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DANTE AND HIS CIRCLE:
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With the Italian Poets preceding Him.
A COLLECTION OF LYRICS,
EDITED, AND TRANSLATED IN THE ORIGINAL METRES, BY
DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.
REVISED AND RE-ARRANGED EDITION.
Dante's Vita Nuova, &c.
Poets of Dante's Circle.
Poets chiefly before Dante.
ELLIS AND WHITE, 29 NEW BOND STREET.
Printed by John Strangeways,
Castle St. Leicester Sq.
TO MY MOTHER
I DEDICATE THIS NEW EDITION
OF A BOOK PRIZED BY HER LOVE.
In re-entitling and re-arranging this book
published in 1861 as
The Early Italian Poets
object has been to make more evident at a first glance
important relation to Dante. The
together with the many among Dante's lyrics and those
contemporaries which elucidate their personal
intercourse, are here
assembled, and brought to my
best ability into clear connection, in a manner
elsewhere attempted even by Italian or German
I need not dilate here on the characteristics of the
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
approached in the versions here attempted; but, at
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
as well as to its monotony in the use of rhymes or
substitution of assonances. But to compensate
for much that is incomplete
and inexperienced, these
poems possess, in their degree, beauties of a kind
can never again exist in art; and offer, besides, a
grace and variety in the formation of their
metres. Nothing but a strong
impression, first of their
poetic value, and next of the biographical
some of them (chiefly of those in my first division),
have inclined me to bestow the time and trouble
which have resulted in this
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
down to us in such a form as do these early Italian
Struggling originally with corrupt dialect and
imperfect expression, and
hardly kept alive through
centuries of neglect, they have reached that last
worst state in which the
coup-de-grace has almost been
dealt them by clumsy transcription and pedantic
structure. At this stage the task of talking much more
in any language is hardly to be entered
upon; and a translation (involving,
as it does, the
necessity of settling many points without
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
poetry into a fresh language must be to endow a fresh
far as possible, with one more possession
of beauty. Poetry not being an
exact science, liter-
ality of rendering is altogether secondary to this
law. I say
literality,—not fidelity, which is by
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
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
degree, from the fact that such painstaking in
ment and descriptive heading as is often indispensable
and especially to ‘occasional’ poetry, has here
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
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
than some readers might look for, and includes now
(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
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
exclusion of others equally belonging to it.
Of the difficulties I have had to encounter,—the
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
referring to such among these as concern the exigencies
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
his own idiom and epoch, if only his will belonged
often would some cadence serve him but for
his author's structure—some
structure but for his author's
cadence: often the beautiful turn of a stanza must
weakened to adopt some rhyme which will tally, and
he sees the poet
revelling in abundance of language
where himself is scantily supplied. Now
slight the matter for the music, and now the music for
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
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;
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
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
with my father's devoted studies, which, from his own
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
great Florentine; till, from viewing it as a natural
also, growing older, was drawn within the
circle. I trust that from this the
reader may place
more confidence in a work not carelessly
though produced in the spare-time of other pursuits
closely followed. He should perhaps be told
that it has occupied the leisure moments of not a
years; thus affording, often at long intervals, every
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
made by launching afresh, on high-seas busy with new
ships which have been long outstripped and
the ensigns which are grown
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
modern editions hardly looks so imposing as might a
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
2 vol. (Firenze. 1816.)
- II. Raccolta di Rime antiche
Toscane. 4 vol.
- III. Manuale della Letteratura del primo
del Prof. V. Nannucci. 3 vol.
- IV. Poesie Italiane inedite di dugento
da Francesco Trucchi. 4 vol.
- V. Opere Minori di Dante. Edizione
di P. I. Fra-
ticelli. (Firenze. 1843, &c.)
- VI. Rime di Guido Cavalcanti;
raccolte da A.Cic-
- VII. Vita e Poesie di Messer Cino da
zione di S. Ciampi. (Pisa. 1813.)
- VIII. Documenti d'Amore; di
Francesco da Barbe-
rino. Annotati da F.
Ubaldini. (Roma. 1640.)
- IX. Del Reggimento e dei Costumi delle
Francesco da Barberino.
- X. Il Dittamondo di Fazio
degli Uberti. (Milano.
PART I. DANTE AND HIS CIRCLE.
Introduction to Part I. . . . . 1
Sonnet (to Dante Alighieri).
Dream, related in the first Sonnet of the Vita
To his Lady Joan, of
. . 132
He compares all things with
his Lady, and
finds them wanting . . . . . 133
A Rapture concerning his
. . 134
Of his Lady among other
. . 135
Sonnet (to Guido Orlandi).
resembling his Lady . . . . . 136
Madrigal (Guido Orlandi to Cavalcanti).
answer to the foregoing Sonnet (by Cavalcanti) . 137
Of the Eyes of a certain
Mandetta, of Thou-
louse, which resemble those of his Lady Joan, of
Florence . . . . . . 139
He reveals, in a Dialogue,
his increasing Love
for Mandetta . . . . . . 140
Sonnet (to Guido Cavalcanti).
pleasant voyage for Guido, Lapo Gianni, and him-
self, with their three Ladies . . . 143
Sonnet (to Dante Alighieri).
answers the fore-
going Sonnet (by Dante), speaking with shame of his
changed Love . . . . . 145
Sonnet (to Dante Alighieri).
reports, in a
feigned Vision, the successful issue of Lapo Gianni'
Love . . . . . . . 145
Sonnet (to Dante Alighieri).
mistrusts the Love
of Lapo Gianni . . . . . 146
On the Detection of a false
. . 147
He speaks of a third Love of
. . 148
Of a continual Death in
. . 149
To a Friend who does not
pity his Love
He perceives that his
highest Love is gone
from him . . . . . . 151
Of his Pain from a new
. . 153
Prolonged Sonnet (Guido Orlandi to Guido
He finds fault with the Conceits of
the foregoing Sonnet (by Cavalcanti) . . 154
Sonnet (Gianni Alfani to Guido Cavalcanti).
On the part of a Lady of Pisa . . . 155
Sonnet (Bernardo da Bologna to Guido Caval-
He writes to Guido, telling him of the Love
which a certain Pinella showed on seeing him . 156
Sonnet (to Bernardo da Bologna).
commending Pinella, and saying that the Love he can
offer her is already shared by many noble Ladies . 157
Sonnet (Dino Compagni to Guido Cavalcanti).
He reproves Guido for his Arrogance in Love . 158
Sonnet (to Guido Orlandi).
In Praise of
Orlandi's Lady . . . . . 159
Sonnet (Guido Orlandi to Guido Cavalcanti).
He answers the foregoing Sonnet (by Cavalcanti),
declaring himself his Lady's Champion . . 160
Sonnet (to Dante Alighieri).
for his way of Life after the Death of Beatrice . 161
Concerning a Shepherd-maid . . 162
Of an ill-favoured Lady . . . 164
Sonnet (to Pope Boniface VIII).
Interdict, when the Great Houses were leaving Flo-
rence . . . . . . . 165
In Exile at Sarzana . . . 166
A Song of Fortune . . . . 168
A Song against Poverty . . . 172
He laments the Presumption and
tinence of his Youth . . . . 175
A Dispute with Death . . . 179
I. DANTE ALIGHIERI.
II. GUIDO CAVALCANTI.
III. CINO DA PISTOIA.
IV. DANTE DA MAIANO.
V. CECCO ANGIOLIERI.
VI. GUIDO ORLANDI.
VII. BERNARDO DA BOLOGNA.
VIII. GIANNI ALFANI.
IX. DINO COMPAGNI.
X. LAPO GIANNI.
XI. DINO FRESCOBALDI.
XII. GIOTTO DI BONDONE.
XIII. SIMONE DALL' ANTELLA.
XIV. GIOVANNI QUIRINO.
In the first division of this volume are included
the poems I could find which seemed to have value as being
the circle of Dante's friends, and as illustrating
with each other. Those who know the
Italian collections from which I
have drawn these pieces
(many of them most obscure) will perceive how
is in fact elucidation is here attempted to be embodied
themselves, as to their rendering, arrangement, and
since the Italian editors have never yet paid any of
except of course those by Dante, any such attention; but
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
readers as they may find, they require some
(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.
is, therefore, and on all accounts, unnecessary to say much
more of it here than it says for itself. Wedded
exquisite and intimate beauties are personal
which excite wonder and conjecture, best replied to in
words which Beatrice herself is made to utter in the
vita nuova.’* Thus then
. 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 to accompany it for the first time with those
Dante's own lyrical series which have reference to its
as well as with such native commentary (so to speak) as
be afforded by the writings of those with whom its author
at that time in familiar intercourse. Not chiefly to
then, of whom so much is known to all or may readily be
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
Commedia. Moreover, it is
only from the perusal of its earliest and then
self-communings that we can divine the whole bitterness
wrong to such a soul as Dante's, its poignant sense
abandonment, or its deep and jealous refuge in memory.
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
ear in some remote meadow, and prepares us to look upon
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
sions to it made or implied in the Commedia; but it is true
that the Vita Nuova is a book which only youth
Transcribed Footnote (page ):
* Purgatorio, C. xxx.
produced, and which must chiefly remain sacred to
young; to each of whom the figure of Beatrice, less
than lovelike, will seem the friend of his own heart. Nor
this, perhaps, its least praise. To tax its author with
nacy on account of the extreme sensitiveness evinced by
narrative of his love, would be manifestly unjust, when we
that, though love alone is the theme of the Vita Nuova,
war already ranked among its author's experiences at
period to which it relates. In the year 1289, the one
ceding the death of Beatrice, Dante served with the
cavalry in the great battle of Campaldino, on the eleventh
June, when the Florentines defeated the people of Arezzo.
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 (
that he served in the war then waged
by Florence upon Pisa,
and was present at the surrender of Caprona. He
using the reminiscence to give life to a description, in
- ‘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.’
