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Dante and the Animal 





Nefe gork 



All rig^kis ru»rv€d 

Set up ubd c]«lror/pcd September. 



This book aims to set forth Dante Alighieri's whole 
philosophy of the animal kingdom, to show from what 
sources he derives his knowledge, and to what ends his 
knowledge is employed. 

Originally every relevant passage in Dante's works 
was cited in full in this volume ; but considerations of 
bulk finally compelled the author to abandon such a 
luxury, and to quote only those passages in which the 
original Italian is absolutely essential to the under- 
standing of Dante. Nevertheless, no relevant thought 
in any part of Dante's works, nothing that bears on his 
knowledge of the animal kingdom, or on his artistic 
power to portray animal life, has gone unheeded. 

Many who study the Tuscan poet and philosopher 
have never acquired his language. These lovers of 
Dante will find the chapters of this book so arranged 
as to read smoothly enough even though no heed be 
given the Italian. On the other hand, specialists will 
be able, whenever they choose, to verify any translation 
by referring to the standard Oxford Dante. 

In making this book the author has often felt that 
his work might have been better had he been able to 



consult such medieval manuscripts as have to do with 
his theme. Unhappily that kind of wealth is scant in 
the New World, and he who studies the past must do 
so where there was a past, or must do so at second 

Mr. Willard F-"'"' ^^-^ ■•"''""'ed Cornell University 
with an incompi of works on Dante. 

To this library th i an early and grateful 


To others he more than a formula 

of prefatory gral y to Professor Henry 

Alfred Todd and arlo Speranza for their 

lively interest in ■ their gladly rendered 

help. To Professor inomas k. Price the author is 
grateful for many suggestions as to matter and style. 
To one more scholar he would express his gratitude. 
Professor A. V. Williams Jackson voluntarily read the 
proofs and gave assistance of the highest value. 

For the coloured miniatures thanks are due to Mrs. 
Beatrice Rossire, who made them after Zambrini's fac- 
similes of the illuminations in a manuscript of the 
fourteenth century. 

An adequate bibliography will be found in the Notes. 






• • ••• 



Decay of natare stady. Ecclesiastical influences. The sceptics' re- 
vival. Dante's orthodoxy and attitude toward science. His 
knowledge. The medieval animal kingdom. Dante's main 
sources. Albertus Magnus and Frederick II. Dante's artistic 
attitude. The animals in medieval art i-i i 



The kosmos. Adam. Immortality. Death. Intelligence. Free 
will. Scholastic psychology is anthropocentric. Dante's mani- 
festation of Comte's law of Wills and Causes. Astrology. Two 
zodlogical puzzles. BabeL Language of men, angels, devils, 
and lower animals 12-25 


Their mutiny. Fhysi9al nature. ■ Interest in man. 
devils. Angels in art 

Hostility to 




The Devil in his prime. His ubiquity. His protean character. 
Wickedness. Origin, intelligence, and language of demons. 
Devilish looks and behaviour. Dante's eicperiences with various 
fiends. Demons cause disease and storms. Demons cope 
with angels. Branca d' Oria's corpse .... 30-43 

Charon, the red-kyed ferryman 43-44 


Minos and ins tail 44-46 

How Cerbckii differs fkom Cerberl's .... 47-ji 
Pluto, the demon or wbalth. Pluto speaks gibberish 5i-S» 


The Furies S3-SS 

The Minotaur S5-56 

The Centaurs 56-60 

Their mediev^ v 
Asiisi. St. Anil 
The Harpist 

Their looks anJ fiu 

Hi» prototype, 
■nd Viigit. 
The Siren . 

Why DaDic la 
The Giant; , 

Greek giants. Nil 
ful flattery. 

Lucifer 7'-7& 

His wickedness. His faU. His looks and function in Hell. 
Not an original conception of Daiilc's. MEaning of his three 

01 and St. Francis at 
rt Cenlaun. Cmus. 


Ud. Serrice to Dante 

. - . . 66-70 

. . . 7«-7» 
Mge. V-irgil'. saccess- 


Genera and species. Lack of intelligence and of free will. Instinct 
Lack of language. Opinions of Lactantius and Galen. Lower 
animals lack immortality; have never changed; cannot sin. 
Bestiality. Dante's unwiiting heresy as to gradation of animab. 
Dante the dogmatist. Dante the poet ... 77-83 



A companion of jugglers. Imitates man 84-85 

; gives a new meaning to a passage in Jeremiah. The Angang 



VIII -^ 


«. As a demon the ounce hinders Dante. Interpretation of the sjrmbol. 

