
  • 10 I answer: for this empty narrow chink
  • Of hope;—that I've a father old and rich,
  • And that if once he dies I'll get his lands;
  • And die he must, when the sea's dry, I think.
  • Meanwhile God keeps him whole and me i' the
  • ditch.
page: 219


Of why he would be a Scullion.
  • I am so out of love through poverty
  • That if I see my mistress in the street
  • I hardly can be certain whom I meet,
  • And of her name do scarce remember me.
  • Also my courage it has made to be
  • So cold, that if I suffered some foul cheat,
  • Even from the meanest wretch that one could beat,
  • Save for the sin I think he should go free.
  • Ay, and it plays me a still nastier trick;
  • 10 For, meeting some who erewhile with me took
  • Delight, I seem to them a roaring fire.
  • So here's a truth whereat I need not stick:—
  • That if one could turn scullion to a cook,
  • It were a thing to which one might aspire.
page: 220

Prolonged Sonnet.

When his Clothes were gone.
Note: The following poem is not, in the strict sense, a “sonnet,” and is designated by Rossetti a “prolonged sonnet,” consisting as it does of a seventeen-line stanza.
  • Never so bare and naked was church-stone
  • As is my clean-stripped doublet in my grasp;
  • Also I wear a shirt without a clasp,
  • Which is a dismal thing to look upon.
  • Ah! had I still but the sweet coins I won
  • That time I sold my nag and staked the pay,
  • I'd not lie hid beneath the roof to-day
  • And eke out sonnets with this moping moan.
  • Daily a thousand times stark mad am I
  • 10 At my dad's meanness who won't clothe me now,
  • For ‘How about the horse?’ is still his cry.
  • Till one thing strikes me as clear anyhow,—
  • No rag I'll get. The wretch has sworn, I see,
  • Not to invest another doit in me.
  • And all because of the fine doublet's price
  • He gave me, when I vowed to throw no dice,
  • And for his damned nag's sake! Well, this is nice!
page: 221


He argues his case with Death.
  • Gramercy, Death, as you've my love to win,
  • Just be impartial in your next assault;
  • And that you may not find yourself in fault,
  • Whate'er you do, be quick now and begin.
  • As oft may I be pounded flat and thin
  • As in Grosseto there are grains of salt,
  • If now to kill us both you be not call'd,—
  • Both me and him who sticks so in his skin.
  • Or better still, look here; for if I'm slain
  • 10 Alone,—his wealth, it's true, I'll never have,
  • Yet death is life to one who lives in pain:
  • But if you only kill Saldagno's knave,
  • I'm left in Siena (don't you see your gain?)
  • Like a rich man who's made a galley-slave.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 221):

* He means, possibly, that he should be more than ever tor-

mented by his creditors, on account of their knowing his ability to

pay them: but the meaning seems very uncertain.

page: 222


Of Becchina, and of her Husband.
  • I would like better in the grace to be
  • Of the dear mistress whom I bear in mind
  • (As once I was) than I should like to find
  • A stream that washed up gold continually:
  • Because no language could report of me
  • The joys that round my heart would then be twin'd,
  • Who now, without her love, do seem resign'd
  • To death that bends my life to its decree.
  • And one thing makes the matter still more sad:
  • 10 For all the while I know the fault's my own,
  • That on her husband I take no revenge,
  • Who's worse to her than is to me my dad.
  • God send grief has not pulled my courage down,
  • That hearing this I laugh; for it seems strange.
page: 223


To Becchina's rich Husband.*
Note: Though Rossetti assigned this sonnet to Guido Cavalcanti in the 1861 volume The Early Italian Poets, he subsequently changed his mind as to its authorship, and retitled it appropriately.
  • As thou wert loth to see, before thy feet,
  • The dear broad coin roll all thy hill-slope down,
  • Till, gathering it from rifted clods, some clown
  • Should rub it oft and scarcely render it;—
  • Tell me, I charge thee, if by generous heat
  • Or clutching frost the fruits of earth be grown,
  • And by what wind the blight is o'er them strown,
  • And with what gloom the tempest is replete.
  • Yet daily, in good sooth, as morn by morn
  • 10 Thou hear'st the voice of thy poor husbandman
  • And those loud herds, his other family,—
  • I know, as surely as Becchina's born
  • With a kind heart, she does the best she can
  • To filch at least one new-bought prize from thee.
Transcribed Footnote (page 223):

* This puzzling sonnet is printed in Italian collections with the

name of Guido Cavalcanti. It must evidently belong to Angiolieri,

and it has certain fine points which make me unwilling to omit it;

thought partly as to rendering, and wholly as to application, I have

been driven on conjecture.

page: 224


On the Death of his Father.
  • Let not the inhabitants of Hell despair,
  • For one's got out who seem'd to be locked in;
  • And Cecco's the poor devil that I mean,
  • Who thought for ever and ever to be there.
  • But the leaf's turned at last, and I declare
  • That now my state of glory doth begin:
  • For Messer Angiolieri's slipped his skin,
  • Who plagued me, summer and winter, many a year.
  • Make haste to Cecco, Sonnet, with a will,
  • 10 To him who no more at the Abbey dwells;
  • Tell him that Brother Henry's half dried up.*
  • He'll never more be down-at-mouth, but fill
  • His beak at his own beck,† till his life swells
  • To more than Enoch's or Elijah's scope.
Transcribed Footnote (page 224):

* It would almost seem as if Cecco, in his poverty, had at last

taken refuge in a religious house under the name of Brother Henry

( Frate Arrigo), and as if he here meant that Brother Henry was now

decayed, so to speak, through the resuscitation of Cecco. (See

Introduction to Part I
. page 23.)

Transcribed Footnote (page 224):

† In the original words, ‘Ma di tal cibo imbecchi lo suo becco,’

a play upon the name of Becchina seems intended, which I have

conveyed as well as I could.

page: 225
Sig. Q


He would slay all who hate their Fathers.
  • Who utters of his father aught but praise,
  • 'Twere well to cut his tongue out of his mouth;
  • Because the Deadly Sins are seven, yet doth
  • No one provoke such ire as this must raise.
  • Were I a priest, or monk in anyways,
  • Unto the Pope my first respects were paid,
  • Saying, ‘Holy Father, let a just crusade
  • Scourge each man who his sire's good name gainsays.’
  • And if by chance a handful of such rogues
  • 10 At any time should come into our clutch,
  • I'd have them cooked and eaten then and there,
  • If not by men, at least by wolves and dogs.
  • The Lord forgive me! for I fear me much
  • Some words of mine were rather foul than fair.
page: 226



He writes to Dante, then in exile at Verona, defying him as

no better than himself.
  • Dante Alighieri, if I jest and lie,
  • You in such lists might run a tilt with me:
  • I get my dinner, you your supper, free;
  • And if I bite the fat, you suck the fry;
  • I shear the cloth and you the teazle ply;
  • If I've a strut, who's prouder than you are?—
  • If I'm foul-mouthed, you're not particular;
  • And you're turned Lombard, even if Roman I.
  • So that, 'fore Heaven! if either of us flings
  • 10 Much dirt at the other, he must be a fool:
  • For lack of luck and wit we do these things.
  • Yet if you want more lessons at my school,
  • Just say so, and you'll find the next touch stings;
  • For, Dante, I'm the goad and you're the bull.
page: 227
Transcribed Footnote (page 227):

* Several other pieces by this author, addressed to Guido Caval-

canti and Dante da Maiano, will be found among their poems.


Against the ‘White’ Ghibellines.
  • Now of the hue of ashes are the Whites;
  • And they go following now after the kind
  • Of creatures we call crabs, which, as some find,
  • Will only seek their natural food o' nights.
  • All day they hide; their flesh has such sore frights
  • Lest death be come for them on every wind,
  • Lest now the Lion's† wrath be so inclined
  • That they may never set their sin to rights.
  • Guelf were they once, and now are Ghibelline:
  • 10 Nothing but rebels henceforth be they named,—
  • State-foes, as are the Uberti, every one.
  • Transcribed Footnote (page 227):

    i.e. Florence.

    page: 228
  • Behold, against the Whites all men must sign
  • Some judgment whence no pardon can be claim'd
  • Excepting they were offered to Saint John.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 228):

* That is, presented at the high altar on the feast-day of St. John

the Baptist; a ceremony attending the release of criminals, a certain

number of whom were annually pardoned on that day in Florence.