A word should be said here of the title of Dante's autobio-
, is often used by Dante and other
in the sense of
. This has induced
some editors of the
Vita Nuova to explain the title as meaning
should be glad on some accounts to adopt this supposition,
everything is a gain which increases clearness to the
reader; but on consideration I think the more
interpretation of the words, as
that revulsion of his being which Dante so minutely
scribes as having occurred simultaneously with his first
of Beatrice,) appears the primary one, and therefore the most
necessary to be given in a translation. The probability
may be that both were meant, but this I
Among the poets of Dante's circle, the first in order, the
power, and the one whom Dante has styled his
friend,’ is Guido Cavalcanti,
born about 1250, and thus
Dante's senior by some fifteen years. It is
bable that there is some inaccuracy about the
often repeated, that he was Dante's fellow-pupil
Brunetto Latini; though it seems certain that they
studied, probably Guido before Dante, with the same
The Cavalcanti family was among the most ancient
Florence; and its importance may be judged by the fact
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
since we find him placed by Dante in the sixth circle of
Transcribed Footnote (page 4):
* I must hazard here (to relieve the first page of my
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
molti Beatrice, i quali non sapeano che si
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
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
assert that the name of Beatrice is
Dante appears to have
Transcribed Footnote (page 5):
dwelt on this fancy with some pleasure, from what is said
sonnet (page 38)
about ‘Love in his proper form’ (by
Beatrice seems to be meant) bending over a dead lady. And
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
cosa.’ This conjecture may be pronounced
but the Vita Nuova, when examined, proves so full of intricate
fantastic analogies, even in the mere arrangement of its
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
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
analogous by antithesis to the translation I have adopted
in one of the fiery tombs of the unbelievers. That Guido
this heresy was the popular belief, as is plain from an
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
extremely obscure poem which I have
translated on that
) as clearly as I found possible.
be admitted, however, that there is to the full as
devotional as sceptical tendency implied here and there in
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
impress others always strongly, but often in opposite
Self-reliant pride gave its colour to all his moods;
his exploits as a soldier frequently abortive through the
strong ardour of partisanship, and causing the perversity of
logician to prevail in much of his amorous poetry. The
writings of his contemporaries, as well as his own,
show him rash in war, fickle in love, and presumptuous
belief; but also, by the same concurrent testimony, he
distinguished by great personal beauty, high accomplishments
all kinds, and daring nobility of soul. Not unworthy, for all
weakness of his strength, to have been the object of
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
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
Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti wedded his son Guido to a
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
which afterwards took place, of the victorious Guelfs
called ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites,’ Guido embraced the
party, which tended strongly to Ghibellinism, and whose
was Vieri de' Cerchi, while Corso Donati headed the
faction. Whether his wife was still living at the time
the events of the Vita Nuova occurred, is probably not
tainable; but about that time Dante tells us that Guido
enamoured of a lady named
or Joan, and
Christian name is absolutely all that we know of her.
ever, on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Thoulouse,
by Dino Compagni, he seems to have conceived a
passion for a lady of that city named Mandetta, who
attracted him by a striking resemblance to his
mistress. Thoulouse had become a place of pilgrimage
its laying claim to the possession of the body, or part of
body, of Saint James the Greater; though the same
distinction had already made the shrine of Compostella
Gallicia one of the most famous throughout all Christendom.
That this devout journey of Guido's had other
a new love will be seen by the passage from
Chronicle. He says:—
‘A young and noble knight named Guido, son of Messer
cante Cavalcanti,—full of courage and courtesy, but
solitary, and devoted to study,—was a foe to Messer
and had many times cast about to do him hurt.
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
wit and no great speaker. And therefore Messer Corso would
often, ‘To-day the Ass of the Gate has brayed,’ and so
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
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
Transcribed Footnote (page 8):
Malefammi or ‘Do-me-harm.’ For an account of his death
in 1307, which
proved in keeping with his turbulent life, see Dino
Chronicle, or the
Pecorone of Giovanni Fiorentino,
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
addressed to him by the same writer (see
), 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
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
incensed, leaving the city under a papal interdict. In
ill-considered tumults which ensued we again hear of
‘It happened (says Giovanni Villani in his History of Florence)
that in the month of December (1300) Messer Corso Donati with
followers, and also those of the house of the Cerchi and
followers, going armed to the funeral of a lady of the
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,
arduous position which he then filled as chief of the
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
survived in Dante's mind when, at the close of the year
or beginning of 1301, it became his duty, as a
magistrate of the republic, to add his voice to those of
colleagues in pronouncing a sentence of banishment on the
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
members was Simone de' Bardi, once the husband of
Portinari), for the purpose of inducing the Pope to
subject the republic
to a French peace-maker (
so shamefully free it from its intestine broils. It
therefore that the immediate cause of the exile to which
sides were subjected lay entirely with the ‘Black’ party,
leaders of which were banished to the Castello della Pieve
the wild district of Massa Trabœria, while those of the
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
versed; but therewithal too fastidious and prone to
offence.*’ His death apparently took place in 1301.
When the discords of Florence ceased, for Guido, in
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
Rome which bore him the bitter fruit of unjust and
exile: and it will be remembered that a chief
against him was that of favour shown to the White party
the banishment of the factions.
Besides the various affectionate allusions to Guido in the
, Dante has unmistakeably referred to him in at
least two passages
. One of these refer-
ences is to be found in those famous lines
of the Purgatory
.) where he awards him the palm of poetry over
Guinicelli (though also of the latter he speaks elsewhere
high praise,) and implies at the same time, it would seem,
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
.) where Dante meets among the lost
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
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.
- 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
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
The date which Dante fixes for his vision is Good Friday of
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
) ‘lived in
heaven with the angels and on earth with his
now, distant and probably estranged from him,
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
continued. The child, however, managed slily to nail
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
its magniloquent heading, which sets forth how ‘Guido
valcanti, being a man of great valour and a philosopher,
defeated by the cunning of a child.’
The ninth Tale of the sixth Day of the Decameron relates
a repartee of Guido's, which has all the profound
mediæval wit. As the anecdote, however, is interesting
other grounds, I translate it here.
‘You must know that in past times there were in our city
goodly and praiseworthy customs no one of which is now
thanks to avarice which has so increased with riches that
driven them all away. Among the which was one whereby
gentlemen of the outskirts were wont to assemble together in
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
principal feast-days, or whenever any news of victory or
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
philosopher, (for the which things the fellowship
but also he exceeded in beauty and courtesy, and was
gifts as a speaker; and everything that it pleased him to
and that best became a gentleman, he did better than any
and was exceeding rich and knew well to solicit with
words whomsoever he deemed worthy. But Messer Betto
been able to succeed in enlisting him; and he and his
believed that this was through Guido's much pondering
divided him from other men. Also because he held somewhat
the opinion of the Epicureans, it was said among the vulgar
that his speculations were only to cast about whether he
that there was no God. Now on a certain day Guido
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,
and the gate of San Giovanni which was locked;—it so
that Messer Betto and his fellowship came riding up by
di Santa Reparata, and seeing Guido among the
‘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
seeing that in them the dead are set to dwell; and here
that we are at home; giving us to know that we and all
simple unlettered men, in comparison of him and the learned,
even as dead men; wherefore, being here, we are at
Thereupon each of them understood what Guido had meant,
was ashamed; nor ever again did they set themselves to
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
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
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
About three years after his death, on the 10th June, 1304,
Black party plotted together and set fire to the quarter of
Florence chiefly held by their adversaries. In this confla-
the houses and possessions of the Cavalcanti were
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
image resembling his lady to which Guido refers in a sonnet
.) After this, their enemies succeeded
finally expelling from Florence the Cavalcanti
greatly impoverished by this monstrous fire in which
two thousand houses were consumed.
Guido appears, by various evidence, to have written,
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
those which relate to himself, his loves and hates. The
known, however, and perhaps the one for whose sake the
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
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
learned men of the middle ages and
being that by Egidio Colonna, a
beatified churchman who
died in 1316; while most of the too numerous
writers on Italian literature speak of this performance
Transcribed Footnote (page 14):
* With them were expelled the still more powerful
also great sufferers by the conflagration; who, on
being driven from
their own country, became the founders of the
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.
great admiration as Guido's crowning work. A love-song
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
works include so much that is impulsive and real, is
accounted for by scholastic pride in those early days
learning. I have not translated it, as being of
interest; but was pleased lately, nevertheless, to meet
remarkably complete translation of it by the Rev. Charles
Brooks of Cambridge, United States.* The stiffness
cold conceits which prevail in this poem may be found
figuring much of what Guido Cavalcanti has left, while
besides is blunt, obscure, and abrupt: nevertheless, if it
hardly be said how far he falls short of Dante in variety
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
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
quoted are several by Cino followed in three instances
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.
E. Norton, of Cambridge, U.S.,—a work of high delicacy
appreciation which originally appeared by portions in the
, but has since been augmented by the author and
printed in a volume which is a beautiful specimen of
lines from Dante's own lyrics, the author of the latter being
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
poetry, like his career, is for the most part smoother
that of Guido, and in some instances it rises into truth
warmth of expression; but it conveys no idea of such
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
through the manner of their use.
addressed to Dante on the
Transcribed Footnote (page 16):
* It is also noticeable that in this treatise Dante speaks of
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
might be classed as one Guido, his full name, Guittoncino,
the diminutive of Guittone. I believe it more probable
Guinicelli and Cavalcanti were then really meant, and that
afterwards either altered his opinion, or may
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
page 196); nor is Guido mentioned anywhere with praise
Cino, as other poets are.
Beatrice, as well as his
first sonnet of the
Vita Nuova, indicate that the two poets must have
acquainted in youth, though there is no earlier mention
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
revived after an interruption by the sonnet and answer
, and that they afterwards corresponded as
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
seems written before the
poet's death, but I should think that the
that event, as the
, 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
with Dante, which I have not translated as being of
Guittoncino de' Sinibuldi (for such was Cino's full name)
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
‘Blacks’ and Guelfs of Florence and Lucca driving out
‘Whites’ and Ghibellines, who had ruled in the city since
With their accession to power came many iniquitous laws
favour of their own party; so that Cino, as a lawyer of
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
‘White’ party in Pistoia, Filippo Vergiolesi, still held
fortress of Pitecchio. Hither Vergiolesi had retreated
with his family
and adherents when resistance in the city
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
Three years later, the Vergiolesi and their followers,
Pitecchio untenable, fortified themselves on the Monte
Sambuca, a lofty peak of the Apennines; which again they
finally obliged to abandon, yielding it to the Guelfs of
Pistoia at the
price of eleven thousand
. Meanwhile the
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
the only record left there of the Vergiolesi.
Cino's journey to Rome was on account of his having
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
determined him to abandon a cause which seemed dead,
return, when possible, to his native city. This he succeeded
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
a son named Mino, and four daughters, Diamante, Beatrice,
Giovanna, and Lombarduccia. Indeed, this marriage must
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
tained possession of Pistoia, which he held in spite of
till his death some two or three years afterwards, when
again reverted to the Guelfs.
After returning to Pistoia, Cino's whole life was devoted
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,
whom rumour has placed Petrarch, though on examination
seems very doubtful. A sonnet by Petrarch exists, how-
‘Piangete donne e con voi pianga Amore,’
written as a lament on Cino's death and bestowing the
praise on him. He and his Selvaggia are also coupled
Dante and Beatrice in the same poet's
Though established again in Pistoia, Cino resided there
till about the time of his death, which occurred in
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
ample records, from the details of his examinations as
student, to the inventory of his effects after death, and
curious items of his funeral expenses. Of his claims as a
it may be said that he filled creditably the interval
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
love; nevertheless there are some, and especially the son-
on her tomb (at
), which display feeling and
power. The finest,
as well as the most interesting, of all
his pieces, is the very
in which he attempts
to console Dante for the death of Beatrice. Though I have
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,
whose production in the short space of two years was ac-
an extraordinary achievement.
Having now spoken of the chief poets of this di-
remains to notice the others of whom less is
Dante da Maiano (Dante being, as with Alighieri,
short of Durante, and Maiano in the neighbourhood of
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
di Dante.’ This priority may also be inferred from
contemptuous answer sent by him to Dante Alighieri's
sonnet in the
). All the
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
come down to us.