What the ounce was 88-102 

IX ^ 


^ His reputation. Pope Boniface's gift to Florence. Heraldic em- 
blem. Demoniacal type. Sordello 103-108 



A common danger in the Middle Ages. Typifies greed and raven- 
ing hunger. A foe to sheep. The werewolf Ugolino. The 
worst of the Three Beasts 109-117 

XI v^ 


Dante's antipathy. The dog's ferocity. Dogs tortured by insects. 
Curs of Arezzo. Demoniacal bitches. The poodle of Faust. 
The magic boar hound a saviour of Italy .... 1 18-126 



Disliked by all. A tjrpe of trickery and of heresies. One of the 

' stinking beasts ' 127-131 



The panther's sweet odour and power to charm other beasts. Sym- 
bol of Christ Relation to the ounce .... 132-133 



War of cats and mice. She-cat predominates in Italian proverbs 134-135 


Com'ENTS ^^^^^H 



Typifie* pilfei=is. DanW» »pplic»tioa of «n .«sopic fahle . 136-140 H 


•""■ •• — ^1 

Aristolle's statpiriRnt % 
dimly. . . 

e makct the mole im ^I 
4- ■ . • I4»-I« 

The children of Bethel 

. . . . I44-«46 

Futniahes Uante many fipircs ol speech, moally coi«enlion»l. 
Florentine race. The priest and his palfrey. Corso Donali'i 
death. How Gianni Scbicchi made shiR to get MonnaTonina 147-15J 


Typifie* a (acrUegioui icoandrel 156-15S 


Typiftei iluggardi. Balaam's ass 159-161 


Hardly arouse Dante's in»ginalion 163-167 

Id heraldry. Belled iwine. The Casenlino. How pride and anger 
cause men to wallow in Hell. The monlis and their Tantony 
pigs. Boar bunt. Huw Philip of France met his death . 16S-178 




^ The Lamb of God. Dante's feeling toward sheep. Various pastoral 

scenes 179-186 



Tragedy and he-goat's bad smell. Batting. Nimbleness. A goat- 
herd and his flock. Various obscurely allegorical scenes . 187-194 


An etymology 195-196 



Fishes with his tail in the land of the gluttonous Teutons • . 197-199 



A medieval otter hunt 200-201 



A rarity in the Middle Ages. His significance to Dante . . 202-203 



In northern and southern literature. The whale and the camping 

sailors. Significance of the whale to Dante • . . 204-206 


^ His fondness for man. How certain jobbers swam in Hell . 207-2x0 

Demoniacal frogs. Her 


I. Eicaping linni 


In the Zodiftc. Flsh-poni 
Did Pope Marlin die 
or drinking loo mucl 

ges. The Ktiy bream. 

y of Bolsena's cck and 

How Gciyon moved 



D ayrabol of Chris 


Furnish Danle with varied imagery 130-136 


Not a noble sport like falconry. Dinit's singular applications aj7-2j9 


A lordly iport. Frederick II. Andrea Cione's fresco. Frederick's 
Dt .trie I'rnaHi/i enm Az'iitu. Dante eialts hawks and falcons. 
A disappointed falcon. Caesar's eyes, llie hood. Seeling. * 
A sparrowhawk's dub and clutch 240-352 




A soaring scavenger * 253-254 



Miraculous vision. Renewal of youth. Arms of Polenta. The 
Imperial Eagle. A magic eagle. Eagle in a field or. The 
Celestial Eagle 255-263 



His bad name. Fables 264-265 



Odd flight and beautiful song 266-269 



Procne and Philomela 270-271 



Solomon's dove. Theology. St. Peter's meeting with St. James. 

