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Still in these dim old eyes, now overwrought
By tyrannous faction, and the brawling crowd, And though the long, long conflict hath been spent In vain, and never more, save when the cloud Which overhangs the Apennine, my mind's eye Pierces to fancy Florence, once so proud Of me, can I return, though but to die,
Unto my native soil, they have not yet Quench'd the old exile's spirit, stern and high. But the sun, though not overcast, must set,
And the night cometh; I am old in days, And deeds, and contemplation, and have met Destruction face to face in all his ways.
The world hath left me, what it found me, pure, And if I have not gather'd yet its praise, I sought it not by any baser lure;
Man wrongs, and Time avenges, and my name May form a monument not all obscure, Though such was not my ambition's end or aim, To add to the vain-glorious list of those Who dabble in the pettiness of fame, And make men's fickle breath the wind that blows Their sail, and deem it glory to be class'd With conquerors, and virtue's other foes, In bloody chronicles of ages past.
I would have had my Florence great and free: 1 Oh Florence! Florence! unto me thou wast Like that Jerusalem which the Almighty He
Wept over," but thou wouldst not; " as the bird Gathers its young, I would have gather'd thee Beneath a parent pinion, hadst thou heard
My voice; but as the adder, deaf and fierce, Against the breast that cherish'd thee was stirr'd Thy venom, and my state thou didst amerce, And doom this body forfeit to the fire. Alas! how bitter is his country's curse To him who for that country would expire, But did not merit to expire by her,
And loves her, loves her even in her ire. The day may come when she will cease to err,
The day may come she would be proud to have The dust she dooms to scatter, and transfer 2 Of him, whom she denied a home, the grave.
But this shall not be granted; let my dust Lie where it falls; nor shall the soil which gave Me breath, but in her sudden fury thrust
Me forth to breathe elsewhere, so reassume My indignant bones, because her angry gust Forsooth is over, and repeal'd her doom;
"L'Esilio che m' è dato onor mi tegno. Cader tra' bouni è pur di lode degno." Sonnet of Dante, in which he represents Right, Generosity, and Temperance as banished from among men, and seeking refuge from Love, who inhabits his boson.
2 a Ut si quis predictorum ullo tempore in fortiam dicti communis pervenerit, talis perveniens igne comburatur, sic quod moriatur." Second sentence of Florence against Dante, and the fourteen accused with him. The Latin is worthy of the sentence. -[On the 27th of January, 1302, Dante was mulcted eight thousand lire, and condemned to two years' banishment; and in case the fine was not paid, his goods were to be confiscated. On the eleventh of March, the same year, he was sentenced to a punishment due only to the most desperate of malefactors. The decree, that he and his associates in exile should be burned, if they fell into the hands of their enemies, was first discovered, in 1772, by the Conte Ludovico
The breast which would have bled for her, the heart That beat, the mind that was temptation proof, The man who fought, toil'd, travell'd, and each part Of a true citizen fulfill'd, and saw
For his reward the Guelf's ascendant art Pass his destruction even into a law.
These things are not made for forgetfulness, Florence shall be forgotten first; too raw The wound, too deep the wrong, and the distress Of such endurance too prolong'd to make My pardon greater, her injustice less, Though late repented; yet-yet for her sake I feel some fonder yearnings, and for thine, My own Beatrice, I would hardly take Vengeance upon the land which once was mine, And still is hallow'd by thy dust's return, Which would protect the murderess like a shrine, And save ten thousand foes by thy sole urn.