Most literary circles have their prodigal, or what in
phrase might be called their ‘scamp;’ and among
our Danteans, this place
is indisputably filled by Cecco
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
It would appear that Cecco was probably enamoured of
before her marriage as well as afterwards, and we may sur-
that his rancour against his father may have been partly
the first instance, on the disagreements arising
from such a connection. However, from an amusing and
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
some care of his graceless son. The story goes on to
how Cecco (whom Boccaccio describes as a handsome
well-bred man) was induced to take with him as his servant
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
money and lost it at the gaming-table, and afterwards
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
where he had relations; and there he stayed till his
once more (surely much to his credit) made him a remit-
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-
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
humour is sometimes strong, if not well chosen;
passion always forcible from its evident reality: nor
are several among them devoid of a certain delicacy.
quality is also to be discerned in other pieces which I
not included as having less personal interest; but it must
confessed that for the most part the sentiments expressed
poetry are either impious or licentious. Most of
the sonnets of his which are in print are here
selections concluding with
an extraordinary one
he proposes a sort of murderous crusade against all
who hate their fathers. This I have placed last (exclusive
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
most likely it is to be received as the expression of
dence alone, unless perhaps of hypocrisy.
Cecco Angiolieri seems to have had poetical intercourse
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
relates is evident from a date given in one of his
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
afterwards they had discovered that they could not agree,
is shown by a
in which Cecco can find no
bad enough for Dante, who has remonstrated with him
Becchina.† Much later, as we may judge, he again
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
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
Transcribed Footnote (page 22):
† Of this sonnet I have seen two printed versions, in
which the text is so corrupt as to make them very
important points; but I believe that by
comparing the two I have
given its meaning correctly. (See
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
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
with the Church of Rome. However, from the
sonnet on his
father's death he appears (though the allusion is
obscure) to have been then living at an abbey; and
from the one mentioned above, we may infer that he himself,
well as Dante, was forced to sit at the tables of others:
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
Though nothing indicates the time of Cecco Angiolieri's
will venture to surmise that he outlived the writing
and revision of
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
the latter, in his verses, might attempt to establish a
and even an equality. We may accept the testimony of
reverent a biographer as Boccaccio, that the Dante of later
was far other than the silent and awe-struck lover of
Vita Nuova; but he was still (as he proudly called
‘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!’
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
rails against his political adversaries; in three,†
falls foul of his brother poets; and in the
seems somewhat appeased (I think) by a judicious morsel
flattery. I have already referred to a sonnet of his which
said to have led to the composition of Guido Cavalcanti's
on the Nature of Love. He has another
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
deepest initiation. Of his life nothing is recorded; but
wish perhaps need be felt to know much of him, as one
probably have dropped his acquaintance. We
may be obliged to him,
however, for his character of
) which is boldly and vividly drawn.
Next follow three poets of whom I have given one speci-
apiece. By Bernardo da Bologna (
other is known to exist, nor can anything be
learnt of his
career. Gianni Alfani was a noble and
Florentine, a much graver man, it would seem, than
could judge from this sonnet of his (
), which belongs
rather to the school of Sir Pandarus of Troy.
Dino Compagni, the chronicler of Florence, is
sented here by a
addressed to Guido Cavalcanti,||
which is all the more interesting, as the same writer's his-
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):
§ This sonnet, as printed, has a gap in the middle; let
(in so immaculate a censor) from unfitness for
Transcribed Footnote (page 24):
|| Crescimbeni (
Ist. d. Volg.
) 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
torical work furnishes so much of the little known about
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
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
much more important position than he occupied before
the early Italian poets. I allude to the valuable
in the Magliabecchian Library at Florence, of a poem
containing 309 stanzas. It is entitled
‘L'Intelligenza,’ and is of an allegorical nature interspersed
historical and legendary abstracts.*
I have placed Lapo Gianni in this my first division
account of the sonnet by Dante (
) in which he seems
undoubtedly to be the Lapo referred to. It has
posed by some that Lapo degli Uberti (father of Fazio,
brother-in-law of Guido Cavalcanti) is meant; but this is
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
lines were expelled; the Uberti family (as I have
elsewhere) being the one of all others which was
jealously kept afar and excluded from every amnesty. The
information which I can find respecting Lapo Gianni is
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
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):
Documents inédits pour
servir à l'histoire littéraire de
A.F. Ozanam, (
Paris, 1850,) where
the poem is printed
Dino Frescobaldi's claim to the place given him
will not be disputed when it is remembered that by his
care the seven first cantos of Dante's Hell were restored to
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,
perhaps hardly occupied a day of it, there is no news to
gleaned of him.
Giotto falls by right into Dante's circle, as one
man comes naturally to know another. But he is said
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
on the Commedia,) of Vasari, and others, it is said that Dante
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;
that he practised it in some degree is evident from 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
Bargello at Florence, then the chapel of the Podestà. This
the author of the Vita Nuova. That other portrait
us in the posthumous mask,—a face dead in exile after
death of hope,—should front the first page of the
Poem to which Heaven and earth had set their hands;
which might never bring him back to Florence, though it
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
on the doctrine of
the only poem we have of his,—is a protest against a
version of gospel teaching which had gained ground in his
to the extent of becoming a popular frenzy. People went
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
easily explained, if authentic. Giotto's canzone is all the
more curious when we remember his noble
Assisi, of Saint Francis wedded to Poverty.* It
really almost seem as if the poem had been written as a
of safety-valve for the painter's true feelings, during
composition of the picture. At any rate, it affords
proof of the strong common sense and turn for humour
all accounts attribute to Giotto.
I have next introduced, as not inappropriate to the series
poems connected with Dante, Simone dall' Antella's
relating to the last
enterprises of Henry of
Luxembourg, and to his then approaching
blow to the Ghibelline hopes which Dante so deeply
This one sonnet is all we know of its author, besides
Giovanni Quirino is another name which stands
lorn of any personal history. Fraticelli (in his well-known
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
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
Dante's sonnet probably dates from Ravenna, and that
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
. C. xxv.)
Transcribed Footnote (page 27):
* See Dante's reverential treatment of this subject, (
might well have formed a friendship with a Venetian bishop
court of Verona.
For me Quirino's sonnet has great value; as
answer* to it enables me to wind up this series with
name of its great chief; and, indeed, with what would almost
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
I am sorry to see that this necessary introduction to my
division is longer than I could have wished. Among
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
where the text, hampered with numerals for
struggles through a few lines at the top of the page, only
stick fast at the bottom in a slough of verbal analysis. It
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
intermezzo to the
volume, in the hope of saying at once the most of what
to say; that so the reader may not find himself
worried with footnotes during the consideration of
which may require a little peace. The glare of too many
is apt to render a picture confused and inharmonious,
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
changed between two poets, I have thought it best to
place them to-
gether among the poems of one or the other
they seemed to have most biographical
value; and the same with
several epistolary sonnets which have
Transcribed Footnote (page 28):
† The last line of the
In that part of the book of my memory before
which is little that can be read, there is a
.* Under such rubric I find
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
light returned to the selfsame point almost, as
its own revolution, when first the glorious Lady of
mind was made manifest to mine eyes; even she who
called Beatrice by many who knew not wherefore.†
She had already been in this life for so long as that,
her time, the starry heaven had moved towards
Transcribed Footnote (page ):
* ‘Here beginneth the new life.’
Transcribed Footnote (page ):
† In reference to the meaning of the name, ‘She who
blessing.’ We learn from Boccaccio that this first
place at a May Feast, given in the year 1274 by
father of Beatrice, who ranked among the
principal citizens of
Florence: to which feast Dante
accompanied his father, Alighiero
the Eastern quarter one of the twelve parts of a degree;
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,
and adorned in such sort as best suited with her
tender age. At that moment, I say most truly that
spirit of life, which hath its dwelling in the
chamber of the heart, began to tremble so violently
the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and
trembling it said these words:
Ecce deus fortior me, qui
.* At that moment the animate
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
.† At that moment the natural
dwelleth there where our nourishment is
began to weep, and in weeping said these words:
miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero
I say that, from that time forward, Love quite go-
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
commanded me to seek if I might see this
Transcribed Footnote (page 30):
* ‘Here is a deity stronger than I; who, coming, shall
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
of the Angels: wherefore I in my boyhood often went
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
out the faithful counsel of reason, whensoever
counsel was useful to be heard. But seeing that were
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
these, I will come to such as are writ in my memory
After the lapse of so many days that nine years
completed since the above-written appear-
ance of this most gracious
being, on the last of those
days it happened that the same wonderful
peared to me dressed all in pure white, between
gentle ladies elder than she. And passing through a
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
behold the very limits of blessedness. The hour of her
sweet salutation was certainly the ninth of that day;
Transcribed Footnote (page 31):
- * Οὐδὲ ἐῴκει
- Ἀνδρός γε θνητοϋ παϊς ἔμμεναι, ἀλλὰ θεοϊο.
, xxiv. 258.)
and because it was the first time that any words from
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
was presented to me: for there appeared to be in my
a mist of the colour of fire, within the which I discerned
figure of a lord of terrible aspect to such as should
upon him, but who seemed therewithal to rejoice
that it was a marvel to see. Speaking he said
things, among the which I could understand but few;
Ego dominus tuus
.* In his arms
seemed to me that a person was sleeping, covered only
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
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
again a space, all his joy was turned into most
weeping; and as he wept he gathered the lady into
arms, and it seemed to me that he went with her up
heaven: whereby such a great anguish came
upon me that my light
slumber could not endure
through it, but was suddenly broken. And
Transcribed Footnote (page 32):
* ‘I am thy master.’
Transcribed Footnote (page 32):
† ‘Behold thy heart.’
having considered, I knew that the hour wherein this
been made manifest to me was the fourth
hour (which is to say, the
first of the nine last hours) of
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
in the which, having saluted all such as are
unto Love, and entreated them to expound my vision,
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
- 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
- When Love was shown me with such terrors
- 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
I give greeting, and ask an answer; in the second, I signify
what thing has to be answered to. The second part com-
here: ‘Of those long hours.’
To this sonnet I received many answers, conveying
different opinions; of the which, one was sent by
him whom I now call the first among my friends,
it began thus, ‘Unto my thinking thou beheld'st
worth.’* And indeed, it was when he learned that I
he who had sent those rhymes to him, that our
commenced. But the true meaning of that vision
not then perceived by any one, though it be now evident
the least skilful.
From that night forth, the natural functions of my
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
upon me; while others, being moved by spite, went
discover what it was my wish should be con-
I, (perceiving the drift of their un-
kindly questions,) by Love's
will, who directed me
according to the counsels of reason, told them
was Love himself who had thus dealt with me: and I
so, because the thing was so plainly to be discerned
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.
his answer, and those of Cino da Pistoia and Dante da
see their poems further on.