Doves frightened from their feeding. Francesca and Paolo 272-279 



Souls of the lustful borne on like starlings .... 2S0-282 



Their flight. They sing ' lays.' Alphabetical cranes. Cranes winter 

on the Nile. An awkward figure 283-289 




niich»llering«nd irection foi: young 290-2ii 

Why Dante m»kei .... 394-aQ6 

Only while »w»ni k f . . . 197-399 

A boMter. Anecdote of St. Benedict 300-301 


The daughten of nerius. Magpies' language .... 303-303 

A misunderstanding of Boethiut. How tbii biid acts sometimes at 

dawn 304-303 

Lives five hundied years. There is only one. How the phetiii 

burn* and comes to life again. How he looks . . . 30^311 


A proTerb. The jwalluw sings ' lays' 3'2-3l3 

• • 




An heraldic goose. Sluggish geese. Goose that miraculously saved 

Rome 314-315 



His good reputation. The Cock of Gallura. The Cock and the 

Pearl 316-320 



His appearance. Albertus Magnus's difference with Isidor of Seville. 
Dante's dragons are hot as fire and wreak harm also with the 
tail 32X-324 


His obvious characteristics. Dante's choice 325 



Swarm in Hell. Libya. An incendiary serpent and other monsters. 
Infernal transformation. The serpent of Eden. The genera- 
tion of vipers. The viper of Milan. Dante's attitude . 326-334 

Identification 335-337 


Is a cold animal and strikes with his tail 33^-339 



Salan a worm. Demoniacal moggoti. Silk in lul;. Ptjrcbe . 340-343 


Natural and demoi .... 344-345 


Dante') petftct im .... 346-347 

' ' Diet o( St. John the Baptist 34^-349 

^ GreEOfy '" cobweta. Araclinc 3S**-3S ' 


The Myrmidons. Curious action of the tbide* 35^-354 


- " Wax and honey. Mystery of instinct. The Heavenlj' Rose. The 

humming of water in Ueli 355-359 


INDEX 365-376 


Com' occhio segus suo falcon volando. — Paradiso, xviii, 45. 

Front a XIV century MS. After Zambrini • . Frontispiece 


An Angel. From a MS. of the ' Hortns Delidamm/ XII century. 

After Didron 26 

Ckrbkrus. From an ancient vase 47 

Giontys Centaur and St. Francis, at Assisi. After C Fea . 56 

A FiGiTRE on St. Mark's at Vsnics. After Ruskin ... 62 

A Dragon. From a medieval MS. After Cahier ... 63 

The Christ of Salerno 74 

A Three-headed Satan. After Didron 75 

A Veltro or Boar Hound. From a medieval MS. After Viollet- 

le-Duc 1x8 

Qual i quel cane che abbaiando agugna, 
E si racqaeta poi che il pasto morde, 
Che solo a divorarlo intende e pugna. . . . 

Infernot VI, 28-3a 

From a XIV century MS. After Zambrini . . fucing 120 
The Griffin Foe of the Colt. From a medieval MS. After 

Cahier 224 

The Griffin Foe of Man. From a medieval sculpture. After 

Cahier 228 


King Danchi and his Falconer. From a XIV century MS. 

After Zambrini facing 242 

A Sparrowhawk clutching a Partridge . . . facing 250 
An Eagle testing his Eaglets. From a medieval design. After 

Cahier 255 

The Traditional Pelican. From a medieval design. After Cahier 294 

The Generation of Vipers. From a medieval MS. After Cahier 332 



From Aristotle to Lucretius a slight advance was 
made in the study of nature. But, not long after 
Lucretius, the world-loving Romans fell, and in their 
stead there rose a new power whose aim was to save 
men from sin and help them to win everlasting life. 
For more than a thousand years the best minds of 
Europe bent most of their energies to the making of 
creeds and to the propagation of the Faith. The wave 
of culture that had swept toward the west from the 
shores of Hellas ebbed slowly out, and those brave 
truths which the Greek gods had inspired no prophets 
to deny seemed irrevocably lost. 

Ignorance and war, famine and plagues, gave rise 
to such imiversal misery that men came to look upon 
the earth as little better than hell; but from all their 
woes, if they were loyal to the Faith, they were to 
be rescued by an all-powerful God. Why, then, waste 
their efforts in studying worldly things ? Had God not 
revealed to His scribes the enigma as to how all things 
had arisen, and how all should end.^ Christendom 
answered yes, and the priesthood had grown strong 

B I 


enough to threaten with the first and second death who- 
ever was so impious as to doubt their interpretation of 
God's Word. Yet the puzzle of life's beginning and 
apparent end haunted men still; for the old spirit of 
inquiry had never died out but Im-ked in the darkness 
like the fauns and men even now en- 

countered in the di: Is. Gradually there 

arose, nct mereiy an t in the very bosom 

of the Church, min lat the whole truth 

was not yet known in that, there grew 

up a belief that, aft£ ht be some truth in 

other religions, and t Faith. On the 6th 

of December, 1269, Etienne Tempier, Bishop of Paris, 
summoned the masters of theology and, ' in harmony 
with them, condemned thirteen propositions which were 
almost all only maxims of Averroism ' : that the in- 
tellect of men is one and the same ; that there was 
never a first man ; that the soul, which is the essence 
of a man, secundum quod homo, is dissolved with the 
body; that God recognises no single things; that 
human acts are not governed by divine providence ; 
that God cannot give immortality, or save from cor- 
ruption a corruptible or mortal thing. 