This was the disgraceful condition annexed to that recall to Florence

which Dante received when in exile at the court of Verona; which

others accepted, but which was refused by him in a memorable

epistle still preserved.

page: 229


What Love shall provide for him.
  • Love, I demand to have my lady in fee.
  • Fine balm let Arno be;
  • The walls of Florence all of silver rear'd,
  • And crystal pavements in the public way.
  • With castles make me fear'd,
  • Till every Latin soul have owned my sway.
  • Be the world peaceful; safe throughout each path;
  • No neighbour to breed wrath;
  • The air, summer and winter, temperate.
  • 10A thousand dames and damsels richly clad
  • Upon my choice to wait,
  • Singing by day and night to make me glad.
page: 230
  • Let me have fruitful gardens of great girth,
  • Filled with the strife of birds,
  • With water-springs, and beasts that house i' the earth.
  • Let me seem Solomon for lore of words,
  • Samson for strength, for beauty Absalom.
  • Knights as my serfs be given;
  • And as I will, let music go and come;
  • 20Till at the last thou bring me into Heaven.
page: 231


A Message in charge for his Lady Lagia.
  • Ballad, since Love himself hath fashioned thee
  • Within my mind where he doth make abode,
  • Hie thee to her who through mine eyes bestow'd
  • Her blessing on my heart, which stays with me.
  • Since thou wast born a handmaiden of Love,
  • With every grace thou shouldst be perfected,
  • And everywhere seem gentle, wise, and sweet.
  • And for that thine aspèct gives sign thereof,
  • I do not tell thee, ‘Thus much must be said:’—
  • 10 Hoping, if thou inheritest my wit,
  • And com'st on her when speech may ill befit,
  • That thou wilt say no words of any kind:
  • But when her ear is graciously inclin'd,
  • Address her without dread submissively.
  • Afterward, when thy courteous speech is done,
  • (Ended with fair obeisance and salute
  • To that chief forehead of serenest good,)
  • Wait thou the answer which, in heavenly tone,
  • Shall haply stir between her lips, nigh mute
  • 20 For gentleness and virtuous womanhood.
  • And mark that, if my homage please her mood,
  • page: 232
  • No rose shall be incarnate in her cheek,
  • But her soft eyes shall seem subdued and meek,
  • And almost pale her face for delicacy.
  • For, when at last thine amorous discourse
  • Shall have possessed her spirit with that fear
  • Of thoughtful recollection which in love
  • Comes first,—then say thou that my heart implores
  • Only without an end to honour her,
  • 30 Till by God's will my living soul remove:
  • That I take counsel oftentimes with Love;
  • For he first made my hope thus strong and rife,
  • Through whom my heart, my mind, and all my life,
  • Are given in bondage to her signiory.
  • Then shalt thou find the blessed refuge girt
  • I' the circle of her arms, where pity and grace
  • Have sojourn, with all human excellence:
  • Then shalt thou feel her gentleness exert
  • Its rule (unless, alack! she deem thee base):
  • 40 Then shalt thou know her sweet intelligence:
  • Then shalt thou see—O marvel most intense!—
  • What thing the beauty of the angels is,
  • And what are the miraculous harmonies
  • Whereon Love rears the heights of sovereignty.
  • Move, Ballad, so that none take note of thee,
  • Until thou set thy footsteps in Love's road.
  • Having arrived, speak with thy visage bow'd,
  • And bring no false doubt back, or jealousy.
page: 233


Of what his Lady is.
  • This is the damsel by whom love is brought
  • To enter at his eyes that looks on her;
  • This is the righteous maid, the comforter,
  • Whom every virtue honours unbesought.
  • Love, journeying with her, unto smiles is wrought,
  • Showing the glory which surrounds her there;
  • Who, when a lowly heart prefers its prayer,
  • Can make that its transgression come to nought.
  • And, when she giveth greeting, by Love's rule,
  • 10 With sweet reserve she somewhat lifts her eyes,
  • Bestowing that desire which speaks to us.
  • Alone on what is noble looks she thus,
  • Its opposite rejecting in like wise,
  • This pitiful young maiden beautiful.
page: 234


Of the Star of his Love.
  • That star the highest seen in heaven's expanse
  • Not yet forsakes me with its lovely light:
  • It gave me her who from her heaven's pure height
  • Gives all the grace mine intellect demands.
  • Thence a new arrow of strength is in my hands
  • Which bears good will whereso it may alight;
  • So barbed, that no man's body or soul its flight
  • Has wounded yet, nor shall wound any man's.
  • Glad am I therefore that her grace should fall
  • 10 Not otherwise than thus; whose rich increase
  • Is such a power as evil cannot dim.
  • My sins within an instant perished all
  • When I inhaled the light of so much peace.
  • And this Love knows; for I have told it him.
page: 235

Of the Doctrine of Voluntary Poverty.
  • Many there are, praisers of Poverty;
  • The which as man's best state is register'd
  • When by free choice preferr'd,
  • With strict observance having nothing here.
  • For this they find certain authority
  • Wrought of an over-nice interpreting.
  • Now as concerns such thing,
  • A hard extreme it doth to me appear,
  • Which to commend I fear,
  • 10For seldom are extremes without some vice.
  • Let every edifice,
  • Of work or word, secure foundation find;
  • Against the potent wind,
  • And all things perilous, so well prepar'd,
  • That it need no correction afterward.
  • Of poverty which is against the will,
  • It never can be doubted that therein
  • Lies broad the way to sin.
  • For oftentimes it makes the judge unjust;
  • 20In dames and damsels doth their honour kill;
  • And begets violence and villainies,
  • And theft and wicked lies,
  • page: 236
  • And casts a good man from his fellows' trust.
  • And for a little dust
  • Of gold that lacks, wit seems a lacking too.
  • If once the coat give view
  • Of the real back, farewell all dignity.
  • Each therefore strives that he
  • Should by no means admit her to his sight,
  • 30Who, only thought on, makes his face turn white.
  • Of poverty which seems by choice elect,
  • I may pronounce from plain experience,—
  • Not of mine own pretence,—
  • That 'tis observed or unobserved at will.
  • Nor its observance asks our full respect:
  • For no discernment, nor integrity,
  • Nor lore of life, nor plea
  • Of virtue, can her cold regard instil.
  • I call it shame and ill
  • 40To name as virtue that which stifles good.
  • I call it grossly rude,
  • On a thing bestial to make consequent
  • Virtue's inspired advènt
  • To understanding hearts acceptable:
  • For the most wise most love with her to dwell.
  • Here mayst thou find some issue of demur:
  • For lo! our Lord commendeth poverty.
  • Nay, what His meaning be
  • Search well: His words are wonderfully deep,
  • 50Oft doubly sensed, asking interpreter.
  • page: 237
  • The state for each most saving, is His will
  • For each. Thine eyes unseal,
  • And look within, the inmost truth to reap.
  • Behold what concord keep
  • His holy words with His most holy life.
  • In Him the power was rife
  • Which to all things apportions time and place.
  • On earth He chose such case;
  • And why? 'Twas His to point a higher life.
  • 60But here, on earth, our senses show us still
  • How they who preach this thing are least at peace,
  • And evermore increase
  • Much thought how from this thing they should escape.
  • For if one such a lofty station fill,
  • He shall assert his strength like a wild wolf,
  • Or daily mask himself
  • Afresh, until his will be brought to shape;
  • Ay, and so wear the cape
  • That direst wolf shall seem like sweetest lamb
  • 70 Beneath the constant sham.
  • Hence, by their art, this doctrine plagues the world:
  • And hence, till they be hurl'd
  • From where they sit in high hypocrisy,
  • No corner of the world seems safe to me.
  • Go, Song, to some sworn owls that we have known,
  • And on their folly bring them to reflect:
  • But if they be stiff-neck'd,
  • Belabour them until their heads are down.
page: 238
Prolonged Sonnet.