Though, like old Marius 3 from Minturnæ's marsh And Carthage ruins, my lone breast may burn At times with evil feelings hot and harsh,
And sometimes the last pangs of a vile foe Writhe in a dream before me, and o'erarch My brow with hopes of triumph, - let them go ! Such are the last infirmities of those
Who long have suffer'd more than mortal woe, And yet being mortal still, have no repose
But on the pillow of Revenge-Revenge, Who sleeps to dream of blood, and waking glows With the oft-baffled, slakeless thirst of change,
When we shall mount again, and they that trod Be trampled on, while Death and Até range O'er humbled heads and sever'd necksGreat God! Take these thoughts from me-to thy hands I yield My many wrongs, and thine almighty rod Will fall on those who smote me,- be my shield! As thou hast been in peril, and in pain, In turbulent cities, and the tented fieldIn toil, and many troubles borne in vain
For Florence. 4- I appeal from her to Thee ! Thee, whom I late saw in thy loftiest reign, Even in that glorious vision, which to see
And live was never granted until now, And yet thou hast permitted this to me. Alas! with what a weight upon my brow
The sense of earth and earthly things come back, Corrosive passions, feelings dull and low, The heart's quick throb upon the mental rack, Long day, and dreary night; the retrospect
Savioli. See Tiraboschi, where the sentence is given at length.]
3 [Under the pretence of opposing the power of Sylla, Marius, who had been five times elected to the consulship, aimed at the sovereign power. Stapylton says, that the Minturnian fens, in which he was discovered by Sylla's emissaries, were in Switzerland! For this accurate piece of topography, he was indebted to the old scholiast. The spot, however, lies on the right hand of the ferry of Garigliano, as you go from Rome to Naples.-GIFFORD.]
4 [In one so highly endowed by nature, and so consummate by instruction, we may well sympathise with a resentment which exile and poverty rendered perpetually fresh. But the heart of Dante was naturally sensible, and even tender: his poetry is full of comparisons from rural life; and the sincerity of his early passion for Beatrice pierces through the veil of allegory that surrounds her. But the memory of his injuries pursued him into the immensity of eternal light; and in the company of saints and angels, his unforgiving spirit darkens at the name of Florence. - HALLAM.]
Of half a century bloody and black, And the frail few years I may yet expect Hoary and hopeless, but less hard to bear, For I have been too long and deeply wreck'd On the lone rock of desolate Despair,
To lift my eyes more to the passing sail Which shuns that reef so horrible and bare; Nor raise my voice-for who would heed my wail ? I am not of this people, nor this age,
And yet my harpings will unfold a tale Which shall preserve these times when not a page Of their perturbed annals could attract
An eye to gaze upon their civil rage,
Did not my verse embalm full many an act
In life, to wear their hearts out, and consume
The name of him- who now is but a name, And wasting homage o'er the sullen stone, Spread his - by him unheard, unheeded — -fame; And mine at least hath cost me dear to die Is nothing; but to wither thus - to tame My mind down from its own infinity
To live in narrow ways with little men,
Ripp'd from all kindred, from all home, all things That make communion sweet, and soften pain To feel me in the solitude of kings
Without the power that makes them bear a crownTo envy every dove his nest and wings Which waft him where the Apennine looks down On Arno, till he perches, it may be, Within my all inexorable town,
Where yet my boys are, and that fatal she,'
Their mother, the cold partner who hath brought Destruction for a dowry 2- this to see And feel, and know without repair, hath taught A bitter lesson; but it leaves me free:
I have not vilely found, nor basely sought, They made an Exile not a slave of me.
CANTO THE SECOND.
THE Spirit of the fervent days of Old, [thought
This lady, whose name was Gemma, sprung from one of the most powerful Guelf families, named Donati. Corso Donati was the principal adversary of the Ghibellines. She is described as being “Admodum morosa, ut de Xantippe Socratis philosophi conjuge scriptum esse legimus," according to Giannozzo Manetti. But Lionardo Aretino is scandalised with Boccace, in his life of Dante, for saying that literary men should not marry. "Qui il Boccaccio non ha pazienza, e dice, le mogli esser contrarie agli studj; e non si ricorda che Socrate il più nobile filosofo che mai fosse, ebbe moglie e figliuoli e uffici della Repubblica nella sua Città; e Aristotele che, &c. &c. ebbe due mogli in varj tempi, ed ebbe figliuoli, e ricchezze assai. — E Marco Tullio — e Catone-e Varrone, -c Seneca- ebbero moglie," &c. &c. It is odd that honest Lionardo's examples, with the exception of Seneca, and, for any thing I know, of Aristotle, are not the most felicitous. Tully's Terentia, and Socrates' Xantippe, by no means contributed to their husbands' happiness, whatever they might
Forth from the abyss of time which is to be, The chaos of events, where lie half-wrought Shapes that must undergo mortality;
What the great Secrs of Israel wore within, That spirit was on them, and is on me, And if, Cassandra-like, amidst the din
Of conflict none will hear, or hearing heed This voice from out the Wilderness, the sin Be theirs, and my own feelings be my meed,
The only guerdon I have ever known.