In 1 277 the Averroists had made bolder strides, for, in 
that year, the following propositions were condemned : 
that theological sermons are founded on fables; that 
nothing more is known by knowing theology ; that 
there are fables and falsehoods in the Christian religion 
as in others; that the Christian religion hinders learn- 
ing ; that the only wise men are the philosophers ; that 
there is no more excellent condition than to follow 


philosophy; that no heed should be paid to the Faith 
if anything is called heretical. 

The belief in Averroes' infidelity and blasphemy 
. to have reached its height about 1300,^ and it is 
astonishing that these heresies, which bear so directly 
upon the philosophy of the animal kingdom, should not 
have been condemned by Dante, who put Averroes, 
not among the heretics or Epicureans, but with Hip- 
pocrates, Galen, and Avicenna, in Limbo. Yet Dante 
disbelieved in all but one or two of the propositions 
condemned at Paris. Dante is indeed the greatest voice 
of orthodoxy in the Middle Ages, and his views as 
to the origin and destiny of the animal kingdom are 
never fittingly hostile to those of the Faith. Without 
a glint of suspicion he accepts the Scriptures, which he 
seems to have read from beginning to end.^ But he 
also accepts the testimony of dreams,^ and regards 
pagan literature as a source of truth hardly inferior 
to the divine.' Once he approves the experimental 
method * so hostile, and at last so fatal, to orthodoxy, 
but elsewhere bids men be content with the quia, — with 
knowing that things are as they are, — for, if men had 
been able to understand everything, there would have 
been no need for Mary to bear Christ.* 

i nothir 

the Divin 

lificantly tragic than the fate of 

Comedy njore 
Ulysses. Like 


' Renak, Aitrrois tt tAverrolsmt, 3d ed., pp. 268-269, 299. 

* Dt Mm. Ill, iv, 87-91 i xiv, 27-32. 
*Piirg. XXVIl, 92-93. CoHV. II, ix, 101-113. 

* Consider his altitude toward Aristotle and Virgil, and Dt Mo- 
, MdweAia, patsi'm. • Faraii. II, 94 ff- ' ^rg- III, 37-45- 



Genoese who, in the year 1291, sailed out toward the 
mysterious horizon and never reached home, that Greek 
wanderer, insatiate of knowledge, had ventured too far 
on the unknown, forbidden seas. He and his rash 
mariners beheld the glittering host of stars over the 
Mountain of Purgatory, but a storm smote them and 
they were swallowed up.' 

The fate of Ulysses is like that of Adam and Eve, 
rashly tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of 
good and evil, and cursed, even as the inquisitive Greek 
was di\'inely punished for having dared to sail to the 
'uninhabited world.* Science stands here face to face 
with Revelation, confronting the priest who has issued 
a mandate from his shrine. Thus Ulysses — the U lysses 
of Dante — is one of the first to give up his Ufe for 

It may he clear now why Dante, great as he was, 
made no important contribution to zoology, to anthro- 
pology, or to any other science." As a poet he imagined 
for the world objective portraits of men, and even of the 
lower animals, so truthful that they arouse more admira- 
tion now than ever before. The emotions and thoughts 
of the Middle Ages found their greatest interpreter in 
Dante, for he felt passionately, loved and hated with all 
his soul, shared in the strife and gentleness of his time, 
and heard myriad voices delivering up the secrets of 
myriad hearts. He wished to know all that could be 

' /«/. XXVI, 90-142 ; Purg. I, 130-132. 