In the last Days of the Emperor Henry VII.
Note: The following poem is not, in the strict sense, a “sonnet,” and is designated by Rossetti a “prolonged sonnet,” consisting as it does of a sixteen-line stanza.
  • Along the road all shapes must travel by,
  • How swiftly, to my thinking, now doth fare
  • The wanderer who built his watchtower there
  • Where wind is torn with wind continually!
  • Lo! from the world and its dull pain to fly,
  • Unto such pinnacle did he repair,
  • And of her presence was not made aware,
  • Whose face, that looks like Peace, is Death's own lie.
  • Alas, Ambition, thou his enemy,
  • 10 Who lurest the poor wanderer on his way,
  • But never bring'st him where his rest may be,—
  • O leave him now, for he is gone astray
  • Himself out of his very self through thee,
  • Till now the broken stems his feet betray,
  • And caught with boughs before and boughs behind,
  • Deep in thy tangled wood he sinks entwin'd.
page: 239

He commends the work of Dante's life, then drawing to

its close; and deplores his own deficiencies .
  • Glory to God and to God's Mother chaste,
  • Dear friend, is all the labour of thy days:
  • Thou art as he who evermore uplays
  • That heavenly wealth which the worm cannot waste:
  • So shalt thou render back with interest
  • The precious talent given thee by God's grace:
  • While I, for my part, follow in their ways
  • Who by the cares of this world are possess'd.
  • For, as the shadow of the earth doth make
  • 10 The moon's globe dark, when so she is debarr'd
  • From the bright rays which lit her in the sky,—
  • So now, since thou my sun didst me forsake,
  • (Being distant from me,) I grow dull and hard,
  • Even as a beast of Epicurus' sty.
page: 240


He answers the foregoing Sonnet; saying what he feels

at the approach of Death.
  • The King by whose rich grace His servants be
  • With plenty beyond measure set to dwell
  • Ordains that I my bitter wrath dispel
  • And lift mine eyes to the great consistory;
  • Till, noting how in glorious quires agree
  • The citizens of that fair citadel,
  • To the Creator I His creature swell
  • Their song, and all their love possesses me.
  • So, when I contemplate the great reward
  • 10 To which our God has called the Christian seed,
  • I long for nothing else but only this.
  • And then my soul is grieved in thy regard,
  • Dear friend, who reck'st not of thy nearest need,
  • Renouncing for slight joys the perfect bliss.
page: [241]
Sig. R


Forese Donati.
What follows relates to the very filmiest of all the

will-o'-the-wisps which have beset me in making

this book. I should be glad to let it lose itself in its own

quagmire, but am perhaps bound to follow it as far as may

Ubaldini, in his Glossary to Barberino, (published in

1640, and already several times referred to here,) has a rather

startling entry under the word Vendetta.
After describing this ‘custom of the country,’ he says:—
‘To leave a vengeance unaccomplished was considered

‘very shameful; and on this account Forese de' Donati sneers

‘at Dante, who did not avenge his father Alighieri; saying to

‘him ironically,—
  • “Ben sò che fosti figliuol d'Alighieri;
  • Ed accorgomen pure alla vendetta
  • Che facesti di lui sì bella e netta;”

‘and hence perhaps Dante is menaced in Hell by the Spirit

‘of one of his race.’
Now there is no hint to be found anywhere that Dante's

father, who died about 1270, in the poet's childhood, came

by his death in any violent way. The spirit met in Hell

(C. xxix), is Geri, son of Bello Alighieri, and Dante's great-

uncle; and he is there represented as passing his kinsman in

contemptuous silence on account of his own death by the
page: 242

hand of one of the Sacchetti, which remained till then

unavenged, and so continued till after Dante's death, when

Cione Alighieri fulfilled the vendetta by slaying a Sacchett

at the door of his house. If Dante is really the person

addressed in the sonnet quoted by Ubaldini, I think it

probable (as I shall show presently when I give the whole

sonnet) that the ironical allusion is to the death of Geri

Alighieri. But indeed the real writer, the real subject, and

the real object of this clumsy piece of satire seem about

equally puzzling.
Forese Donati, to whom this Sonnet and another I shall

quote are attributed, was the brother of Gemma Donati,

Dante's wife, and of Corso and Piccarda Donati. Dante

introduces him in the Purgatory (C. xxiii.) as expiating the

sin of gluttony. From what is there said, he seems to have

been well known in youth to Dante, who speaks also of

having wept his death; but at the same time he hints that

the life they led together was disorderly and a subject for

regret. This can hardly account for such violence as is

shown in these sonnets, said to have been written from one

to the other; but it is not impossible, of course, that a ran-

cour, perhaps temporary, may have existed at some time

between them, especially as Forese probably adhered with

the rest of his family to the party hostile to Dante. At any

rate, Ubaldini, Crescimbeni, Quadrio, and other writers on

Italian Poetry, seem to have derived this impression from

the poems which they had seen in MS. attributed to Forese.

They all combine in stigmatizing Forese's supposed pro-

ductions as very bad poetry, and in fact this seems the only

point concerning them which is beyond a doubt. The four

sonnets of which I now proceed to give such translations as

I have found possible, were first published together in 1812

by Fiacchi, who states that he had seen two separate ancient

MSS. in both of which they were attributed to Dante and

Forese. In rendering them, I have no choice but to adopt

in a positive form my conjectures as to their meaning; but

that I view these only as conjectures will appear afterwards.
page: 243

Dante Alighieri to Forese Donati.

He taunts Forese, by the nickname of Bicci .
  • O Bicci, pretty son of who knows whom
  • Unless thy mother Lady Tessa tell,—
  • Thy gullet is already crammed too well,
  • Yet others' food thou needs must now consume.
  • Lo! he that wears a purse makes ample room
  • When thou goest by in any public place,
  • Saying, ‘This fellow with the branded face
  • Is thief apparent from his mother's womb.’
  • And I know one who's fain to keep his bed
  • 10 Lest thou shouldst filch it, at whose birth he stood
  • Like Joseph when the world its Christmas saw.
  • Of Bicci and his brothers it is said
  • That with the heat of misbegotten blood
  • Among their wives they are nice brothers-in-law.

Forese Donati to Dante Alighieri.

He taunts Dante ironically for not avenging Geri Alighieri .
  • Right well I know thou'rt Alighieri's son;
  • Nay, that revenge alone might warrant it,
  • Which thou didst take, so clever and complete,
  • For thy great-uncle who awhile agone
  • page: 244
  • Paid scores in full. Why, if thou hadst hewn one
  • In bits for it, 'twere early still for peace!
  • But then thy head's so heaped with things like these
  • That they would weigh two sumpter-horses down.
  • Thou hast taught us a fair fashion, sooth to say,—
  • 10 That whoso lays a stick well to thy back,
  • Thy comrade and thy brother he shall be.
  • As for their names who've shown thee this good play,
  • I'll tell them thee, so thou'lt tell me all the lack
  • Thou hast of help, that I may stand by thee.

Dante Alighieri to Forese Donati.

He taunts him concerning his Wife.
  • To hear the unlucky wife of Bicci cough,
  • (Bicci,—Forese as he's called, you know,—)
  • You'd fancy she had wintered, sure enough,
  • Where icebergs rear themselves in constant snow:
  • And Lord! if in mid-August it is so,
  • How in the frozen months must she come off?
  • To wear her socks abed avails not,—no,
  • Nor quilting from Cortona, warm and tough.
  • Her cough, her cold, and all her other ills,
  • 10 Do not afflict her through the rheum of age,
  • But through some want within her nest, poor spouse!
  • This grief, with other griefs, her mother feels,
  • Who says, ‘Without much trouble, I'll engage,
  • She might have married in Count Guido's house!’
page: 245

Forese Donati to Dante Alighieri.

He taunts him concerning the unavenged Spirit of

Geri Alighieri
  • The other night I had a dreadful cough
  • Because I'd got no bed-clothes over me;
  • And so, when the day broke, I hurried off
  • To seek some gain whatever it might be.
  • And such luck as I had I tell you of.
  • For lo! no jewels hidden in a tree
  • I find, nor buried gold, nor suchlike stuff,
  • But Alighieri among the graves I see,
  • Bound by some spell, I know not at whose 'hest,—
  • 10 At Solomon's, or what sage's who shall say?
  • Therefore I crossed myself towards the east;
  • And he cried out: ‘For Dante's love I pray
  • Thou loose me!’ But I knew not in the least
  • How this were done, so turned and went my way.
Now all this may be pronounced little better than

scurrilous doggrel, and I would not have introduced any of

it, had I not wished to include everything which could pos-

sibly belong to my subject.
Even supposing that the authorship is correctly attributed

in each case, the insults heaped on Dante have of course no

weight, as coming from one who shows every sign of being

both foul-mouthed and a fool. That then even the obser-

vance of the vendetta had its opponents among the laity, is evi-

dent from a passage in Barberino's Documenti d'Amore. The
page: 246

two sonnets bearing Dante's name, if not less offensive than

the others, are rather more pointed; but seem still very

unworthy even of his least exalted mood.
Accordingly Fraticelli (in his Minor Works of Dante )