Now it fell on a day, that this most gracious crea-
ture was sitting where words were to be heard of the
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
object. And many
perceived that she thus looked; so
that departing thence, I heard it
whispered after me,
‘Look you to what a pass
him;’ and in saying this they named her
who had been
midway between the most gentle Beatrice and
eyes. Therefore I was reassured, and knew that for
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
hitherto watched and wondered at me, now imagined
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
concerneth the most gentle Beatrice, which is but a
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
creature accompanied with many other women's names,
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.
tiful ladies in that city where God had placed mine own
and these names I introduced in an epistle in the
form of a
, 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
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
have supposed. And thinking that if I spoke not
what mournfully of her departure, my former
feiting would be the more quickly perceived, I deter-
mined that I would make a grievous sonnet*
the which I will write here, because it hath certain
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
sonnet. Its structure, however, is analogous
to that of the sonnet,
being two sextetts followed by
two quattrains, instead of two quat-
by two triplets. Dante applies the term sonnet to
these forms of composition, and to no
- 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,’
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,
A certain while after the departure of that lady, it
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
pitiful weeping. Whereupon, remembering that I had
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
spake of in the latter end of the verses that I writ in
matter, as he will discern who understands. And I wrote
sonnets, which are these:—
- Weep, Lovers, sith Love's very self doth
- 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
- Dwelt with the joyful beauty that is
This first sonnet is divided into three parts. In the
I call and beseech the Faithful of Love to weep; and I
that their Lord weeps, and that they, hearing the
why he weeps, shall be more minded to listen to me. In
second, I relate this reason. In the third, I speak of
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
- 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
- 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
allude to the dead lady, but to Beatrice. This would make
poem very clumsy in construction; yet there must be some
allusion to Beatrice, as Dante himself intimates. The
only form in
which I can trace it consists in the implied
assertion that such person
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
Quella ha nome Amor.’ Most probably
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
denounce her. In the third, I rail against her. In the
fourth, I turn to speak to a person undefined, although
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
leave the city I speak of, and to go thitherwards where
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
sighing enough to ease my heart's heaviness; seeing
as I went, I left my beatitude behind me. Wherefore
to pass that he who ruled me by virtue of my
most gentle lady was
made visible to my mind, in the
light habit of a traveller, coarsely fashioned. He ap-
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
Love called me and said to me these words: ‘I
from that lady who was so long thy surety; for the
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
I knew her well.) ‘And of these words I have
if thou shouldst speak any again, let it be in such sort
that none shall perceive thereby that thy love was
for her, which thou must now feign for another.’ And
he had spoken thus, all my imagining was gone suddenly,
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
- 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,
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
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
courteous; through the which I had oftenwhiles
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
And here it is fitting for me to depart a little from
present matter, that it may be rightly understood of
virtue her salutation was to me. To
which end I say that when she appeared in any place,
seemed to me, by the hope of her excellent salutation,
there was no man mine enemy any longer; and such
warmth of charity came upon me that most certainly in
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
ness. And what time she made ready to salute me,
spirit of Love, destroying all other perceptions, thrust
the feeble spirits of my eyes, saying, ‘Do homage
your mistress,’ and putting itself in their place to
so that he who would, might then have beheld
beholding the lids of mine eyes shake. And when this
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
in her salutation alone was there any beatitude for
which then very often went beyond my endurance.
And now, resuming my discourse, I will go on to
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
this heat of weeping, I was somewhat relieved, I
myself to my chamber, where I could lament unheard.
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-
ment, who kept his eyes fixed on me in deep thought.
And when he had gazed some time, I thought that
sighed and called to me in these words: ‘
Fili mi, tempus
est ut prætermittantur simulata
.’* And thereupon
I seemed to know him; for the
voice was the same
wherewith he had spoken at other times in my
Then looking at him, I perceived that he was
piteously, and that he seemed to be waiting for me
speak. Wherefore, taking heart, I began thus: ‘Why
thou, Master of all honour?’ And he made
to me: ‘
Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui
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
answer in the vulgar tongue: ‘Demand no more than may
useful to thee.’ Whereupon I began to discourse with
Transcribed Footnote (page 44):
* ‘My son, it is time for us to lay aside our
Transcribed Footnote (page 44):
† ‘I am as the centre of a circle, to the which all parts
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 (
che muove il sole e le altre
therefore all loveable objects,
whether in heaven or
earth, or any part of the circle's circumference,
equally near to me. Not so thou, who wilt one day lose
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.’
him concerning her salutation which she had denied me;
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
solicitations: and therefore this most gracious
who is the enemy of all disquiet, being fearful of
disquiet, refused to salute thee. For the which
(albeit, in very sooth, thy secret must needs have
known to her by familiar observation) it is my will
thou compose certain things in rhyme, in the which
shalt set forth how strong a mastership I have
over thee, through her; and how thou wast hers
from thy childhood. Also do thou call upon him that
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
they were deceived who spake of thee to her. And
write these things, that they shall seem rather to be
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,
the which I will pass whensoever it needeth.’ With
speech he was away, and my sleep was broken
Whereupon, remembering me, I knew that I had
vision during the ninth hour of the day; and
I resolved that I would
make a ditty, before I left my
chamber, according to the words my master had spoken.
is the ditty that I made:—
- Song, 'tis my will that thou do seek out
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Do thou conceive: for his heart cannot
- 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
- 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
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,
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
This ditty is divided into three parts. In the first, I
it whither to go, and I encourage it, that it may go the
confidently, and I tell it whose company to join if it
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,
its course to the arms of Fortune. The second part begins
here, ‘With a sweet accent;’ the third here, ‘Gentle my
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
in this little book itself, at a more difficult passage,
let him understand who now doubts, or would now contra-
dict as aforesaid.
After this vision I have recorded, and having written
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
this: ‘Certainly the lordship of Love is good;
that it diverts the mind from all mean things.’
second was this: ‘Certainly the lordship of Love is
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
seeing that the name must needs be like unto the
named: as it is written:
Nomina sunt consequentia
rerum.’* And the fourth was this: ‘The lady whom
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
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.’
these paths might be found to meet, I discerned but one
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
- 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
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
here, ‘Yet have between themselves;’ the third, ‘All of
them craving;’ the fourth, ‘And thus.’
After this battling with many thoughts, it chanced on
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
Then I, hardly knowing whereunto he conducted me,
trusting in him (who yet was leading his friend to the
verge of life), made question: ‘To what end are we
among these ladies?’ and he answered: ‘To the end
may be worthily served.’ And they were
assembled around a
gentlewoman who was given in
marriage on that day; the custom of the
that these should bear her company when she sat
for the first time at table in the house of her
Therefore I, as was my friend's pleasure, resolved to
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
faintness and a throbbing at my left side, which soon
possession of my whole body. Whereupon I remember
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
them the excellent Beatrice. And when I perceived
all my senses were overpowered by the great lordship
Love obtained, finding himself so near unto that
being, until nothing but the spirits of sight
remained to me; and
even these remained driven out of
their own instruments because Love entered in that
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
this, many of her friends, having discerned my
began to wonder; and together with herself, kept
pering of me and mocking me. Whereupon my friend,
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
made answer to my friend: ‘Of a surety I
have now set
my feet on that point of life, beyond the which he
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;
am sure that she must needs feel some pity.’ And in
weeping I bethought me to write certain words, in the
speaking to her, I should signify the occasion of
Transcribed Footnote (page 51):
* It is difficult not to connect Dante's agony at this
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
Vita Nuova as regards her marriage (which must
have brought deep
sorrow even to his ideal love) is so startling, that
might almost be led to conceive in this passage the only
of it which he thought fit to give.
my disfigurement, telling her also how I knew that she
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
- 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
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
their own instruments. And this difficulty it is impossible
for any to solve who is not in equal guise liege unto Love;
and, to those who are so, that is manifest which would
up the dubious words. And therefore it were not well for
me to expound this difficulty, inasmuch as my speaking
be either fruitless or else superfluous.
A while after this strange disfigurement, I became
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
behold her? If she should ask thee this thing, what
couldst thou make unto her? yea, even though
thou wert master of all
thy faculties, and in no way
hindered from answering.’ Unto the
very humble thought said in reply: ‘If I were
of all my faculties, and in no way hindered from
swering, I would tell her that no sooner do I image
myself her marvellous beauty than I am possessed with
desire to behold her, the which is of so great strength
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
having pleaded mine excuse, I should tell her of
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.
- 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
- Which look for death as for a blessed
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
and this part begins here, ‘When thou art near.’ And
also this second part divides into five distinct
For, in the first, I say what Love, counselled by Reason,
tells me when I am near the lady. In the second, I set
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.’
Thereafter, this sonnet bred in me desire to write
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
ness which Love wrought in me; the second was, how
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
up all colourless, if so I might see my lady,
that the sight of her would defend me against the
of Love, and altogether forgetting that which her
sence brought unto me; and the fourth was, how, when
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
- 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
- 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.
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
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
write of another matter, more noble than the
And for that the occasion of what I then wrote may
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
at divers times in my trouble) were met together for
pleasure of gentle company. And as I was going that
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
not among them mine excellent lady, I was
and saluted them, asking of their pleasure. The ladies
were many; divers of whom were laughing one to an-
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
seeing that thou canst not support her presence? Now
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
‘Ladies, the end and aim of my Love was but the
tation of that lady of whom I conceive that ye
speaking; wherein alone I found that beatitude which
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
together; and as I have seen snow fall among the
so was their talk mingled with sighs. But after a
that lady who had been the first to address me,
me again in these words: ‘We pray thee that thou
tell us wherein abideth this thy beatitude.’ And
ing, I said but thus much: ‘In those words that
praise my lady.’ To the which she rejoined, ‘If thy
were true, those words that thou didst write
condition would have been written with
Then I, being almost put to shame because of her
out from among them; and as I walked,
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
in those words which do praise my lady,
wherefore hath my speech of
her been different?’ And
then I resolved that thenceforward I would
the theme of my writings only the praise of this
gracious being. But when I had thought exceedingly,
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;
when I began thinking how I should say it, methought
speak of her were unseemly, unless I spoke to
other ladies in the
second person; which is to say, not
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
ligence in love.’ These words I laid up in my mind
great gladness, conceiving to take them as my com-
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.
poem begins here:—
- Ladies that have intelligence in love,
- Of mine own lady I would speak with you;
- 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
- 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
- ‘My well-belovèd, suffer that in peace
- Your hope remain, while so My pleasure is,
- There where one dwells who dreads the loss of
- 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:
Wherefore, it now behoveth me to tell,
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- Wherefore, (being mindful that thou hadst thy
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
- And if, i' the end, thou wouldst not be
- 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
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
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
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
relating some of her virtues proceeding from her soul; in
second, I speak of her as regards the nobleness of her
narrating some of her beauties: here, ‘Love saith
her.’ This second part is divided into two, for, in the
first, I speak of certain beauties which belong to the
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
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
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
it alone; for certes I fear I have communicated its sense
too many by these present divisions, if it so happened that
many should hear it.
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
after such discourse it were well to say somewhat of
nature of Love, and also in accordance with my
desire, proposed to myself to write certain words in
which I should treat of this argument. And the sonnet
then made is this:—
- Love and the gentle heart are one same thing,
- Even as the wise man* in his ditty
- 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
- At first, with brief or longer slumbering.
- Then beauty seen in virtuous womankind
10 Will make the eyes desire, and through the
- Send the desiring of the eyes again;
- Where often it abides so long enshrin'd
- That Love at length out of his sleep will
- 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):
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
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
man, then how it so translates itself in a woman: here,
‘And women feel.’