' This stalemenl I intend to demonstrate at another time. That 
Dante made no contribution to zoology, save in the very dubious 
case of the mole, will be shown in this volume. 




known, yet was never quite free of an awe that kept him 
from achieving still greater things than he achieved. 
He made no discoveries for science, yet knew all that 
the Trivium and Quadrivium could teach, and had an 
almost unequalled understanding of men. Taken for all 
in all, Dante is the most wonderful man of the Middle 
Ages, because he is their most perfect expression. In 
the world's literature where are we to find another poet 
who, witting or unwitting, has embodied in his works a 
complete philosophy of life, of the origin of things, of 
the earthly condition and destiny of beasts and men, of 
their dissolution and passage into the afterworld ? All 
this Dante has done, and so fully that we find in him, 
not only the more scientific beliefs, but also the folklore 
and superstitions of the thirteenth and earlier centuries. 
But Dante's theories as to the great mysteries, and as to 
what science has a right to do, are medieval. 

In Dante's time the words 'animal kingdom' meant 
Ifar more and yet far less than now; for not only had the v^ 
/best minds failed to observe the infinite variation of 
/ actual forms, but had come to believe in a multitude of 
j things that never existed. Thus, somewhere between 
the moon and the seat of God, were beings called angels, 
whose more or less ethereal existence sorely puzzled the 
theologians. On the angels alone they have written 
many volumes. Other volumes they devoted to the 
devils, who were very numerous and much more per- 
plexing than the angels. Besides these there existed a 
host of fabulous creatures, such as the incombustible 
salamander, and as the caladrius, who fluttered over sicki/ 
beds and by his straightforward or averted glance fore- 

^v.vii^c. iKivc not a bookish origi 

ulk ot his kno\\lcdi;o can be traced to Aris 
.alia elassies — mostly to Virgil, Lucan, an 
the Bible, and, finally, to a score of medic 
(ledists, theologians, and makers of beast 
: Brunctto Latini says of his Tresor applies 
le medie\*al encyclopedias, whose authors, 
etto, rarely acknowledge their debt * And, 

not say that this book is extracted from m 
, nor from my bare science, but it is like a 
ney culled from various flowers; for this b< 
iled only of wondrous saying^ of the authors 
c our time, have treated of philosophy, eac 
ig to the part he knew; for earthly man c 

all, because philosophy is the root when 

all sciences that man can know.* 
t the streams that flowed down to the ency< 
from the ancient springs had not grown more li 
^ir long and devious passage. The same la 
ical lore and of philosophical insight that 1 

d the heroes of old into knights errant, Virgi 

hanter, and heaven j^^*^- - ' 


tion, by a credulity without bounds. With a few excep- 
tions, such as Frederick of Swabia, an atheist to his 
contemporaries, and Albert the German,^ of Bollstadt, 
boldly heretical at times in his frank blurting of what he 
had seen, there are to be found between Aristotle and 
Lamarck few thilikers in whom the spirit of experiment 
rules, who seek the truth without fear. • 

Albert of Bollstadt concedes to the lower animals ^ / 
memory, sagacity, shrewdness, foresight, and imagina- 
tion, but denies them capacity for abstraction.^ He was 
thus in advance of Dante. Frederick II, whose menage- 
ries were disliked by beggars and the populace,^ wrote 
after his visit in the Orient a most remarkable work on 
ornithology, DeArte Venandicum Avilms,3n anomalous 
example of descriptive scientific literature in the thir- 
teenth century. Instead of credulously copying the bes- 
tiaries and other unthinking, ^grotesquely superstitious 
works on natural history, he observes with his own eyes, 
draws judicious conclusions, and often rises to poetry by 
simply telling the truth. The royal sceptic is five hun"* 
dred years ahead of his time. He rejects Aristotle's truly 
scholastic opinion that birds cry at night because they 
are weary of flying, and declares they do so rather to 
call their companions (lib. I, xx). His remarks often 
foreshadow the keenest researches of modem science ; 

^ Albertus Magnus, as Professor H. A. Todd has suggested to me, 
means perhaps Albertus of Magna, i.e. ' la Magna,^ ' V Amagna,^ or 
Germany. Dante calls Albertus Magnus 'Alberto della Magna,^ 
Gmv. Ill, V. 113. 

* De Animali^y lib. VIII, tract, vi, cap. i, and XXI, i, i. 

•Cf. Renan, Averrohy p. 291, and Von Raumer, GeschkhU 
der Hahinstaufen^ 2d ed., vol. Ill, p. 427. 

other hand, Dante as an artist not only ex( 
main all his contemporaries and forerunner! 
shines the best writers of antiquity. Vet in h 
Dante laboured under enormous disadvantagi 
of the animals he mentions he could never 1; 
why, then, should he not have believed in fii 
and in the beaver that fishes with its tail? 
enjoyed no such privileges for study as wa 
royal power had given to Frederick, nor dil 
in so wild a country as Germany. 