settles to his own satisfaction that these four sonnets are not

by Dante and Forese; but I do not think his arguments

conclusive enough to set the matter quite at rest. He first

states positively that Sonnet I. (as above) is by Burchiello,

the Florentine barber-poet of the fifteenth century. However

it is only to be found in one edition of Burchiello, and that a

late one, of 1757, where it is placed among the pieces which

are very doubtfully his. It becomes all the more doubtful

when we find it there followed by Sonnet II. (as above),

which would seem by all evidence to be at any rate written

by a different person from the first, whoever the writers of

both may be. Of this sonnet Fraticelli seems to state that

he has seen it attributed in one MS. to a certain Bicci

Novello; and adds (but without giving any authority) that it

was addressed to some descendant of the great poet, also

bearing the name of Dante. Sonnet III. is pronounced by

Fraticelli to be of uncertain authorship, though if the first is

by Burchiello, so must this be. He also decides that the

designation ‘Bicci, vocato Forese,’ shows that Forese was the

nickname and Bicci the real name; but this is surely quite

futile, as the way in which the name is put is to the full

as likely to be meant in ridicule as in earnest. Lastly, of

Sonnet IV. Fraticelli says nothing.
It is now necessary to explain that Sonnet II., as I trans-

late it, is made up from two versions, the one printed by

Fiacchi and the one given among Burchiello's poems; while

in one respect I have adopted a reading of my own. I

would make the first four lines say—
  • Ben sò che fosti figliuol d'Alighieri;
  • Ed accorgomen pure alla vendetta
  • Che facesti di lui, sì bella e netta,
  • Dell' avolin che diè cambio l'altrieri.
page: 247
Of the two printed texts one says, in the fourth line—
  • Dell' aguglin ched ei cambiò l'altrieri;
and the other,
  • Degli auguglin che diè cambio l'altrieri.
‘Aguglino’ would be ‘eaglet,’ and with this, the whole

sense of the line seems quite unfathomable: whereas at the

same time ‘aguglino’ would not be an unlikely corrupt

transcription, or even corrupt version, of ‘avolino,’ which

again (according to the often confused distinctions of Italian

relationships,) might well be a modification of ‘avolo,’

(grandfather) meaning great uncle. The reading would thus

be, ‘La vendetta che facesti di lui (i.e.) dell' avolino che

diè cambio l'altrieri;’ translated literally, ‘The vengeance

which you took for him,—for your great uncle who gave

change the other day.’ Geri Alighieri might indeed have

been said to ‘give change’ or ‘pay scores in full’ by his

death, as he himself had been the aggressor in the first

instance, having slain one of the Sacchetti, and been after

wards slain himself by another.
I should add that I do not think the possibility, however

questionable, of these sonnets being authentically by Dante

and Forese, depends solely on the admission of this word

The rapacity attributed to the ‘Bicci’ of Sonnet I. seems

a tendency somewhat akin to the insatiable gluttony which

Forese is represented as expiating in Dante's Purgatory.

Mention is also there made of Forese's wife, though certainly

in a very different strain from that of Sonnet III.; but it is not

impossible that the poet might have intended to make

amends to her as well as in some degree to her husband's

memory. I am really more than half ashamed of so many

‘possibles’ and ‘not impossibles;’ but perhaps, having

been led into the subject, am a little inclined that the reader

should be worried with it like myself.
At any rate, considering that these Sonnets are attributed
page: 248

by various old manuscripts to Dante and Forese Donati;—

that various writers (beginning with Ubaldini, who seems to

have ransacked libraries more than almost any one) have

spoken of these and other sonnets by Forese against Dante,

—that the feud between the Alighieri and Sacchetti, and the

death of Geri, were certainly matters of unabated bitterness

in Dante's lifetime, as we find the vendetta accomplished

even after his death,—and lastly, that the sonnets attributed

to Forese seem to be plausibly referable to this subject,—I

have thought it pardonable towards myself and my readers

to devote to these ill-natured and not very refined produc-

tions this very long and tiresome note.
Crescimbeni ( Storia della Volgar Poesia ) gives another

sonnet against Dante as being written by Forese Donati,

and it certainly resembles these in style. I should add that

their obscurity of mere language is excessive, and that my

translations therefore are necessarily guesswork here and

there; though as to this I may spare particulars except in

what affects the question at issue. In conclusion, I hope I

need hardly protest against the inference that my transla-

tions and statements might be shown to abound in dubious

makeshifts and whimsical conjectures; though it would be

admitted, on going over the ground I have traversed, that it

presents a difficulty of some kind at almost every step.

Cecco D' Ascoli.
There is one more versifier, contemporary with Dante, to

whom I might be expected to refer. This is the ill-fated

Francesco Stabili, better known as Cecco d' Ascoli, who was

burnt by the Inquisition at Florence in 1327, as a heretic,

though the exact nature of his offence is involved in some
page: 249

mystery. He was a narrow, discontented and self-sufficient

writer; and his incongruous poem in sesta rima, called

L'Acerba, contains various references to the poetry of Dante

(whom he knew personally) as well as to that of Guido

Cavalcanti, made chiefly in a supercilious spirit. These

allusions have no poetical or biographical value whatever, so

I need say no more of them or their author. And indeed

perhaps the ‘Bicci’ sonnets are quite enough of themselves

in the way of absolute trash.

Giovanni Boccaccio.
Several of the little-known sonnets of Boccaccio have

reference to Dante, but, being written in the generation

which followed his, do not belong to the body of my first

division. I therefore place three of them here, together with

a few more specimens from the same poet.
There is nothing which gives Boccaccio a greater claim

to our regard than the enthusiastic reverence with which he

loved to dwell on the Commedia and on the memory of

Dante, who died when he was seven years old. This is

amply proved by his Life of the Poet and Commentary

on the Poem, as well as by other passages in his writings

both in prose and poetry. The first of the three following

sonnets relates to his public reading and elucidation of Dante,

which took place at Florence, by a decree of the State, in 1373.

The second sonnet shows how the greatest minds of the gene-

ration which immediately succeeded Dante already paid un-

hesitating tribute to his political as well as poetical greatness.

In the third sonnet, it is interesting to note the personal love

and confidence with which Boccaccio could address the

spirit of his mighty master, unknown to him in the flesh.
page: 250

To one who had censured his public Exposition of Dante .
  • If Dante mourns, there wheresoe'er he be,
  • That such high fancies of a soul so proud
  • Should be laid open to the vulgar crowd,
  • (As, touching my Discourse, I'm told by thee,)
  • This were my grievous pain; and certainly
  • My proper blame should not be disavow'd;
  • Though hereof somewhat, I declare aloud,
  • Were due to others, not alone to me.
  • False hopes, true poverty, and therewithal
  • 10 The blinded judgment of a host of friends,
  • And their entreaties, made that I did thus.
  • But of all this there is no gain at all
  • Unto the thankless souls with whose base ends
  • Nothing agrees that's great or generous.

Inscription for a Portrait of Dante.
  • Dante Alighieri, a dark oracle
  • Of wisdom and of art I am; whose mind
  • Has to my country such great gifts assign'd
  • That men account my powers a miracle.
  • My lofty fancy passed as low as Hell,
  • As high as Heaven, secure and unconfin'd;
  • And in my noble book doth every kind
  • Of earthly lore and heavenly doctrine dwell.
  • page: 251
  • Renownèd Florence was my mother,—nay,
  • 10 Stepmother unto me her piteous son,
  • Through sin of cursed slander's tongue and tooth.
  • Ravenna sheltered me so cast away;
  • My body is with her,—my soul with One
  • For whom no envy can make dim the truth.

To Dante in Paradise, after Fiammetta's death .
  • Dante, if thou within the sphere of Love,
  • As I believe, remain'st contemplating
  • Beautiful Beatrice, whom thou didst sing
  • Erewhile, and so wast drawn to her above;—
  • Unless from false life true life thee remove
  • So far that Love's forgotten, let me bring
  • One prayer before thee: for an easy thing
  • This were, to thee whom I do ask it of.
  • I know that where all joy doth most abound
  • 10 In the Third Heaven, my own Fiammetta sees
  • The grief which I have borne since she is dead.
  • O pray her (if mine image be not drown'd
  • In Lethe) that her prayers may never cease
  • Until I reach her and am comforted.
I add three further examples of Boccaccio's poetry,

chosen for their beauty alone. Two of these relate to Maria

d'Aquino, if she indeed be the lady whom, in his writings, he

calls Fiammetta. The third has a playful charm very cha-
page: 252
racteristic of the author of the Decameron; while its beauty

of colour (to our modern minds, privileged to review the

whole pageant of Italian Art,) might recall the painted pas-

torals of Giorgione.