* Guido Guinicelli, in the canzone which begins, ‘Within the
gentle heart Love shelters him.’ (See
Part II. page 291
Having treated of love in the foregoing, it appeared to
that I should also say something in praise of my lady,
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
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,
- 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
that most noble feature, her mouth. And between these two
sections is a little section, which asks, as it were, help
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
with power makes noble that which she looks upon; and this
is as much as to say that she brings Love, in power,
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
their hearts. The second begins, ‘Upon her path;’ the
‘He whom she greeteth.’ Then, when I say, ‘O women,
help,’ I intimate to whom it is my intention to speak,
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
of others, because memory cannot retain this smile, nor its
Not many days after this, (it being the will of the most
God, who also from Himself put not away death),
the father of wonderful Beatrice, going out of this
passed certainly into glory. Thereby it happened, as
very sooth it might not be otherwise, that this lady was
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
and her father (as by many it hath been truly averred)
exceeding goodness. And because it is the usage of that
that men meet with men in such a grief, and
with women, certain ladies of her companionship
themselves unto Beatrice, where she kept alone in
weeping: and as they passed in and out, I could hear
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
to hear more concerning her, (seeing that where I sat,
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
selves: ‘Which of us shall be joyful any more, who
listened to this lady in her piteous sorrow?’ And
were others who said as they went by me: ‘He that
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
passed to and fro, I could hear them speak after this
of her and of me.
Wherefore afterwards, having considered and per-
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
spoken and they had answered me. And thereof I wrote
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
- You that thus wear a modest countenance
- With lids weigh'd down by the heart's
- 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
- Say now, ‘This thing is thus;’ as my heart
- Marking your grave and sorrowful advance.
- And if indeed you come from where she sighs
10 And mourns, may it please you (for his
- 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
- That his heart trembles and his sight
This sonnet is divided into two parts. In the first, I
call and ask these ladies whether they come from her,
them that I think they do, because they return the
In the second, I pray them to tell me of her; and the
begins here, ‘And if indeed.’
- Canst thou indeed be he that still would
- Of our dear lady unto none but us?
- For though thy voice confirms that it is
- 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
- Canst not conceal thine inward sorrowing?
- Nay, leave our woe to us: let us alone:
10 'Twere sin if one should strive to soothe
- For in her weeping we have heard her
- Also her look's so full of her heart's moan
- That they who should behold her, looking
- Must fall aswoon, feeling all life grow
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
purport of the parts, and therefore I only discriminate
The second begins here, ‘And wherefore is thy grief;’ the
third here, ‘Nay, leave our woe;’ the fourth, ‘Also her
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
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
thought came into my mind concerning my lady: but
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
within myself: ‘Certainly it must some time come to
that the very gentle Beatrice will die.’ Then, feel-
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
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
its wanderings, I came to be I knew not where, and to
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
weeping: and it seemed to me that the birds fell
out of the sky, and that there were great earthquakes.
that, while I wondered in my trance, and was filled
with a grievous
fear, I conceived that a certain friend
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
were wet with tears. And I seemed to look
Heaven, and to behold a multitude of angels who
returning upwards, having before them an exceedingly
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
me: ‘It is true that our lady lieth dead;’ and it
to me that I went to look upon the body wherein
blessed and most noble spirit had had its
And so strong was this idle imagining, that it made
to behold my lady in death; whose head certain ladies
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:
unto me, and be not bitter against me any longer:
there where thou hast been, thou hast learned
Wherefore come now unto me who do greatly
thee: seest thou not that I wear thy colour already?’
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
that I wept again in very truth, and said with my true
voice: ‘O excellent soul! how blessed is he that now
And as I said these words, with a painful anguish of
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
the pain of mine infirmity, was taken with
and began to shed tears. Whereby other ladies,
were about the room, becoming aware of my discomfort
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,
Then, by their words, this strong imagination was
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
deception. But albeit I had indeed uttered her name,
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,
began to say, ‘He seemeth as one dead,’ and to
among themselves, ‘Let us strive if we may not
Whereupon they spake to me many
soothing words, and questioned me
the cause of my fear. Then I, being somewhat
and having perceived that it was a mere phantasy, said
unto them, ‘This thing it was that made me afeard;’
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
deeming it a lovely thing to be known. Whereof I
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- By their own terror, and a pale amaze:
- The while, little by little, as I thought,
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
- 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
- Then Love spoke thus: “Now all shall be made
- 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
- Pity, not hate, is thine, well understood.
- Lo! I do so desire to see thy face
The indentation of line 77 is a typographical error. In the
other stanzas the seventh line is aligned with the sixth,
this line conforms to
that same pattern.
- 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-
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
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
In the second, saying at what time they called me, I
thank them: and this part begins here, ‘Just then you woke
After this empty imagining, it happened on a day, as
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
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
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
it to be of very truth mine own heart and not
A short while after these words which my heart spoke
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.
lady's right name was Joan; but because of her comeli-
(or at least it was so imagined) she was called of
(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
spake again in my heart, saying: ‘She that came first
called Spring, only because of that which was to hap-
pen on this
day. And it was I myself who caused that
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
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: ‘
Transcribed Footnote (page 76):
clamantis in deserto: “Parate viam Domini
* There is a play in the original upon the words
prima verrà (she shall come first), to which I
given as near an equivalent as I could.
.”’* And also
it seemed to me that he added other
words, to wit: ‘He
who should inquire delicately touching this
not but call Beatrice by mine own name, which is to
Love; beholding her so like unto me.’
Then I, having thought of this, imagined to write
with rhymes and send it unto my chief friend; but
ting aside certain words† which seemed proper to be
aside, because I believed that his heart still regarded
beauty of her that was called Spring. And I wrote
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:
the way of the Lord.”’
Transcribed Footnote (page 77):
† That is (as I understand it), suppressing, from
his friend, the words in which Love
describes Joan as merely the
forerunner of Beatrice.
And perhaps in the latter part of this sen-
reproach is gently conveyed to the fickle Guido
who may already have transferred his
homage (though Dante had
not then learned it) from
Joan to Mandetta. (See his Poems.)
- And even as now my memory speaketh this,
- Love spake it then: ‘The first is
- 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,
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
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;
being of itself a substance, but an accident of
Yet that I speak of Love as though it were a
tangible and even human, appears by three things which
say thereof. And firstly, I say that I perceived Love
me; whereby, seeing that
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
and thirdly, that Love spake; faculties (and especially
the risible faculty) which appear proper unto man:
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
they were not writers of spoken language, but men of
ters, treated of these things.* And indeed it is
great number of years since poetry began to be made in
vulgar tongue; the writing of rhymes in spoken lan-
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
the language of
† we shall not find in those tongues any
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
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
, 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
and the laws of literary composition, and which Dante
simply ‘Grammar.’ A great deal might be said on the
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
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
than love; that mode of speech having been first
for the expression of love alone.* Wherefore,
that poets have a license allowed them that is not allowed
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
permitted unto poets, should also be counted not
seemly in the rhymers of the vulgar tongue. Thus, if
perceive that the former have caused inanimate things
speak as though they had sense and reason, and to dis-
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
though they were substances and things human;)
should therefore be permitted to the latter to do the
which is to say, not inconsiderately, but with such
cient motive as may afterwards be set forth in prose.
Transcribed Footnote (page 80):
* It strikes me that this curious passage furnishes a
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
(1291-2), when he wrote the prose of the
the poetry having been written earlier, at the time of
events referred to.
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
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,
namque tibi, etc.;
and that this master of the Winds made
Tuus, o regina, quid optes—Explorare labor,
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:
. With Lucan, the animate thing speaketh to the
animate; as thus:
Multum, Roma, tamen debes civilibus
. In Horace man is made to speak to his own in-
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,
beginning of his discourse
De Remediis Amoris:
Bella mihi video, bella parantur, ait
. By which en-
samples this thing shall be made manifest unto
may be offended at any part of this my book. And
some of the common sort should be moved to jeering
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
for it were a shameful thing if one should rhyme
the semblance of metaphor or rhetorical similitude,
afterwards, being questioned thereof, should be unable
rid his words of such semblance, unto their right
whom, (to wit, of such as rhyme
Note: Type-damage is evident in the 21st line of this page, in the
thus foolishly,) myself and the first among my friends do
But returning to the matter of my discourse. This
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
unto any, so much truth and simpleness entered into
heart, that he dared neither to lift his eyes nor to
her salutation: and unto this, many who have felt it
bear witness. She went along crowned and clothed
humility, showing no whit of pride in all that she
and saw: and when she had gone by, it was said of
‘This is not a woman, but one of the beautiful angels
Heaven:’ and there were some that said: ‘This is surely
miracle; blessed be the Lord, who hath power to work
marvellously.’ I say, of very sooth, that she showed
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
yet more wonderful, were brought to pass through
miraculous virtue. Wherefore I, considering thereof
wishing to resume the endless tale of her praises,
to write somewhat wherein I might dwell on her
passing influence; to the end that not only they who
beheld her, but others also, might know as much con-
her as words could give to the understanding.
And it was then that I
wrote this sonnet:—
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
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
Wherefore I, perceiving this and wishing that it
also be made manifest to those that beheld it not,
the sonnet here following; wherein is signified the
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.
- 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
- 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
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
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.
resolved to write somewhat of the manner wherein I was
then subject to her influence, and of what her influence
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
- 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
- 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
I was still occupied with this poem, (having composed
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
is she become as a widow, she that was
great among the nations!’—
, i, I.
self, that she might be glorious under the banner of
blessed Queen Mary, whose name had always a deep
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
And the reasons are three. The first is, that such
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
speak thereof, seeing that thereby it must behove me
speak also mine own praises: a thing that in whosoever
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
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
I will afterwards point out a reason which made that
number was so closely allied unto my lady.
I say, then, that according to the division of time in
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
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,
there the first month. Also she was taken
among us in that year of our reckoning (to wit, of
years of our Lord) in which the perfect number was
times multiplied within that century wherein she was
into the world: which is to say, the thirteenth
And touching the reason why this number was so
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
together have influence over the earth. Wherefore
would appear that this number was thus allied unto her
the purpose of signifying that, at her birth, all these
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
root of the number nine; seeing that without the
position of any other number, being multiplied merely
itself, it produceth nine, as we manifestly perceive
three times three are nine. Thus, three being of itself
Transcribed Footnote (page 87):
* Beatrice Portinari will thus be found to have died during
first hour of the 9th of June, 1290. And from what Dante
the commencement of this work, (viz. that she was
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.
efficient of nine, and the Great Efficient of Miracles
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
It may be that a more subtile person would find for
thing a reason of greater subtilty: but such is the
that I find, and that liketh me best.
After this most gracious creature had gone out from
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
thereof, in an epistle, concerning its condition;
for my commencement those words of Jeremias:
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
whereof I have spoken, I will make it mine excuse that
began this little book with the intent that it should
written altogether in the vulgar tongue; wherefore,
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
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
tears. And therefore I proposed to make a poem, that
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
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,
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- And is in its first home, there where it is.
- 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.
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
- 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
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
friend whom I counted as second unto me in the
friendship, and who, moreover, had been
united by the nearest
kindred to that most gracious
creature. And when we had a little
he began to solicit me that I would write
in memory of a lady who had died; and he disguised
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
afterwards, having thought thereof, I imagined to give
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,’
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
- 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
- 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
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
stanzas of a poem: the first being written in very
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
perceive that it is not so, inasmuch as one does not
this most gracious creature
, and the
as is manifestly apparent. And I gave the poem
the sonnet unto my friend, saying that I had made them
The poem begins, ‘Whatever while,’ and has two parts.