Hast thou not bled? and hast thou still to bleed, Italia? Ah! to me such things, foreshown
With dim sepulchral light, bid me forget
Thou'rt mine-my bones shall be within thy breast,
But I will make another tongue arise
As lofty and more sweet, in which express'd The hero's ardour, or the lover's sighs,
Shall find alike such sounds for every theme That every word, as brilliant as thy skies, Shall realise a poet's proudest dream,
And make thee Europe's nightingale of song; So that all present speech to thine shall seem The note of meaner birds, and every tongue
Confess its barbarism when compared with thine. This shalt thou owe to him thou didst so wrong, Thy Tuscan Bard, the banish'd Ghibelline.
Woe! woe! the veil of coming centuries
The storms yet sleep, the clouds still keep their sta-
The elements await but for the word,
"Let there be darkness!" and thou grow'st a tomb! Yes! thou, so beautiful, shalt feel the sword, Thou, Italy so fair that Paradise,
Revived in thee, blooms forth to man restored: Ah! must the sons of Adam lose it twice?
Thou, Italy whose ever golden fields,
Plough'd by the sunbeams solely, would suffice For the world's granary; thou, whose sky heaven gilds With brighter stars, and robes with deeper blue; Thou, in whose pleasant places Summer builds Her palace, in whose cradle Empire grew,
And form'd the Eternal City's ornaments From spoils of kings whom freémen overthrew ; Birthplace of heroes, sanctuary of saints,
as to their philosophy - Cato gave away his wife - of Varro's we know nothing-and of Seneca's only that she was disposed to die with him, but recovered, and lived several years afterwards. But, says Lionardo, "L'uomo è animale civile, secondo piace a tutti i filosofi." And thence concludes that the greatest proof of the animal's civism is "la prima congiunzione, dalla quale multiplicata nasce la Città."
2 [The violence of Gemma's temper proved a source of the bitterest suffering to Dante; and in that passage of the Inferno, where one of the characters says
'La fiera moglie più ch' altro, mi nuoce,
'me, my wife,
Of savage temper, more than aught beside,
his own conjugal unhappiness must have recurred forcibly and painfully to his mind. CARY.]
Where earthly first, then heavenly glory made Her home; thou, all which fondest fancy paints, And finds her prior vision but portray'd
In feeble colours, when the eye- from the Alp Of horrid snow, and rock, and shaggy shade Of desert-loving pine, whose emerald scalp Nods to the storm- dilates and dotes o'er thee, And wistfully implores, as 't were, for help To see thy sunny fields, my Italy,
Nearer and nearer yet, and dearer still
The more approach'd, and dearest were they free,
By the old barbarians, there awaits the new,
Of Tiber, thick with dead; the helpless priest,
But those, the human savages, explore
All paths of torture, and insatiate yet,
Nine moons shall rise o'er scenes like this and set;
Had but the royal Rebel lived, perchance
Thou hadst been spared, but his involved thy fate. Oh! Rome, the spoiler or the spoil of France,
From Brennus to the Bourbon, never, never Shall foreign standard to thy wails advance But Tiber shall become a mournful river.