Of Fiammetta singing.
  • Love steered my course, while yet the sun rode high,
  • On Scylla's waters to a myrtle-grove:
  • The heaven was still and the sea did not move;
  • Yet now and then a little breeze went by
  • Stirring the tops of trees against the sky:
  • And then I heard a song as glad as love,
  • So sweet that never yet the like thereof
  • Was heard in any mortal company.
  • ‘A nymph, a goddess, or an angel sings
  • 10 Unto herself, within this chosen place,
  • Of ancient loves;’ so said I at that sound.
  • And there my lady, 'mid the shadowings
  • Of myrtle-trees, 'mid flowers and grassy space,
  • Singing I saw, with others who sat round.

Of his last sight of Fiammetta.
  • Round her red garland and her golden hair
  • I saw a fire about Fiammetta's head;
  • Thence to a little cloud I watched it fade,
  • Than silver or than gold more brightly fair;
  • page: 253
  • And like a pearl that a gold ring doth bear,
  • Even so an angel sat therein, who sped
  • Alone and glorious throughout heaven, array'd
  • In sapphires and in gold that lit the air.
  • Then I rejoiced as hoping happy things,
  • 10Who rather should have then discerned how God
  • Had haste to make my lady all his own,
  • Even as it came to pass. And with these stings
  • Of sorrow, and with life's most weary load
  • I dwell, who fain would be where she is gone.

Of three Girls and of their Talk.
  • By a clear well, within a little field
  • Full of green grass and flowers of every hue,
  • Sat three young girls, relating (as I knew)
  • Their loves. And each had twined a bough to shield
  • Her lovely face; and the green leaves did yield
  • The golden hair their shadow; while the two
  • Sweet colours mingled, both blown lightly through
  • With a soft wind for ever stirred and still'd.
  • After a little while one of them said,
  • 10(I heard her,) ‘Think! If, ere the next hour struck,
  • Each of our lovers should come here to-day,
  • Think you that we should fly or feel afraid?’
  • To whom the others answered, ‘From such luck
  • A girl would be a fool to run away.’
End of Part I.
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Sig. S


    CIULLO D'ALCAMO, 1172-78.
  • Ciullo is a popular form of the name Vincenzo, and

    Alcamo an Arab fortress some miles from Palermo. The

    Dialogue which is the only known production of this poet,

    holds here the place generally accorded to it as the earliest

    Italian poem (exclusive of one or two dubious inscriptions)

    which has been preserved to our day. Arguments have

    sometimes been brought to prove that it must be assigned

    to a later date than the poem by Folcachiero, which follows

    it in this volume; thus ascribing the first honours of Italian

    poetry to Tuscany, and not to Sicily, as is commonly sup-

    posed. Trucchi, however, (in the preface to his valuable

    collection,) states his belief that the two poems are about

    contemporaneous, fixing the date of that by Ciullo between

    1172 and 1178,—chiefly from the fact that the fame of

    Saladin, to whom this poet alludes, was most in men's

    mouths during that interval. At first sight, any casual

    reader of the original would suppose that this poem must

    be unquestionably the earliest of all, as its language is far

    the most unformed and difficult; but much of this might,

    of course, be dependent on the inferior dialect of Sicily,

    mixed however in this instance (as far as I can judge) with

    mere nondescript patois.

  • II. Folcachiero de' Folcachieri, Knight of Siena,

  • The above date has been assigned with probability to

    page: 258
    Folcachiero's Canzone, on account of its first line where the

    whole world is said to be ‘living without war;’ an assertion

    which seems to refer its production to the period of the

    celebrated peace concluded at Venice between Frederick

    Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III.

  • III. Lodovico della Vernaccia, 1200.IV. Saint Francis of Assisi; born, 1182, died,

  • His baptismal name was Giovanni, and his father was

    Bernardone Moriconi, whose mercantile pursuits he shared

    till the age of twenty-five; after which his life underwent

    the extraordinary change which resulted in his canonisation,

    by Gregory IX., three years after his death, and in the

    formation of the Religious Order called Franciscans.

  • V. Frederick II., Emperor; born, 1194, died, 1250.
  • The life of Frederick II., and his excommunication and

    deposition from the Empire by Innocent IV., to whom,

    however, he did not succumb, are matters of history which

    need no repetition. Intellectually, he was in all ways a

    highly-gifted and accomplished prince; and lovingly culti-

    vated the Italian language, in preference to the many others

    with which he was familiar. The poem of his which I give

    has great passionate beauty; yet I believe that an allegorical

    interpretation may here probably be admissible; and that

    the lady of the poem may be the Empire, or perhaps the

    Church herself, held in bondage by the Pope.

  • VI. Enzo, King of Sardinia; born, 1225, died, 1272.
  • The unfortunate Enzo was a natural son of Frederick II.,

    and was born at Palermo. By his own warlike enterprise,

    at an early age (it is said at fifteen!) he subjugated the

    Island of Sardinia, and was made King of it by his father.

    Afterwards he joined Frederick in his war against the

    Church, and displayed the highest promise as a leader; but

    at the age of twenty-five was taken prisoner by the Bolo-

    gnese, whom no threats or promises from the Emperor could

    page: 259
    Note: The last letter of the fourth line of entry X. on this page exhibits type-damage.
    induce to set him at liberty. He died in prison at Bologna,

    after a confinement of nearly twenty-three years. A hard fate

    indeed for one who, while moving among men, excited their

    hopes and homage, still on record, by his great military

    genius and brilliant gifts of mind and person.

  • VII. Guido Guinicelli, 1220.
  • This poet, certainly the greatest of his time, belonged to

    a noble and even princely Bolognese family. Nothing seems

    known of his life, except that he was married to a lady

    named Beatrice, and that in 1274, having adhered to

    the imperial cause, he was sent into exile, but whither cannot be

    learned. He died two years afterwards. The highest praise

    has been bestowed by Dante on Guinicelli, in the Commedia,

    (Purg. C. xxvi) in the Convito, and in the De Vulgari

    and many instances might be cited in which the

    works of the great Florentine contain reminiscences of his

    Bolognese predecessor; especially the third canzone of

    Dante's Convito may be compared with Guido's most famous

    one ‘On the Gentle Heart.’

  • VIII. Guerzo di Montecanti, 1220.IX. Inghilfredi, Siciliano, 1220.X. Rinaldo d'Aquino, 1250.
  • I have placed this poet, belonging to a Neapolitan family,

    under the date usually assigned to him; but Trucchi states

    his belief that he flourished much earlier, and was a con-

    temporary of Folcachiero; partly on account of two lines in

    one of his poems which say,—

    • ‘Lo Imperadore con pace
    • Tutto il mondo mantene.’

    If so, the mistake would be easily accounted for, as there

    seem to have been various members of the family named

    Rinaldo, at different dates.

  • XI. Jacopo da Lentino, 1250.
  • This Sicilian poet is generally called ‘the Notary of

    page: 260

    Lentino.’ The low estimate expressed of him, as well as

    of Bonaggiunta and Guittone, by Dante (Purg. C. xxiv),

    must be understood as referring in great measure to their

    want of grammatical purity and nobility of style, as we may

    judge when this passage is taken in conjunction with the

    principles of the De Vulgari Eloquio . However, Dante

    also attributes his own superiority to the fact of his writing

    only when love (or natural impulse) really prompted him,—

    the highest certainly of all laws relating to art:—
    • ‘Io mi son un che quando
    • Amor mi spira, noto, ed in quel modo
    • Ch' ei detta dentro, vo significando.’

    A translation does not suffer from such offences of dialect as

    may exist in its original; and I think my readers will agree

    that, chargeable as he is with some conventionality of

    sentiment, the Notary of Lentino is often not without his

    claims to beauty and feeling. There is a peculiar charm in

    the sonnet which stands first among my specimens.

  • XII. Mazzeo di Ricco, da Messina, 1250.XIII. Pannuccio dal Bagno, Pisano, 1250.XIV. Giacomino Pugliesi, Knight of Prato, 1250.
  • Of this poet there seems nothing to be learnt; but he

    deserves special notice as possessing rather more poetic

    individuality than usual, and also as furnishing the only

    instance, among Dante's predecessors, of a poem (and a very

    beautiful one) written on a lady's death.