In the first, that is, in the first stanza, this my dear
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.
- 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
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
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
And while I did thus, chancing to turn my head,
perceived that some were standing beside me to whom
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,
the words, ‘And therefore was I in thought:’ but the
is perhaps the more forcible and
of angels: in doing which, I conceived to write of this
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,
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
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.
- And still those sighs which drew the heaviest
- Came whispering thus: ‘O noble intellect!
- It is a year today that thou art gone.’
- 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
the time that was now past, I was so filled
with dolorous imaginings
that it became outwardly mani-
fest in mine altered countenance.
this and being in dread lest any should have seen
I lifted mine eyes to look; and then perceived a young
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
others, are then most moved unto weeping, as
they also felt pity for themselves, it came to pass
mine eyes began to be inclined unto tears.
becoming fearful lest I should make manifest
abject condition, I rose up, and went where I could not
seen of that lady; saying afterwards within myself:
her also must abide most noble Love.’
And with that, I resolved upon
writing a sonnet, wherein,
speaking unto her, I should say all that I have just said.
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
- 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
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
often, when I could not weep nor in any way give ease
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:
begins, ‘Love's pallor,’ and which is plain without
divided, by its exposition aforesaid:—
- 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
- And at such time, thou mak'st the pent tears rise
- Even to the brim, till the eyes waste and
- Yet cannot they, while thou art present,
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
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
inwardly: ‘Was not your grievous condition of weeping
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
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
taken again with extreme and grievous sighing. And
to the end that this inward strife which I had under-
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
The sonnet has two parts. In the first, I speak to
my eyes, as my heart spoke within myself. In the second, I
move a difficulty, showing who it is that speaks thus: and
this part begins here, ‘So far.’ It well might receive
divisions also; but this would be useless, since it is
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
The sight of this lady brought me into so unwonted a
that I often thought of her as of one too dear
unto me; and I began
to consider her thus: ‘This lady
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
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
often turn round upon me, as moved by reason,
cause me to say within myself: ‘What hope is this
would console me after so base a fashion, and which
taken the place of all other imagining?’ Also there
another voice within me, that said: ‘And wilt thou,
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.’
fore I, having striven sorely and very often with
bethought me to say somewhat thereof in rhyme. And
seeing that in the battle of doubts, the victory
remained with such as inclined towards the lady of
I speak, it seemed to me that I should address
sonnet unto her: in the first line whereof, I call
thought which spake of her a gentle thought,
because it spoke of one who was gentle; being of
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
about a year after the death of Beatrice. Can Gemma
then be ‘the
lady of the window,’ his love for whom Dante so
a passing conjecture (when considered
together with the interpret-
Transcribed Footnote (page 102):
call Heart, that is, appetite; the other, Soul, that is,
and I tell what one saith to the other. And that it is
to call the appetite Heart, and the reason Soul, is
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
Heart I mean appetite, because yet greater was my desire to
remember my most gentle lady than to see this other,
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,
reason, speaks to the Heart, that is, to the appetite. In
third, I say how the latter answers. The second begins
here, ‘And what is this?’ the third here, ‘And the heart
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
But against this adversary of reason, there rose up in
me on a
certain day, about the ninth hour, a strong
wherein I seemed to behold the most
gracious Beatrice, habited in
that crimson raiment which
she had worn when I had first beheld her;
appeared to me of the same tender age as then.
upon I fell into a deep thought of her: and my
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,
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
had among them the name of that most gracious
and how she departed from us. Also it would come
pass very often, through the bitter anguish of some
thought, that I forgot both it, and myself, and where I
By this increase of sighs, my weeping, which before
had been somewhat lessened, increased in like manner;
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:
which things it will appear that they were fitly
for their unsteadfastness. Wherefore I, (wishing that
abandonment of all such evil desires and vain tempta-
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,
I said, ‘Woe's me!’ because I was ashamed of the
trifling of mine eyes. This sonnet I do not divide, since
purport is manifest enough.
- Woe's me! by dint of all these sighs that
- 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
- Hearing in those sad sounds continually
- The most sweet name that my dead lady bore,
- With many grievous words touching her
About this time, it happened that a great number of
undertook a pilgrimage, to the end that they
might behold that blessed portraiture bequeathed unto us
Lord Jesus Christ as the image of His
countenance,* (upon which countenance my dear
now looketh continually.) And certain among these
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
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.’
I went on to say: ‘I know that if they were of a
near unto us, they would in some wise seem
passing through this city which is so full of grief.’ And
said also: ‘If I could speak with them a space, I am
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
to the cross, and which miraculously retained its
Dante makes mention of it also in the
where he says:—
- ‘Qual è colui che forse di
- Viene a veder la Veronica nostra,
- Che per l'antica fama non si
- Ma dice nel pensier fin che si
- Signor mio Gesù Cristo, Iddio
- Or fu sì fatta la sembianza
forth of this city; for those things that they would hear
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
I made use of the word
its general significa-
tion; for ‘pilgrim’ may be understood in two
one general, and one special. General, so far as any
may be called a pilgrim who leaveth the place of his
more narrowly speaking, he only is a
pilgrim who goeth towards or
frowards the House of St.
James. For there are three separate
proper unto those who undertake journeys to the glory
God. They are called Palmers who go beyond the seas
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
Saint James. And there is a third sort who are
Romers; in that they go whither these whom I have
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—
- That this our heavy sorrow leaves you free
- Though passing through the mournful town
- 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
A while after these things, two gentle ladies sent unto
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
those others, to the end that their wishes might be
honourably fulfilled. Therefore I made a sonnet,
narrates my condition, and which I caused to be
to them, accompanied with the one preceding, and
that other which begins, ‘Stay now with me and listen to
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
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
is out of his known country. In the fourth, I say how the
spirit sees her such (that is, in such quality) that I
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
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
me—that is, to her admirable essence—I at least understand
this, namely, that it is a thought of my lady, because I
hear her name therein. And, at the end of this fifth part,
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
and therefore I stay not to divide it further.
- Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest
- 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.
After writing this sonnet, it was given unto me to
a very wonderful vision:* wherein I saw
which determined me that I would say nothing further
this most blessed one, until such time as I could dis-
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,
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
my spirit should go hence to behold the glory of
lady: to wit, of that blessed Beatrice who now
continually on His countenance
qui est per omnia
Transcribed Footnote (page 109):
* This we may believe to have been the Vision of Hell,
tory, and Paradise, which furnished the triple
argument of the
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-
dedicates his great work to Can Grande della Scala.
Transcribed Footnote (page 109):
† ‘Who is blessed throughout all ages.’
THE END OF THE NEW LIFE.
Note: The inital letter of each poem throughout the remainder of the book is
set as a dropped capital.
- 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
- 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),
follows, was in use as an Italian name, as for instance
della Bella; but it seems possible that Dante is merely
advising his preceptor to avail himself of the twofold
Janus the double-faced.
Transcribed Footnote (page 111):
* This and the six following pieces (with the possible
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
Canzoniere refer in a more general manner to his love for
but each among those I allude to bears the impress of
- 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.
Transcribed Footnote (page 112):
* See the
Vita Nuova, at
- 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
- ‘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.’
- 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.
Transcribed Footnote (page 115):
* This poem seems probably referable to the time during
Beatrice denied her salutation to Dante. (See the
Vita Nuova, at
- 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
- 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—
- 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.
- 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,—
- 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.
- 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.
- Upon a day, came Sorrow in to me,
- Saying, ‘I've come to stay with thee a
- 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.’
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Transcribed Footnote (page 125):
* That is, the pledge given at the end of the
may perhaps have been written in the early days
of Dante's exile,
before his resumption of the interrupted
- 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.
- 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
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
.). I have headed it with the name of a
lady, to whom it is surmised by some to have been
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
- 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
- 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.
- My curse be on the day when first I saw
- The brightness in those treacherous eyes
- 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
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
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.
- 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 ):
* See the
Vita Nuova, at
Transcribed Footnote (page ):
† This may refer to the belief that, towards morning, dreams
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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*
- She is named idol; not being one of theirs.
Transcribed Footnote (page 136):
* The Franciscans, in profession of deeper poverty and
than belonged to other Orders, called themselves
- 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
- Ah! how mayst thou be counselled to implead
- With God thine own misdeed,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
- 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.’
- Go, Ballad, to the city, even Thoulouse,
- And softly entering the Dauràde,* look
- 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.
was so called from the golden effect of the mosaics adorning
- 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,*
- 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
referred to in the
Vita Nuova; among whom Lapo Gianni's lady,
seem to have stood thirtieth.
- 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.
- 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.’
- 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.
- 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
refer again to Lapo Gianni, who seems (one knows not why)
fallen into disgrace with his friends. The Guido
mentioned is pro-
bably Guido Orlandi.
- 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.
- 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
where an abrupt change of metre occurs in one of my
is so also in the original poem.
- 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
- 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!
- 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
- 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.
- Why from the danger did not mine eyes start,—
- Why not become even blind,—ere through my
- 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
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
- 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.
- Guido, that Gianni who, a day agone,
- Sought thee, now greets thee (ay and thou
- 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
- 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-
d'Amore’ of Francesco Barberino (1300), I judge that
answered the above sonnet, and that Alfani made a
which a scrap there printed appears to be taken.
The whole piece
existed, in Ubaldini's time, among the Strozzi
- 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
- 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!’
- 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
- Unto Pinella a great river of love
- I send, that's full of sirens, and whose slaves
- Are beautiful and richly habited.
- 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
Transcribed Footnote (page 158):
* It is curious to find these poets perpetually rating one
for the want of constancy in love. Guido is rebuked, as
Dino Compagni; Cino da Pistoia by Dante (
p. 122); and Dante by
p. 161), who formerly, as we have seen (
p. 146), had confided
to him his doubts
of Lapo Gianni.
- 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
in a virgin's lap.
- 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.
- 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
life regarding which he has made Beatrice address him in
noble reproach when he meets her in Eden. (
Purg. C. xxx.)
- 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.’
- 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
existence, among the Strozzi MSS., of a poem by Lapo di
degli Uberti, written in answer to the above ballata of
As this respondent was no other than Guido's
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Thou knowest how my heart still travaileth
20 Through the sore pangs which in my soul
- 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.
Transcribed Footnote (page 168):
* This and the three following Canzoni are only to be found
the later collections of Guido Cavalcanti's poems. I have
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
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
- 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;
- 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,
- 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.
- 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,
- 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;
- 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.
- 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:
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
- 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.
- 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.
- ‘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;
- 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
- 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.
- 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,—
- 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
- His soul, being purified,
- To seek its Maker at the heavenly shrine.
- 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
- But understanding the great love-sickness
- Which in thy lady's bosom was conceived,
- He pitied her, and wept in vanishing.
Transcribed Footnote (page ):
- Albeit my prayers have not so long delay'd,
- But craved for thee, ere this, that Pity
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
I should judge was written in reply to this Sonnet.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- This fairest lady, who, as well I wot,
- Found entrance by her beauty to my soul,
- Pierced through mine eyes my heart, which
- 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.’