Oh! when the strangers pass the Alps and Po, Crush them, ye rocks! floods whelm them, and for Why sleep the idle avalanches so,
To topple on the lonely pilgrim's head ?
The peasant's harvest from his turbid bed?
Were not each barbarous horde a nobler prey? Over Cambyses' host the desert spread Her sandy ocean, and the sea waves' sway Roll'd over Pharaoh and his thousands, - why, Mountains and waters, do ye not as they? And you, ye men! Romans, who dare not die, Sons of the conquerors who overthrew Those who o'erthrew proud Xerxes, where yet lic The dead whose tomb Oblivion never knew,
Are the Alps weaker than Thermopyla? Their passes more alluring to the view Of an invader? is it they, or ye,
That to each host the mountain-gate unbar, And leave the march in peace, the passage free? Why, Nature's self detains the victor's car,
1 See "Sacco di Roma," generally attributed to Guicciardini. There is another written by a Jacopo Lumaparte. -[The original MS, of the latter work is preserve in the Royal Library at Paris. It is entitled, Ragguaglio Storico di tutto l'occorso, giorno per giorno, nel Sacco di Roma dell anno
And makes your land impregnable, if earth Could be so; but alone she will not war, Yet aids the warrior worthy of his birth
In a soil where the mothers bring forth men : Not so with those whose souls are little worth; For them no fortress can avail, — the den
Of the poor reptile which preserves its sting Is more secure than walls of adamant, when The hearts of those within are quivering.
Are ye not brave? Yes, yet the Ausonian soil Hath hearts, and hands, and arms, and hosts to Against Oppression; but how vain the toil, [bring
While still Division sows the seeds of woe And weakness, till the stranger reaps the spoil. Oh! my own beauteous land! so long laid low, So long the grave of thy own children's hopes, When there is but required a single blow To break the chain, yet yet the Avenger stops, And Doubt and Discord step 'twixt thine and thee, And join their strength to that which with thee What is there wanting then to set thee free, [copes; And show thy beauty in its fullest light? To make the Alps impassable; and we, Her sons, may do this with one deed
CANTO THE THIRD.
And Italy, the martyr'd nation's gore, Will not in vain arise to where belongs Omnipotence and mercy evermore:
FROM out the mass of never-dying ill,
[Sword, The Plague, the Prince, the Stranger, and the Vials of wrath but emptied to refill
And flow again, I cannot all record
That crowds on my prophetic eye: the earth And ocean written o'er would not afford Space for the annal, yet it shall go forth;
Yes, all, though not by human pen, is graven, There where the farthest suns and stars have birth, Spread like a banner at the gate of heaven,
The bloody scroll of our millennial wrongs Waves, and the echo of our groans is driven Athwart the sound of archangelic songs,
Like to a harpstring stricken by the wind,
To sense and suffering, though the vain may scoff,
I loved and love, devote the mournful lyre And melancholy gift high powers allow To read the future; and if now my fire
Is not as once it shone o'er thee, forgive! I but foretell thy fortunes- then expire; Think not that I would look on them and live. A spirit forces me to see and speak,
And for my guerdon grants not to survive ; My heart shall be pour'd over thee and break:
MDXXVII, scritto da Jacopo Buonaparte, gentiluomo Samminiatese, che vi si trovò presente." An edition of it was printed at Cologne in 1756, to which is prefixed a genealogy of the Buonaparte family.]
Yet for a moment, ere I must resume Thy sable web of sorrow, let me take Over the gleams that flash athwart thy gloom A softer glimpse; some stars shine through thy And many meteors, and above thy tomb [night. Leans sculptured Beauty, which Death cannot blight; And from thine ashes boundless spirits rise To give thee honour, and the carth delight; Thy soil shall still be pregnant with the wise,
The gay, the learn'd, the generous, and the brave, Native to thee as summer to thy skies, Conquerors on foreign shores, and the far wave, 1 Discoverers of new worlds, which take their name; ? For thee alone they have no arm to save, And all thy recompense is in their fame,
A noble one to them, but not to theeShall they be glorious, and thou still the same? Oh more than these illustrious far shall be
The being and even yet he may be bornThe mortal saviour who shall set them free, And see thy diadem, so changed, and worn
By fresh barbarians, on thy brow replaced : And the sweet sun replenishing thy morn, Thy moral morn, too long with clouds defaced, And noxious vapours from Avernus risen, Such as all they must breathe who are debased By servitude, and have the mind in prison.