  • XV. Fra Guittone d'Arezzo, 1250.
  • Guittone was not a monk, but derived the prefix to his

    name from the fact of his belonging to the religious and mili-

    tary order of Cavalieri di Santa Maria. He seems to have

    enjoyed a greater literary reputation than almost any writer

    of his day; but certainly his poems, of which many have

    been preserved, cannot be said to possess merit of a pro-

    minent kind; and Dante shows by various allusions that he

    page: 261

    considered them much over-rated. The sonnet I have given

    is somewhat remarkable, from Petrarch's having transplanted

    its last line into his Trionfi d'Amore (cap. III). Guittone

    is the author of a series of Italian letters to various eminent

    persons, which are the earliest known epistolary writings in

    the language.

  • XVI. Bartolomeo di Sant' Angelo, 1250.XVII. Saladino da Pavia, 1250.XVIII. Bonaggiunta Urbiciani, da Lucca, 1250.XIX. Meo Abbracciavacca, da Pistoia, 1250.XX. Ubaldo di Marco, 1250.XXI. Simbuono Giudice, 1250.XXII. Masolino da Todi, 1250.XXIII. Onesto di Boncima, Bolognese, 1250.
  • Onesto was a doctor of laws, and an early friend of Cino

    da Pistoia. He was living as late as 1301, though his career

    as a poet may be fixed somewhat further back.

  • XXIV. Terino da Castel Fiorentino, 1250.XXV. Maestro Migliore, da Fiorenza, 1250.XXVI. Dello da Signa, 1250.XXVII. Folgore da San Geminiano, 1260.XXVIII. Guido delle Colonne, 1250.
  • This Sicilian poet has few equals among his contempo-

    raries, and is ranked high by Dante in his treatise De Vul-

    gari Eloquio
    . He visited England and wrote in Latin a

    Historia de regibus et rebus Angliæ, as well as a Historia

    destructionis Trojæ

  • XXIX. Pier Moronelli, di Fiorenza, 1250.XXX. Ciuncio Fiorentino, 1250.XXXI. Ruggieri di Amici, Siciliano, 1250.
    page: 262
    XXXII. Carnino Ghiberti, da Fiorenza, 1250.XXXIII. Prinzivalle Doria, 1250.
  • Prinzivalle commenced by writing Italian poetry, but

    afterwards composed verses entirely in Provençal, for the

    love of Beatrice, Countess of Provence. He wrote also, in

    Provençal prose, a treatise ‘On the dainty madness of Love,’

    and another ‘On the War of Charles, King of Naples, against

    the tyrant Manfredi.’ He held various high offices, and died

    at Naples in 1276.

  • XXXIV. Rustico di Filippo; born about 1200,

    died, 1270.
  • The writings of this Tuscan poet (called also Rustico

    Barbuto) show signs of more vigour and versatility than was

    common in his day, and he probably began writing in Italian

    verse even before many of those already mentioned. In his

    old age, he, though a Ghibelline, received the dedication of

    the Tesoretto from the Guelf Brunetto Latini, who there pays

    him unqualified homage for surpassing worth in peace and

    war. It is strange that more should not be known regarding

    this doubtless remarkable man. His compositions have

    sometimes much humour, and on the whole convey the

    impression of an active and energetic nature. Moreover,

    Trucchi pronounces some of them to be as pure in language

    as the poems of Dante or Guido Cavalcanti, though written

    thirty or forty years earlier.

  • XXXV. Pucciarello di Fiorenza, 1260.XXXVI. Albertuccio della Viola, 1260.XXXVII. Tommaso Buzzuola, da Faenza, 1280.XXXVIII. Noffo Bonaguida, 1280.XXXIX. Lippo Paschi de' Bardi, 1280.XL. Ser Pace, Notaio da Fiorenza, 1280.
    page: 263
    XLI. Niccolò degli Albizzi, 1300.
  • The noble Florentine family of Albizzi produced writers

    of poetry in more than one generation. The vivid and

    admirable sonnet which I have translated is the only one I

    have met with by Niccolò. I must confess my inability to

    trace the circumstances which gave rise to it.

  • XLII. Francesco da Barberino; born, 1264, died,

  • With the exception of Brunetto Latini, (whose poems

    are neither very poetical nor well adapted for extract,)

    Francesco da Barberino shows by far the most sustained

    productiveness among the poets who preceded Dante, or

    were contemporaries of his youth. Though born only

    one year in advance of Dante, Barberino seems to have

    undertaken, if not completed, his two long poetic trea-

    tises, some years before the commencement of the Com-


    This poet was born at Barberino di Valdelsa, of a noble

    family, his father being Neri di Rinuccio da Barberino. Up to

    the year of his father's death, 1296, he pursued the study of law

    chiefly in Bologna and Padua; but afterwards removed to

    Florence for the same purpose, and seems to have been there,

    even earlier, one of the many distinguished disciples of Bru-

    netto Latini, who probably had more influence than any other

    one man in forming the youth of his time to the great things

    they accomplished. After this he travelled in France and else-

    where; and on his return to Italy in 1313, was the first who,

    by special favour of Pope Clement V., received the grade

    of Doctor of Laws in Florence. Both as lawyer and as

    citizen, he held great trusts and discharged them honourably.

    He was twice married, the name of his second wife being

    Barna di Tano, and had several children. At the age of

    eighty-four he died in the great Plague of Florence. Of the

    two works which Barberino has left, one bears the title of

    Documenti d'Amore, literally ‘Documents of Love,’ but

    perhaps more properly rendered as ‘Laws of Courtesy;’

    page: 264
    while the other is called Del Reggiomento e dei Costumi delle

    —‘Of the Government and Conduct of Women.’ They

    may be described, in the main, as manuals of good breeding,

    or social chivalry, the one for men and the other for women.

    Mixed with vagueness, tediousness, and not seldom with

    artless absurdity, they contain much simple wisdom, much

    curious record of manners, and (as my specimens show)

    occasional poetic sweetness or power, though these last are

    far from being their most prominent merits. The first-

    named treatise, however, has much more of such qualities

    than the second; and contains, moreover, passages of

    homely humour which startle by their truth as if written

    yesterday. At the same time, the second book is quite as

    well worth reading, for the sake of its authoritative minute-

    ness in matter which ladies, now-a-days, would probably

    consider their own undisputed region; and also for the

    quaint gravity of certain surprising prose anecdotes of real

    life, whith which it is interspersed. Both these works re-

    mained long unprinted, the first edition of the Documenti

    being that edited by Ubaldini in 1640, at which

    time he reports the Reggimento, &c., to be only possessed

    by his age ‘in name and in desire.’ This treatise was after-

    wards brought to light, but never printed till 1815. I should

    not forget to state that Berberino attained some knowledge

    of drawing, and that Ubaldini had neen his original MS. of

    the Documenti, containing, as he says, skilful miniatures by

    the author.

    Barberino never appears to have taken a very active part

    in politics, but he inclined to the Imperial and Ghibelline

    party. This contributes with other things to render it rather

    singular that we find no poetic correspondence or apparent

    communication of any kind between him and his many

    great countrymen, contemporaries of his long life, and with

    whom he had more than one bond of sympathy. His career

    stretched from Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, and Cino da

    Pistoia, to Petrarca and Boccaccio; yet only in one respectful

    but not enthusiastic notice of him by the last-named writer

    page: 265
    ( Genealogia degli Dei ), do we ever meet with an allusion to

    him by any of the greatest men of his time. Nor in his

    own writings, as far as I remember, are they ever referred

    to. His epitaph is said to have been written by Boccaccio,

    but this is doubtful.

    For some interesting notices of, and translations from,

    Barberino, I may refer the reader to the tract on ‘Italian

    Courtesy Books,’ by my brother, W. M. Rossetti, issued by

    the Early English Text Society.

  • XLIII. Fazio Degli Uberti, 1326-60.
  • The dates of this poet's birth and death are not ascertain-

    able, but I have set against his name two dates which

    result from his writings as belonging to his lifetime. He was

    a member of that great house of the Uberti, which was

    driven from Florence on the expulsion of the Ghibellines in

    1267, and which was ever afterwards specially excluded by

    name from the various amnesties offered from time to time

    to the exiled Florentines. His grandfather was Farinata

    degli Uberti, whose stern nature, unyielding even amid penal

    fires, has been recorded by Dante in the tenth canto of the

    Inferno. Farinata's son Lapo, himself a poet, was the

    father of Fazio ( i.e. Bonifazio), who was no doubt born in

    the lifetime of Dante, and in some place of exile, but where

    is not known. In his youth he was enamoured of a certain

    Veronese lady named Angiola, and was afterwards married,

    but whether to her or not is again among the uncertainties.