- 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.’
- I was upon the high and blessed mound,
- And kissed, long worshipping, the stones
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
- What rhymes are thine which I have ta'en
- from thee,
- Thou Guido, that thou ever say'st I
- '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
accusation; but there is a Canzone of his in which he speaks
having conceived an affection for another lady from her
to Selvaggia. Perhaps Guido considered this as a sort of plagiarism
de facto on his own change of love through Mandetta's
- 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.
- Among the faults we in that book descry
- Which has crowned Dante lord of rhyme and
- 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
Transcribed Footnote (page 197):
* Between this poet and Cino various friendly sonnets
interchanged, which may be found in the Italian collections.
is also one Sonnet by Onesto to Cino, with his answer, both of
are far from being affectionate or respectful. They are very
however, and not specially interesting.
Transcribed Footnote (page 197):
† The Provençal poet, mentioned in C. xxvi. of the
Transcribed Footnote (page 197):
‡ That is, sanctified the Apennines by her burial on the Monte
- 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 ):
- 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.
- 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,
preting Dante da Maiano's dream. I have chosen Guido
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
the sonnet at page 198) a decided
advantage over his lesser
namesake in point of courtesy.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 ):
- 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.
- 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
- He should be glorified to eternity,
- And all his life be always glad and well
- As is a wanton woman in the spring.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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*
Transcribed Footnote (page 210):
* The year, according to the calendar of those days, began on
25th March. The alteration to 1st January was made in 1582
Pope, and immediately adopted by all Catholic countries,
England not till 1752. There is some added vividness in
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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Dante Alighieri in Becchina's praise
- Won't have me sing, and bears him like my
- 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
- 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
Provence, or more probably his son Charles Martel, King of
We know from Dante that a friendship subsisted between
and the latter prince, who visited Florence in 1295, and
died in the
same year, in his father's lifetime, (
Paradise, C. viii.)
- 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!’
- 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'
- 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
Transcribed Footnote (page 215):
* I have thought it necessary to soften one or two expressions
- 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.
- 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!
- 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'
- 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.
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!
- 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
Transcribed Footnote (page 221):
* He means, possibly, that he should be more than ever tor-
his creditors, on account of their knowing his ability to
but the meaning seems very uncertain.
- 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
Note: Though Rossetti assigned this sonnet to Guido Cavalcanti in the
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
- 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
Transcribed Footnote (page 223):
* This puzzling sonnet is printed in Italian collections with
name of Guido Cavalcanti. It must evidently belong to
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.
- 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
- He'll never more be down-at-mouth, but fill
- His beak at his own beck,† till his
- 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
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
Introduction to Part I
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
- Who utters of his father aught but praise,
- 'Twere well to cut his tongue out of his
- 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.
- 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.
Transcribed Footnote (page 227):
* Several other pieces by this author, addressed to Guido
canti and Dante da Maiano, will be found among their
- 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
- 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):
- Behold, against the Whites all men must sign
- Some judgment whence no pardon can be claim'd
- Excepting they were offered to Saint
Transcribed Footnote (page 228):
* That is, presented at the high altar on the feast-day of St.
the Baptist; a ceremony attending the release of criminals, a
number of whom were annually pardoned on that day in
This was the disgraceful condition annexed to that recall
which Dante received when in exile at the court of
others accepted, but which was refused by him in a
epistle still preserved.
- 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.
- Let me have fruitful gardens of great girth,
- Filled with the strife of birds,
- With water-springs, and beasts that house i' the
- 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.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
What follows relates to the very filmiest of all
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
already several times referred to here,) has a rather
entry under the word
After describing this ‘custom of the country,’ he says:—
‘To leave a vengeance unaccomplished was considered
shameful; and on this account Forese de' Donati sneers
who did not avenge his father Alighieri; saying to
- “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
one of his race.’
Now there is no hint to be found anywhere that Dante's
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
uncle; and he is there represented as passing his kinsman
contemptuous silence on account of
death by the
hand of one of the Sacchetti, which remained till
unavenged, and so continued till after Dante's death,
Cione Alighieri fulfilled the
slaying a Sacchett
at the door of his house. If Dante is really the
addressed in the sonnet quoted by Ubaldini, I think
probable (as I shall show presently when I give the
sonnet) that the ironical allusion is to the death of
Alighieri. But indeed the real writer, the real subject,
the real object of this clumsy piece of satire seem
Forese Donati, to whom this Sonnet and another I shall
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
the life they led together was disorderly and a subject
regret. This can hardly account for such violence as
shown in these sonnets, said to have been written from one
the other; but it is not impossible, of course, that a ran-
perhaps temporary, may have existed at some time
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
They all combine in stigmatizing Forese's supposed
ductions as very bad poetry, and in fact this seems the
point concerning them which is beyond a doubt. The
sonnets of which I now proceed to give such translations
I have found possible, were first published together in
by Fiacchi, who states that he had seen two separate
MSS. in both of which they were attributed to Dante
Forese. In rendering them, I have no choice but to adopt
a positive form my conjectures as to their meaning; but
that I view
these only as conjectures will appear afterwards.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Thou hast of help, that I may stand by
- 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
- 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,
- This grief, with other griefs, her mother feels,
- Who says, ‘Without much trouble, I'll engage,
- She might have married in Count
- 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
Now all this may be pronounced little better than
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
each case, the insults heaped on Dante have of course no
coming from one who shows every sign of being
both foul-mouthed and
a fool. That then even the obser-
vance of the
had its opponents among the laity, is evi-
a passage in Barberino's
two sonnets bearing Dante's name, if not less offensive
the others, are rather more pointed; but seem still
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
by Dante and Forese; but I do not think his
conclusive enough to set the matter quite at rest. He
states positively that Sonnet I. (as above) is by
the Florentine barber-poet of the fifteenth century.
it is only to be found in one edition of Burchiello, and
late one, of 1757, where it is placed among the pieces
are very doubtfully his. It becomes all the more
when we find it there followed by Sonnet II. (as
which would seem by all evidence to be at any rate
by a different person from the first, whoever the writers
both may be. Of this sonnet Fraticelli seems to state that
has seen it attributed in one MS. to a certain Bicci
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
futile, as the way in which the name is put is to the
as likely to be meant in ridicule as in earnest. Lastly,
Sonnet IV. Fraticelli says nothing.
It is now necessary to explain that Sonnet II., as I
late it, is made up from two versions, the one printed
Fiacchi and the one given among Burchiello's poems; while
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
- Che facesti di lui, sì bella e
avolin che diè
Of the two printed texts one says, in the fourth line—
- Dell' aguglin ched ei cambiò
and the other,
- Degli auguglin che diè cambio
‘Aguglino’ would be ‘eaglet,’ and with this, the whole
of the line seems quite unfathomable: whereas at the
‘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
di lui (i.e.)
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
been said to ‘give change’ or ‘pay scores in full’ by
death, as he himself had been the aggressor in the
instance, having slain one of the Sacchetti, and been
wards slain himself by another.
I should add that I do not think the possibility,
questionable, of these sonnets being authentically by
and Forese, depends solely on the admission of this
The rapacity attributed to the ‘Bicci’ of Sonnet I. seems
tendency somewhat akin to the insatiable gluttony which
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
‘possibles’ and ‘not impossibles;’ but perhaps, having
led into the subject, am a little inclined that the reader
worried with it like myself.
At any rate, considering that these Sonnets are attributed
by various old manuscripts to Dante and Forese Donati;—
various writers (beginning with Ubaldini, who seems to
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
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.
) gives another
sonnet against Dante as being written by Forese
and it certainly resembles these in style. I should add
their obscurity of mere language is excessive, and that
translations therefore are necessarily guesswork here
there; though as to this I may spare particulars except
what affects the question at issue. In conclusion, I hope
need hardly protest against the inference that my
tions and statements might be shown to abound in
makeshifts and whimsical conjectures; though it would
admitted, on going over the ground I have traversed, that
presents a difficulty of some kind at almost every step.
Cecco D' Ascoli.
There is one more versifier, contemporary with Dante,
whom I might be expected to refer. This is the
Francesco Stabili, better known as Cecco d' Ascoli, who
burnt by the Inquisition at Florence in 1327, as a
though the exact nature of his offence is involved in some
mystery. He was a narrow, discontented and
writer; and his incongruous poem in
, contains various references to the poetry of Dante
knew personally) as well as to that of Guido
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.
Several of the little-known sonnets of Boccaccio
reference to Dante, but, being written in the
which followed his, do not belong to the body of my
division. I therefore place three of them here, together
a few more specimens from the same poet.
There is nothing which gives Boccaccio a greater claim
regard than the enthusiastic reverence with which he
loved to dwell
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
In the third sonnet, it is interesting to note
the personal love
and confidence with which Boccaccio could address
spirit of his mighty master, unknown to him in the flesh.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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,
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-
racteristic of the author of the Decameron;
while its beauty
of colour (to our modern minds, privileged to
whole pageant of Italian Art,) might recall the painted
torals of Giorgione.
- Love steered my course, while yet the sun
- 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
- Singing I saw, with others who sat round.
- 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;
- 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
- 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
- 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.
CIULLO D'ALCAMO, 1172-78.
II. Folcachiero de' Folcachieri, Knight of Siena,
Ciullo is a popular form of the name Vincenzo, and
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,
it in this volume; thus ascribing the first
honours of Italian
poetry to Tuscany, and not to Sicily, as is
posed. Trucchi, however, (in the preface to his
collection,) states his belief that the two poems are
contemporaneous, fixing the date of that by Ciullo
1172 and 1178,—chiefly from the fact that the fame
Saladin, to whom this poet alludes, was most in
mouths during that interval. At first sight, any
reader of the original would suppose that this poem
be unquestionably the earliest of all, as its language is
the most unformed and difficult; but much of this
of course, be dependent on the inferior dialect of
mixed however in this instance (as far as I can judge)
III. Lodovico della Vernaccia, 1200.IV. Saint Francis of Assisi; born, 1182, died,
The above date has been assigned with probability to
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
Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III.
V. Frederick II., Emperor; born, 1194, died, 1250.
His baptismal name was Giovanni, and his father
Bernardone Moriconi, whose mercantile pursuits he
till the age of twenty-five; after which his life
the extraordinary change which resulted in his
by Gregory IX., three years after his death, and
formation of the Religious Order called Franciscans.
VI. Enzo, King of Sardinia; born, 1225, died, 1272.
The life of Frederick II., and his excommunication
deposition from the Empire by Innocent IV., to
however, he did not succumb, are matters of history
need no repetition. Intellectually, he was in all ways
highly-gifted and accomplished prince; and lovingly
vated the Italian language, in preference to the many
with which he was familiar. The poem of his which I
has great passionate beauty; yet I believe that an
interpretation may here probably be admissible; and
the lady of the poem may be the Empire, or perhaps
Church herself, held in bondage by the Pope.