Yet through this centuried eclipse of woe Some voices shall be heard, and earth shall listen; Poets shall follow in the path I show,
And make it broader; the same brilliant sky Which cheers the birds to song shall bid them glow, And raise their notes as natural and high;
Tuneful shall be their numbers; they shall sing Many of love, and some of liberty, But few shall soar upon that eagle's wing,
And look in the sun's face with eagle's gaze, All free and fearless as the feather'd king, But fly more near the earth; how many a phrase Sublime shall lavish'd be on some small prince In all the prodigality of praise ! And language, eloquently false, evince
The harlotry of genius, which, like beauty, Too oft forgets its own self-reverence, And looks on prostitution as a duty.
He who once enters in a tyrant's hall 3
[bles, Thus trammell'd, thus condemn'd to Flattery's treHe toils through all, still trembling to be wrong: For fear some noble thoughts, like heavenly rebels, Should rise up in high treason to his brain,
He sings, as the Athenian spoke, with pebbles In's mouth, lest truth should stammer thro' his strain.
1 Alexander of Parma, Spinola, Pescara, Eugene of Savoy, Montecucco.
2 Columbus, Americus Vespasius, Sebastian Cabot,
3 A verse from the Greek tragedians, with which Pompey took leave of Cornelia on entering the boat in which he was slain.
But out of the long file of sonneteers
And Italy shall hail him as the Chief
Of Freedom wreathe him with as green a leaf. But in a farther age shall rise along
The banks of Po two greater still than he ;
The world which smiled on him shall do them wrong Till they are ashes, and repose with me.
The first will make an epoch with his lyre, And fill the earth with feats of chivalry: His fancy like a rainbow, and his fire,
Like that of Heaven, immortal, and his thought Borne onward with a wing that cannot tire: Pleasure shall, like a butterfly new caught,
Flutter her lovely pinions o'er his theme, And Art itself seem into Nature wrought By the transparency of his bright dream.
The second, of a tenderer, sadder mood, Shall pour his soul out o'er Jerusalem; He, too, shall sing of arms, and Christian blood Shed where Christ bled for man; and his high harp Shall, by the willow over Jordan's flood, Revive a song of Sion, and the sharp
Conflict, and final triumph of the brave
The red-cross banners where the first red Cross Was crimson'd from his veins who died to save, Shall be his sacred argument; the loss
Of years, of favour, freedom, even of fame
To be Christ's Laureate-they reward him well! Florence dooms me but death or banishment, Ferrara him a pittance and a cell,
Harder to bear and less deserved, for I
Had stung the factions which I strove to quell; But this meek man, who with a lover's eye
Will look on earth and heaven, and who will deign
As poor a thing as e'er was spawn'd to reign,
Yet it will be so he and his compeer,
And, dying in despondency, bequeath
To the kind world, which scarce will yield a tear, A heritage enriching all who breathe
With the wealth of a genuine poet's soul, And to the country a redoubled wreath Unmatch'd by time; not Hellas can unroll
Through her olympiads two such names, though one
Of hers be mighty; and is this the whole Of such men's destiny beneath the sun? 6
The verse and sentiment are taken from Homer. 5 Petrarch.
["Why is it necessary to adopt the invidious and too common practice of weighing the transcendent talents of Ariosto and Tasso in opposite, and it were contending, scales?