    Certain it is that he had a son named Leopardo, who, after

    his father's death at Verona, settled in Venice, where his

    descendants maintained an honourable rank for the space

    of two succeeding centuries. Though Fazio appears to have

    suffered sometimes from poverty, he enjoyed high reputation

    as a poet, and is even said, on the authority of various early

    writers, to have publicly received the laurel crown; but in

    what city of Italy this took place, we do not learn.

    There is much beauty in several of Fazio's lyrical poems,

    of which, however, no great number have been preserved.

    page: 266
    The finest of all is the Canzone which I have translated;

    whose excellence is such as to have procured it the high

    honour of being attributed to Dante, so that it is to be found

    in most editions of the Canzoniere; and as far as poetic

    beauty is concerned, it must be allowed to hold even there

    an eminent place. Its style, however, (as Monti was the

    first to point out in our own day, though Ubaldini, in

    his Glossary to Barberino, had already quoted it as the

    work of Fazio) is more particularizing than accords with

    the practice of Dante; while, though certainly more perfect

    than any other poem by Fazio, its manner is quite his;

    bearing especially a strong resemblance throughout in struc-

    ture to one canzone, where he speaks of his love with

    minute reference to the seasons of the year. Moreover,

    Fraticelli tells us that it is not attributed to Dante in any one

    of the many ancient MSS. he had seen, but has been

    fathered on him solely on the authority of a printed collec-

    tion of 1518. This contested Canzone is well worth fighting

    for; and the victor would deserve to receive his prize at the

    hands of a peerless Queen of Beauty, for never was beauty

    better described. I believe we may decide that the triumph

    belongs by right to Fazio.

    An exile by inheritance, Fazio seems to have acquired

    restless tastes; and in the latter years of his life (which

    was prolonged to old age), he travelled over a great part of

    Europe, and composed his long poem entitled Il Ditta-

    ,—‘The Song of the World.’ This work, though by

    no means contemptible in point of execution, certainly falls

    far short of its conception, which is a grand one; the

    topics of which it treats in great measure,—geography and

    natural history,—rendering it in those days the native home

    of all credulities and monstrosities. In scheme it was

    intended as an earthly parallel to Dante's Sacred Poem,

    doing for this world what he did for the other. At Fazio's

    death it remained unfinished, but I should think by very

    little; the plan of the work seeming in the main accom-

    plished. The whole earth (or rather all that was then

    page: 267

    known of it) is traversed,—its surface and its history,—

    ending with the Holy Land, and thus bringing Man's world

    as near as may be to God's; that is, to the point at which

    Dante's office begins. No conception could well be nobler,

    or worthier even now of being dealt with by a great master.

    To the work of such a man, Fazio's work might afford such

    first materials as have usually been furnished beforehand

    to the greatest poets by some unconscious steward.

  • XLIV. Franco Sacchetti; born, 1335, died shortly

    after 1400.
  • This excellent writer is the only member of my gathering

    who was born after the death of Dante, which event (in

    1321) preceded Franco's birth by some fourteen years. I

    have introduced a few specimens of his poetry, partly

    because their attraction was irresistible, but also because

    he is the earliest Italian poet with whom playfulness is the

    chief characteristic; for even with Boccaccio, in his poetry,

    this is hardly the case, and we can but ill accept as play-

    fulness the cynical humour of Ceco Angiolieri: perhaps

    Rustico di Filippo alone might put in claims to priority in

    this respect. However, Franco Sacchetti wrote poems also

    on political subjects; and had he belonged more strictly to

    the period of which I treat, there is no one who would better

    have deserved abundant selection. Besides his poetry, he

    is the author of a well-known series of three hundred stories;

    and Trucchi gives a list of prose works by him which are

    still in MS., and whose subjects are genealogical, historical,

    natural-historical, and even theological. He was a prolific

    writer, and one who well merits complete and careful publi-

    cation. The pieces which I have translated, like many

    others of his, are written for music.

    Franco Sacchetti was a Florentine noble by birth, and

    was the son of Benci di Uguccione Sacchetti. Between

    this family and the Alighieri there had been a vendetta of

    long standing (spoken of here in the Appendix to Part I .),

    but which was probably set at rest before Franco's time, by

    page: 268
    the deaths of at least one Alighieri and two Sacchetti. After

    some years passed in study, Franco devoted himself to

    commerce, like many nobles of the republic, and for that

    purpose spent some time in Sclavonia, whose uncongenial

    influences he has recorded in an amusing poem. As

    his literary fame increased, he was called to many im-

    portant offices; was one of the Priori in 1383, and for

    some time was deputed to the government of Faenza, in the

    absence of its lord, Astorre Manfredi. He was three times

    married; to Felice degli Strozzi, to Ghita Gherardini, and

    to Nannina di Santi Bruni.

  • XLV. Anonymous Poems.
page: [269]