VII. Guido Guinicelli, 1220.
The unfortunate Enzo was a natural son of Frederick
and was born at Palermo. By his own warlike
at an early age (it is said at fifteen!) he
Island of Sardinia, and was made King of it by
Afterwards he joined Frederick in his war against
Church, and displayed the highest promise as a leader;
at the age of twenty-five was taken prisoner by the
gnese, whom no threats or promises from the Emperor could
induce to set him at liberty. He died in prison at
Note: The last letter of the fourth line of entry X. on this
page exhibits type-damage.
after a confinement of nearly twenty-three years. A
indeed for one who, while moving among men, excited
hopes and homage, still on record, by his great
genius and brilliant gifts of mind and person.
VIII. Guerzo di Montecanti, 1220.IX. Inghilfredi, Siciliano, 1220.X. Rinaldo d'Aquino, 1250.
This poet, certainly the greatest of his time, belonged
a noble and even princely Bolognese family. Nothing
known of his life, except that he was married to a
named Beatrice, and that in 1274, having adhered to
imperial cause, he was sent into exile, but whither cannot
learned. He died two years afterwards. The highest
has been bestowed by Dante on Guinicelli, in the
(Purg. C. xxvi) in the
Convito, and in the
and many instances might be cited in which the
the great Florentine contain reminiscences of his
predecessor; especially the third canzone of
Convito may be compared with Guido's most famous
one ‘On the
XI. Jacopo da Lentino, 1250.
I have placed this poet, belonging to a Neapolitan
under the date usually assigned to him; but Trucchi
his belief that he flourished much earlier, and was a
temporary of Folcachiero; partly on account of two lines
one of his poems which say,—
- ‘Lo Imperadore con pace
- Tutto il mondo mantene.’
If so, the mistake would be easily accounted for, as
seem to have been various members of the family
Rinaldo, at different dates.
XII. Mazzeo di Ricco, da Messina, 1250.XIII. Pannuccio dal Bagno, Pisano, 1250.XIV. Giacomino Pugliesi, Knight of Prato,
This Sicilian poet is generally called ‘the Notary of
Lentino.’ The low estimate expressed of him, as well as
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
principles of the
. However, Dante
also attributes his own superiority to the
fact of his writing
only when love (or natural impulse) really
the highest certainly of all laws relating to
- ‘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
may exist in its original; and I think my readers will
that, chargeable as he is with some conventionality
sentiment, the Notary of Lentino is often not without
claims to beauty and feeling. There is a peculiar charm
the sonnet which stands first among my specimens.
XV. Fra Guittone d'Arezzo, 1250.
Of this poet there seems nothing to be learnt; but
deserves special notice as possessing rather more
individuality than usual, and also as furnishing the
instance, among Dante's predecessors, of a poem (and a
beautiful one) written on a lady's death.
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.
Guittone was not a monk, but derived the prefix to
name from the fact of his belonging to the religious and
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
considered them much over-rated. The sonnet I have given
somewhat remarkable, from Petrarch's having transplanted
last line into his
Trionfi d'Amore (cap. III). Guittone
is the author
of a series of Italian letters to various eminent
are the earliest known epistolary writings in
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.
Onesto was a doctor of laws, and an early friend of
da Pistoia. He was living as late as 1301, though his
as a poet may be fixed somewhat further back.
XXIX. Pier Moronelli, di Fiorenza, 1250.XXX. Ciuncio Fiorentino, 1250.XXXI. Ruggieri di Amici, Siciliano, 1250.
XXXII. Carnino Ghiberti, da Fiorenza, 1250.XXXIII. Prinzivalle Doria, 1250.
This Sicilian poet has few equals among his
raries, and is ranked high by Dante in his treatise
. He visited England and wrote in Latin a
Historia de regibus et rebus Angliæ, as well as a
XXXIV. Rustico di Filippo; born about 1200,
Prinzivalle commenced by writing Italian poetry,
afterwards composed verses entirely in Provençal, for
love of Beatrice, Countess of Provence. He wrote also,
Provençal prose, a treatise ‘On the dainty madness of
and another ‘On the War of Charles,
King of Naples, against
the tyrant Manfredi.’ He held various high offices, and died
at Naples in
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.
XLI. Niccolò degli Albizzi, 1300.
The writings of this Tuscan poet (called also
Barbuto) show signs of more vigour and versatility than
common in his day, and he probably began writing in
verse even before many of those already mentioned. In
old age, he, though a Ghibelline, received the dedication
Tesoretto from the Guelf Brunetto Latini, who there pays
unqualified homage for surpassing worth in peace and
war. It is
strange that more should not be known regarding
remarkable man. His compositions have
sometimes much humour, and
on the whole convey the
impression of an active and energetic
Trucchi pronounces some of them to be as pure
as the poems of Dante or Guido Cavalcanti, though
thirty or forty years earlier.
XLII. Francesco da Barberino; born, 1264,
The noble Florentine family of Albizzi produced writers
poetry in more than one generation. The vivid and
sonnet which I have translated is the only one I
have met with
by Niccolò. I must confess my inability to
circumstances which gave rise to it.
XLIII. Fazio Degli Uberti, 1326-60.
With the exception of Brunetto Latini, (whose poems
neither very poetical nor well adapted for extract,)
da Barberino shows by far the most sustained
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
This poet was born at Barberino di Valdelsa, of a
while the other is called
Del Reggiomento e dei Costumi
family, his father being Neri di Rinuccio da Barberino. Up
the year of his father's death, 1296, he pursued the study of
chiefly in Bologna and Padua; but afterwards removed
Florence for the same purpose, and seems to have been
even earlier, one of the many distinguished disciples of
netto Latini, who probably had more influence than any
one man in forming the youth of his time to the great
they accomplished. After this he travelled in France and
where; and on his return to Italy in 1313, was the first
by special favour of Pope Clement V., received the
of Doctor of Laws in Florence. Both as lawyer and
citizen, he held great trusts and discharged them
He was twice married, the name of his second wife
Barna di Tano, and had several children. At the age
eighty-four he died in the great Plague of Florence. Of
two works which Barberino has left, one bears the title
Documenti d'Amore, literally ‘Documents of Love,’ but
perhaps more properly
rendered as ‘Laws of Courtesy;’
—‘Of the Government and Conduct of
may be described, in the main, as manuals of good
or social chivalry, the one for men and the other for
Mixed with vagueness, tediousness, and not seldom
artless absurdity, they contain much simple wisdom,
curious record of manners, and (as my specimens
occasional poetic sweetness or power, though these last
far from being their most prominent merits. The
named treatise, however, has much more of such
than the second; and contains, moreover, passages
homely humour which startle by their truth as if
yesterday. At the same time, the second book is quite
well worth reading, for the sake of its authoritative
ness in matter which ladies, now-a-days, would
consider their own undisputed region; and also for
quaint gravity of certain surprising prose anecdotes of
life, whith which it is interspersed. Both these works
mained long unprinted, the first edition of the
being that edited by Ubaldini in 1640, at which
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
Documenti, containing, as he says, skilful miniatures by
Barberino never appears to have taken a very active
), do we ever meet with an allusion to
in politics, but he inclined to the Imperial and
party. This contributes with other things to render
singular that we find no poetic correspondence or
communication of any kind between him and his
great countrymen, contemporaries of his long life, and
whom he had more than one bond of sympathy. His
stretched from Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, and Cino
Pistoia, to Petrarca and Boccaccio; yet only in one
but not enthusiastic notice of him by the last-named writer
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
Barberino, I may refer the reader to the tract on ‘Italian
Books,’ by my brother, W. M. Rossetti, issued by
English Text Society.
XLIV. Franco Sacchetti; born, 1335, died shortly
The dates of this poet's birth and death are not
able, but I have set against his name two dates
result from his writings as belonging to his lifetime. He
a member of that great house of the Uberti, which
driven from Florence on the expulsion of the Ghibellines
1267, and which was ever afterwards specially excluded
name from the various amnesties offered from time to
to the exiled Florentines. His grandfather was
degli Uberti, whose stern nature, unyielding even amid
fires, has been recorded by Dante in the tenth canto of the
Inferno. Farinata's son Lapo, himself a poet, was the
i.e. Bonifazio), who was no doubt born
the lifetime of Dante, and in some place of exile, but
is not known. In his youth he was enamoured of a
Veronese lady named Angiola, and was afterwards
but whether to her or not is again among the
Certain it is that he had a son named Leopardo,
his father's death at Verona, settled in Venice,
descendants maintained an honourable rank for the
of two succeeding centuries. Though Fazio appears to
suffered sometimes from poverty, he enjoyed high
as a poet, and is even said, on the authority of
writers, to have publicly received the laurel
crown; but in
what city of Italy this took place, we do not
There is much beauty in several of Fazio's lyrical
The finest of all is the Canzone which I
of which, however, no great number have been preserved.
whose excellence is such as to have procured it
honour of being attributed to Dante, so that it is to
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
the practice of Dante; while, though certainly more
than any other poem by Fazio, its manner is quite
bearing especially a strong resemblance throughout in
ture to one canzone, where he speaks of his love
minute reference to the seasons of the year.
Fraticelli tells us that it is not attributed to Dante
in any one
of the many ancient MSS. he had seen, but has
fathered on him solely on the authority of a printed
tion of 1518. This contested Canzone is well worth
for; and the victor would deserve to receive his prize
hands of a peerless Queen of Beauty, for never was
better described. I believe we may decide that the
belongs by right to Fazio.
An exile by inheritance, Fazio seems to have
restless tastes; and in the latter years of his life
was prolonged to old age), he travelled over a great part
Europe, and composed his long poem entitled
,—‘The Song of the World.’ This work, though by
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
history,—rendering it in those days the native home
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
known of it) is traversed,—its surface and its
ending with the Holy Land, and thus bringing Man's
as near as may be to God's; that is, to the point at
Dante's office begins. No conception could well be
or worthier even now of being dealt with by a great
To the work of such a man, Fazio's work might afford
first materials as have usually been furnished
to the greatest poets by some unconscious
XLV. Anonymous Poems.
This excellent writer is the only member of my
who was born after the death of Dante, which event
1321) preceded Franco's birth by some fourteen years.
have introduced a few specimens of his poetry,
because their attraction was irresistible, but also
he is the earliest Italian poet with whom playfulness is
chief characteristic; for even with Boccaccio, in his
this is hardly the case, and we can but ill accept as
fulness the cynical humour of Ceco Angiolieri:
Rustico di Filippo alone might put in claims to priority
this respect. However, Franco Sacchetti wrote poems
on political subjects; and had he belonged more strictly
the period of which I treat, there is no one who would
have deserved abundant selection. Besides his poetry,
is the author of a well-known series of three hundred
and Trucchi gives a list of prose works by him which
still in MS., and whose subjects are genealogical,
natural-historical, and even theological. He was a
writer, and one who well merits complete and careful
cation. The pieces which I have translated, like
others of his, are written for music.
Franco Sacchetti was a Florentine noble by birth, and
the deaths of at least one Alighieri and
two Sacchetti. After
the son of Benci di Uguccione Sacchetti. Between
this family and
the Alighieri there had been a
long standing (spoken of here in the
Appendix to Part I
but which was probably set at rest before Franco's
some years passed in study, Franco devoted
commerce, like many nobles of the republic, and for
purpose spent some time in Sclavonia, whose
influences he has recorded in an amusing poem.
his literary fame increased, he was called to many
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.’
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.