What, now, is Dante's artistic attitude toi 
lower animals ? With a few exceptions, their i 
interests him only in so far as it furnishes him 
to make us comprehend the actions of men, ( 
and of angels, or in so far as the animals fur 
sons for the guidance of man. He neither 1 
portrays them wholly for their own sake. Al 
centuries had passed when they found their fi 
literary interpreter in Leconte de Lisle. Vet 
he most accurate artistic observer of his tin 
vill to be right is obvious in the smallest thii 


Nel tempo che colui che il mondo schiara 
Lafaccia sua a noi Hen meno ascosa, 
Come la tnosca cede alia zenzara} 

In the hour when he who lights the world 
His £ice from us least hides, — when flies 
Are yielding to the gnat. 

It is summer, then, and close to the hour of gnats. 
Flies are disappearing; for each insect must work and 
rest in Nature's great scheme of toil and sleep. 

On the other hand, we find in Dante a curious use of 
certain lower animals, which was not, however, extraordi- 
nary then. Some of them, in more or less demoniacal 
form, he puts into Hell to offend or torture the damned. 
Hell to Dante was not a mere state of mind, but, like 
Purgatory and Heaven, a real place,^ a part of the Ptole- 
maic system, as it had been to many another, and to St. 
Jerome.' That ferocious beasts, or wasps, reptiles, 
and other horrors, should continue there their earthly 
relation to man was natural, though Dante would prob- 
ably not have introduced an infernal menagerie into any 
thoroughly orthodox hell.* 

Under priestly guidance,^ throughout the later Middle 

* Inf, XXVI, 26-28. (The zenzara is the common mosquito.) 
«/if/. II, 13-28; VI, 94-99; VII, 56-57; X, 10-12; XXXIV, 

1 12-139. Purg, XXV, 79-108 ; XXVI, 12. Parad, XIV, 37-66. 

* Com. in Epist, ad Ephes.j Migne, Patrologiaj vol. 26, col. 531. 

* For conceptions of a hell infested by loathsome animals, see 
Dr. Paul Carus, The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evilj 
pp. 181-182. 

*'Non est imaginum structura pictonim inventio, sed ecdesix 
catholics probata legislatio et traditio,^ Maxima Bibliotheca Patrum^ 
XXVII, 325, dted by E. P. Evans. 

H^B^ialT-real, or the utterly fabulous creat 

e animal IdQgdom swarmed, in wondrously c 

jiiatures, in the beast books, in stories of 

lives of the saints, in the blazons of petty nob 

kings. More than in dwellings, they were car 

e walls of cathedrals, in that age when thought. 

so readily turned into stone. Never was there 

len creatures not men had so wide and curious I 

the fancy of moralisers and of those who carriJ 

sir commands. If we would appreciate that aj 

ist somehow contrive to cast off for a whilj 

:per knowledge of the animal world. We 

ieve again in the magic power of the basili: 

kingly discernment of the Hon, in the evil e 

wolf and his inflexible neck, in the sweet t 

the panther, and the dolphin's friendship for 

must become the subtle, yet credulous, childr 

thirteenth century. Not only that, but mon 

t cease to believe ourselves the common shart 

ral law, imagining once more that the world 

ted for us alone; yet, in that very exclusion, we 

rd our fellows in the inimil lrin~i1nm IT hmiMM 




hand, what is horrible, degrading, unpardonable, must 
be figured in the viper, the dragon, the toad, — in some 
creature whose nature has inspired men from time 
immemorial with disgust or fear, revealing to him, 
through a perverted philosophy, works of evil, in truth 
or fancy, like his own. If we can achieve this task, 
we shall have begun to live in the medieval world of 


Dante Ali OH lERT beliei i to be a motionless 

globe' in the midst of nit revolved by Intel- 

ligences called angels.^ S these nine spheres 

is the motionless Empyrea is God, from whom 

all being comes.* At the centre of the earth was the 
bottom of Hell, "the point to which all weights are drawn.' 
At the summit of our hemisphere stood Jerusalem/ and 
exactly opposite were the Antipodes, or rather the Ter- 
restrial Paradise, and this was surrounded by sea.^ 

In the Terrestrial Paradise God created Adani,^ for 
Adam was not horn. Adam was created on the sixth 
day, and God's reason for beginning mankind was to 
offset the loss suffered in Heaven by the fall of about a 
tithe of the angels, who sinned almost as soon as they 
were created.^" 

^ Parad- XXI 1, 133-13S. Conv. Ill, v, 53-65. 