Lover and Lady.
  • He.
  • Thou sweetly-smelling fresh red rose
  • That near thy summer art,
  • Of whom each damsel and each dame
  • Would fain be counterpart;
  • Oh! from this fire to draw me forth
  • Be it in thy good heart:
  • For night or day there is no rest with me,
  • Thinking of none, my lady, but of thee.
  • She.
  • If thou hast set thy thoughts on me,
  • 10 Thou hast done a foolish thing.
  • Yea, all the pine-wood of this world
  • Together might'st thou bring,
  • And make thee ships, and plough the sea
  • Therewith for corn-sowing,
  • Ere any way to win me could be found:
  • For I am going to shear my locks all round.
page: 270
  • He.
  • Lady, before thou shear thy locks
  • I hope I may be dead:
  • For I should lose such joy thereby
  • 20 And gain such grief instead.
  • Merely to pass and look at thee,
  • Rose of the garden-bed,
  • Has comforted me much, once and again.
  • Oh! if thou wouldst but love, what were it then!
  • She.
  • Nay, though my heart were prone to love,
  • I would not grant it leave.
  • Hark! should my father or his kin
  • But find thee here this eve,
  • Thy loving body and lost breath
  • 30 Our moat may well receive.
  • Whatever path to come here thou dost know,
  • By the same path I counsel thee to go.
  • He.
  • And if thy kinsfolk find me here,
  • Shall I be drowned then? Marry,
  • I'll set, for price against my head,
  • Two thousand agostari.
  • I think thy father would not do't
  • For all his lands in Bari.
  • Long life to the Emperor! Be God's the praise!
  • 40Thou hear'st, my beauty, what thy servant says.
page: 271
  • She.
  • And am I then to have no peace
  • Morning or evening?
  • I have strong coffers of my own
  • And much good gold therein;
  • So that if thou couldst offer me
  • The wealth of Saladin,
  • And add to that the Soldan's money-hoard,
  • Thy suit would not be anything toward.
  • He.
  • I have known many women, love,
  • 50 Whose thoughts were high and proud,
  • And yet have been made gentle by
  • Man's speech not over-loud.
  • If we but press ye long enough,
  • At length ye will be bow'd;
  • For still a woman's weaker than a man.
  • When the end comes, recall how this began.
  • She.
  • God grant that I may die before
  • Any such end do come,—
  • Before the sight of a chaste maid
  • 60 Seem to be troublesome!
  • I marked thee here all yestereve
  • Lurking about my home,
  • And now I say, Leave climbing, lest thou fall,
  • For these thy words delight me not at all.
page: 272
  • He.
  • How many are the cunning chains
  • Thou hast wound round my heart!
  • Only to think upon thy voice
  • Sometimes I groan apart.
  • For I did never love a maid
  • 70 Of this world, as thou art,
  • So much as I love thee, thou crimson rose.
  • Thou wilt be mine at last: this my soul knows.
  • She.
  • If I could think it would be so,
  • Small pride it were of mine
  • That all my beauty should be meant
  • But to make thee to shine.
  • Sooner than stoop to that, I'd shear
  • These golden tresses fine,
  • And make one of some holy sisterhood;
  • 80Escaping so thy love, which is not good.
  • He.
  • If thou unto the cloister fly,
  • Thou cruel lady and cold,
  • Unto the cloister I will come
  • And by the cloister hold;
  • For such a conquest liketh me
  • Much better than much gold;
  • At matins and at vespers I shall be
  • Still where thou art. Have I not conquered thee?
page: 273
Sig. T
  • She.
  • Out and alack! wherefore am I
  • 90 Tormented in suchwise?
  • Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour,
  • In whom my best hope lies,
  • O give me strength that I may hush
  • This vain man's blasphemies!
  • Let him seek through the earth; 'tis long and broad:
  • He will find fairer damsels, O my God!
  • He.
  • I have sought through Calabria,
  • Lombardy, and Tuscany,
  • Rome, Pisa, Lucca, Genoa,
  • 100 All between sea and sea:
  • Yea, even to Babylon I went
  • And distant Barbary:
  • But not a woman found I anywhere
  • Equal to thee, who art indeed most fair.
  • She.
  • If thou have all this love for me,
  • Thou canst no better do
  • Than ask me of my father dear
  • And my dear mother too:
  • They willing, to the abbey-church
  • 110 We will together go,
  • And, before Advent, thou and I will wed;
  • After the which, I'll do as thou hast said.
page: 274
  • He.
  • These thy conditions, lady mine,
  • Are altogether nought;
  • Despite of them, I'll make a net
  • Wherein thou shalt be caught.
  • What, wilt thou put on wings to fly?
  • Of wax I think they're wrought,—
  • They'll let thee fall to earth, not rise with thee:
  • 120So, if thou canst, then keep thyself from me.
  • She.
  • Think not to fright me with thy nets
  • And suchlike childish gear;
  • I am safe pent within the walls
  • Of this strong castle here;
  • A boy before he is a man
  • Could give me as much fear.
  • If suddenly thou get not hence again,
  • It is my prayer thou mayst be found and slain.
  • He.
  • Wouldst thou in very truth that I
  • 130 Were slain, and for thy sake?
  • Then let them hew me to such mince
  • As a man's limbs may make!
  • But meanwhile I shall not stir hence
  • Till of that fruit I take
  • Which thou hast in thy garden, ripe enough:
  • All day and night I thirst to think thereof.
page: 275
  • She.
  • None have partaken of that fruit,
  • Not Counts nor Cavaliers:
  • Though many have reached up for it,
  • 140 Barons and great Seigneurs,
  • They all went hence in wrath because
  • They could not make it theirs.
  • Then how canst thou think to succeed alone
  • Who hast not a thousand ounces of thine own?
  • He.
  • How many nosegays I have sent
  • Unto thy house, sweet soul!
  • At least till I am put to proof,
  • This scorn of thine control.
  • For if the wind, so fair for thee,
  • 150 Turn ever and wax foul,
  • Be sure that thou shalt say when all is done,
  • ‘Now is my heart heavy for him that's gone.’
  • She.
  • If by my grief thou couldst be grieved,
  • God send me a grief soon!
  • I tell thee that though all my friends
  • Prayed me as for a boon,
  • Saying, ‘Even for the love of us,
  • Love thou this worthless loon,’—
  • Thou shouldst not have the thing that thou dost hope.
  • 160No, verily; not for the realm o' the Pope.
page: 276
  • He.
  • Now could I wish that I in truth
  • Were dead here in thy house:
  • My soul would get its vengeance then;
  • Once known, the thing would rouse
  • A rabble, and they'd point and say,—
  • ‘Lo! she that breaks her vows,
  • And, in her dainty chamber, stabs!’ Love, see:
  • One strikes just thus: it is soon done, pardie!
  • She.
  • If now thou do not hasten hence,
  • 170 (My curse companioning,)
  • That my stout friends will find thee here
  • Is a most certain thing:
  • After the which, my gallant sir,
  • Thy points of reasoning
  • May chance, I think, to stand thee in small stead.
  • Thou hast no friend, sweet friend, to bring thee aid.
  • He.
  • Thou sayest truly, saying that
  • I have not any friend:
  • A landless stranger, lady mine,
  • 180 None but his sword defend.
  • One year ago, my love began,
  • And now, is this the end?
  • Oh! the rich dress thou worest on that day
  • Since when thou art walking at my side alway!
page: 277
  • She.
  • So 'twas my dress enamoured thee!
  • What marvel? I did wear
  • A cloth of samite silver-flowered,
  • And gems within my hair.
  • But one more word; if on Christ's Book
  • 190 To wed me thou didst swear,
  • There's nothing now could win me to be thine:
  • I had rather make my bed in the sea-brine.
  • He.
  • And if thou make thy bed therein,
  • Most courteous lady and bland,
  • I'll follow all among the waves,
  • Paddling with foot and hand;
  • Then, when the sea hath done with thee,
  • I'll seek thee on the sand.
  • For I will not be conquered in this strife:
  • 200I'll wait, but win; or losing, lose my life.
  • She.
  • For Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
  • Three times I cross myself.
  • Thou art no godless heretic,
  • Nor Jew, whose God's his pelf:
  • Even as I know it then, meseems,
  • Thou needs must know thyself
  • That woman, when the breath in her doth cease,
  • Loseth all savour and all loveliness.
page: 278
  • He.
  • Woe's me! Perforce it must be said
  • 210 No craft could then avail:
  • So that if thou be thus resolved,
  • I know my suit must fail.
  • Then have some pity, of thy grace!
  • Thou mayst, love, very well;
  • For though thou love not me, my love is such
  • That 'tis enough for both—yea overmuch.
  • She.
  • Is it even so? Learn then that I
  • Do love thee from my heart.
  • To-morrow, early in the day,
  • 220 Come here, but now depart.
  • By thine obedience in this thing
  • I shall know what thou art,
  • And if thy love be real or nothing worth;
  • Do but go now, and I am thine henceforth.
  • He.
  • Nay, for such promise, my own life,
  • I will not stir a foot.
  • I've said, if thou wouldst tear away
  • My love even from its root,
  • I have a dagger at my side
  • 230 Which thou mayst take to do't:
  • But as for going hence, it will not be.
  • O hate me not! my heart is burning me.
page: 279
  • She.
  • Think'st thou I know not that thy heart
  • Is hot and burns to death?
  • Of all that thou or I can say,
  • But one word succoureth.
  • Till thou upon the Holy Book
  • Give me thy bounden faith,
  • God is my witness that I will not yield:
  • 240For with thy sword 'twere better to be kill'd.
  • He.
  • Then on Christ's Book, borne with me still
  • To read from and to pray,
  • (I took it, fairest, in a church,
  • The priest being gone away,)
  • I swear that my whole self shall be
  • Thine always from this day.
  • And now at once give joy for all my grief,
  • Lest my soul fly, that's thinner than a leaf.
  • She.
  • Now that this oath is sworn, sweet lord,
  • 250 There is no need to speak:
  • My heart, that was so strong before,
  • Now feels itself grow weak.
  • If any of my words were harsh,
  • Thy pardon: I am meek
  • Now, and will give thee entrance presently.
  • It is best so, sith so it was to be.
page: 280


He speaks of his Condition through Love.
  • All the whole world is living without war,
  • And yet I cannot find out any peace.
  • O God! that this should be!
  • O God! what does the earth sustain me for?
  • My life seems made for other lives' ill-ease:
  • All men look strange to me;
  • Nor are the wood-flowers now
  • As once, when up above
  • The happy birds in love
  • 10Made such sweet verses, going from bough to bough.
  • And if I come where other gentlemen
  • Bear arms, or say of love some joyful thing,—
  • Then is my grief most sore,
  • And all my soul turns round upon me then:
  • Folk also gaze upon me, whispering,
  • Because I am not what I was before.
  • page: 281
  • I know not what I am.
  • I know how wearisome
  • My life is now become,
  • 20And that the days I pass seem all the same.
  • I think that I shall die; yea, death begins;
  • Though 'tis no set-down sickness that I have,
  • Nor are my pains set down.
  • But to wear raiment seems a burden since
  • This came, nor ever any food I crave;
  • Not any cure is known
  • To me, nor unto whom
  • I might commend my case:
  • This evil therefore stays
  • 30Still where it is, and hope can find no room.
  • I know that it must certainly be Love:
  • No other Lord, being thus set over me,
  • Had judged me to this curse;
  • With such high hand he rules, sitting above,
  • That of myself he takes two parts in fee,
  • Only the third being hers.
  • Yet if through service I
  • Be justified with God,
  • He shall remove this load,
  • 40Because my heart with inmost love doth sigh.
  • Gent