Must all the finer thoughts, the thrilling sense, The electric blood with which their arteries run, Their body's self-tuned soul with the intense Feeling of that which is, and fancy of
That which should be, to such a recompense Conduct? shall their bright plumage on the rough Storm be still scatter'd ? Yes, and it must be ; For, form'd of far too penetrable stuff, These birds of Paradise but long to flee
Back to their native mansion, soon they find Earth's mist with their pure pinions not agree, And die or are degraded; for the mind
Succumbs to long infection, and despair, And vulture passions flying close behind, Await the moment to assail and tear;
And when at length the winged wanderers stoop, Then is the prey-birds' triumph, then they share The spoil, o'erpower'd at length by one fell swoop. Yet some have been untouch'd who learn'd to bear, Some whom no power could ever force to droop, Who could resist themselves even, hardest care! And task most hopeless; but some such have been, And if my name amongst the number were, That destiny austere, and yet serene,
Were prouder than more dazzling fame unbless'd; The Alp's snow summit nearer heaven is seen Than the volcano's fierce eruptive crest,
Whose splendour from the black abyss is flung, While the scorch'd mountain, from whose burning breast
A temporary torturing flame is wrung,
Shines for a night of terror, then repels
Its fire back to the hell from whence it sprung, The hell which in its entrails ever dwells.
CANTO THE FOURTH.
MANY are poets who have never penn'd
Their inspiration, and perchance the best :
They felt, and loved, and died, but would not lend Their thoughts to meaner beings; they compress'd The god within them, and rejoin'd the stars Unlaurell'd upon earth, but far more bless'd Than those who are degraded by the jars
Of passion, and their frailties link'd to fame, Conquerors of high renown, but full of scars. Many are poets, but without the name,
For what is poesy but to create
Reader! if you have already had the delight of perusing the last production of Lord Byron's muse, how must you have admired those exquisitely beautiful and affecting portraitures of the two matchless poets which conclude the third canto of the Prophecy of Dante!' We there see them contrasted without such invidious comparison, or depreciation of the one to exalt the other; and characterised in numbers, style, and sentiment, so wonderfully Dantesque, that mastering our uncongenial language, and habitual modes of thought as well as expression-they seem to have been inspired by the very genius of the inarrivabile Dante himself."- GLENBERVIE, Ricciardetto, p. 106.]
The cupola of St. Peter's.
2 ["If," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, “the high admiration and esteem in which Michael Angelo has been held by all nations, and in all ages, should be put to the account of prejudice, it must still be granted that those prejudices could not have been entertained without a cause: the ground of our prejudice then becomes the source of our admiration. But from whatever it proceeds, or whatever it called, it will not, I hope, be thought presumptuous in me to appear in the train, I cannot say of his imitators, but of his admirers. I have taken another course, one more suited to my abilities, and to the taste of the times in which I live. Yet, however unequal I
From overfeeling good or ill; and aim
And be the new Prometheus of new men,
The form which their creations may essay, Are bards; the kindled marble's bust may wear More poesy upon its speaking brow
Than aught less than the Homeric page may bear; One noble stroke with a whole life may glow, Or deify the canvass till it shine With beauty so surpassing all below, That they who kneel to idols so divine
Break no commandment, for high heaven is there Transfused, transfigurated: and the line
Of poesy, which peoples but the air
With thought and beings of our thought reflected,
Art shall resume and equal even the sway
Ye shall be taught by Ruin to revive The Grecian forms at least from their decay, And Roman souls at last again shall live
In Roman works wrought by Italian hands, And temples, loftier than the old temples, give New wonders to the world; and while still stands The austere Pantheon, into heaven shall soar A dome 1, its image, while the base expands Into a fane surpassing all before,
Such as all flesh shall flock to kneel in: ne'er Such sight hath been unfolded by a door As this, to which all nations shall repair,
And lay their sins at this huge gate of heaven. And the bold Architect unto whose care The daring charge to raise it shall be given, Whom all arts shall acknowledge as their lord, 2 Whether into the marble chaos driven
His chisel bid the Hebrew 3, at whose word