' Conv. II, vi, 99-10::. s /«/. XXXII. S. 

' Conv. II, ii, 48-65. •/«/. XXXIV. 110-1 11. 

• Conv. Ill, vi, 46. Epist. X, kx, iici. ' /«/. XXXIV, 113-115. 

* Farad. IX, 84. Cf. B. Latini, Trtsor. p. 151, 'Terre est ceinle 
et environn^e de roer ... ce est la grant mer qui est apel^e Oceaae.' 

•/Wy. 1, 22-34; XXVIII, 91-94. Trtsor,p. 161, 'Ed Indc est 
Paiadis teirestre. . . . Et sachiez que apris le pechiif dou premier 
koine cest leus fti clos a tour autrcs." Cf. Piirg. I. 130-132. 

*• Conv. II, vi, 95-99. See chapter on ■ The Angels,' p. 26. 



Unlike that of the brutes and plants, man's soul is 
the breath of God; for, as soon as the articulation of 
the brain is perfect, God, the ' first mover,' joyfully turns 
to the unborn child and breathes into it a new spirit full 
of virtue.' Thus come immortality and that intelligence 
which sets man over the other animals. 

Not every one believed in immortality in Dante's time. 
It is safe to say that in no earlier medieval epoch had so 
many leaders disbelieved in another life. Boccaccio 
records that Guido Cavalcanti held more or less the 
opinion of the Epicureans, and that when he came 
pondering among the common folk they said he was 
seeking to prove there was no God. Ottaviano degli 
Ubaldini — 'the Cardinal' — is reported^ to have said, 
' If there is a soul, I have lost it a thousand times for the 
GhibelUnes'; and Frederick II, according to Villani,* 
lived almost like an Epicurean, deeming that there was 
no other life, and this was one chief reason why he fell 
out with the clerics and with Holy Church. These three 
great men were put by Dante into Hell with Epicurus; 
yet Dante betrays that he, too, had meditated anxiously 
on the mystery of an after life, for he is not quite con- 
tent to believe the Faith and seek no farther, but appeals 
to the testimony of dreams, and cries out that of all 
' bestialities ' the stupidest, vilest, and most pernicious is 
to believe that after this life there is no other.* He 
cites Aristotle On the Soul, Cicero On Old Age, and even 

' Parad. VH, 139. Purg. XXV, 37-60, and comment of H. F. 
TozER in Ah En^hh Commentary to Dante's Divina Conimedsa, 
Oxford, 1901. 

* By Beovenulo da Imola. ' VI, I. * Conv. II, u, 49 ff. 


the 'laws,' that is, the religions, of Jews, Tartars, and 
Saracens. But for the lower animals death is the end. 
Toward thcni Dante seems to have had a certain tender- 
ness at times, but his sympathy is mainly conventional, 
ant! he expresses nowhere a word of regret for their 
fate, nor for tl ' " ' 

If, now, the m, is immortal, why does 

he die ? In tl )k of Wisdom (II, 24) it 

is said that ' tl le devil came death into 

the world,' ant ic same theory, declaring 

that as by one into the world and death 

by sin ; so dea 11 men, for that all have 

sinned. Dant intence of St. Paul, but 

follows it up wiin i.u.i.1... obscurity to make one a 

little uncertain as to whether he believed that we should 
have lived on forever in the bliss of Eden had Adam 
not sinned. It is highly probable that Dante held such 
a belief. But what does he mean by the ' second death ' .' 
As to this there should be no mystery. The essence of 
Dante's conception of death is that the soul, having left 
the body, passes into Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell. 
There is no cessation of life. Indeed, the soul, unable 
to die, must enjoy the rapturous peace of Heaven or 
endure the sufferings of Hell through all eternity. The 
second death is not annihilation, but it is God's award 
to those who have not lived righteously according to the 
standard of Dante and of Mother Church.* All this is 

' De Mm. II, xiii, 7-11. Cf. St. Alglstine, De Ch'. Dii, XIII, 
I. r4. 

■/h/.I,ii7. E^/j/.VI,29. Ct.\.AQT\Kl\V^D€OripneErroris, 
lib. II, cnp. 13 : (-Quare duo sc.xus ia homine: quid sit mors eius 


MAN 15 

true of man, but the brute's soul dies altogether, and if y 
dogs, wasps, serpents, and other animals are found in ^ 
Dante's Hell, they are there to satisfy a tradition that 
had been born with the earliest conception of a hell. 
More than that, they fulfil an esthetic necessity. Dante 
believed in a real Hell wherein man suffers by means of 
a ghostlike body till after Judgment Day, when he may 
resume his own ; but there is no good ground for sup- 
posing that Dante had other than poetic notions as to 
the presence of any lower animal in Hell or Purgatory. 
Man is immortal because he can reason. The inte/- 
Uctus possibiliSf or mind capable of growth, which renders 
him the most perfect of the animals, is a special dispen- 
sation of the Creator.^ Having lost reason, man becomes V 
a 'beast* Not only has man the potential intellect. 
He has, also, free will, — the greatest gift of God to man, 
and to man alone and to the angels was free will given. 
There exists even such a thing as absolute free will.^ 
Psychology was in its childhood in Dante's time. The 
schoolmen, slaves to a pedantic vocabulary, followed in 
ruts frozen hard as stone. The best of them, as St. 
Thomas Aquinas and Dante (for Dante, too, is often a 
schoolman), had little capacity to discern the infinite 
variations, blendings, evolutions of thoughts and things, 
but blocked off their philosophy into squares. They 
seem never to have perceived how infinitesimally small 
is the proportion of acts attributable to free will, nor 
could they develop any sound theory, hampered as they 

I»ima, quid secunda,^ etc.) : '. . . Earn poenam secundam mortem 
nominavimus, quae est et ipsa perpetua, sicut et immortalitas,^ etc. 
* Parad, V, 19-24. ' Parad, IV, 76, 109. 


were by the dogma that man is the reasoning animaL 
Their psychology was wholly anthropocentric, and was 
spun, like the spider's web, out of their own bowels. The 
system of St. Thomas is as clear as crystal and could be 
shattered as easily, and Dante, as a theorising psycholo- 
gist, differs in no essentia.1 way from the theological, 
anthropocentric tenets of the Angelic Doctor. It was 
as a poet, not as a theologian, that the greatest of Itahans 
looked with unclouded eyes upon nature. 

Dante maintained the dogma that the will is free, yet 
recognised not only predestination. Providence, heredity, 
and environment, but also miraculous interference and 
the influence of the stars. God keeps watch over men, 
and when their works displease him he steps in and sets 
things right again. He knew that some of the angels 
were to 'fall' a moment after their creation; knowing, 
also, that Satan would mislead Adam and Eve, he made 
Hell betimes to be ready for their sinful progeny. 


These words Dante read over the portal of Hell. When 
Rome's capitol was almost in the power of the Gauls, 
God saved his favoured race and thwarted the Gauls by 
the warning cry of a goose ' that had never been seen 
there before.' ^ So, too, Regulus, Cincinnatus, and 
Camillus acted at God's instigation,^ and God "took a 
hand ' when the Romans were fighting the Albans, even 
as Jahveh, when his other chosen people were faring ill, 

• See chapter on 'The Goose,' p. 315. 

* Conv. IV, V, 134-139. 

MAN 17 

had stopped the sun. Dante had a theory as to the 
reign of law ; so had St. Thomas, but law had to cease 
where miracle began. 

Not only has the deity of Dante's philosophy an inces- 
sant interest in the affairs of man,^ but man himself is 
able to influence the actions of God. In Heaven there 
are special pleaders who have their wards, their god- 
children on earth, for whose sake they change the mind 
of God and soften his judgments.^ 

Man is at his best almost an angel through intelligence 
and free will, but he is also at another moment almost 
the plaything of Fortune. Were not Dante the poet 
and Dante the dogmatist so often at odds, we should 
wonder at his almost heathen conception of Necessity 
(saeva necessitas, apciyKr))^ driving on Fortune, whom 
he lauds by putting into the mouth of Virgil words that 
Boethius had uttered in his De Consolatione Philosophic} 

' O Master mine ! still more would I be told ; 
This Fortune whom thou mentionest, what is she 
Who seems all riches in her clutch to hold ? * 
* Poor creatures ! * he exclaimed, * how blind are ye ! 
Through what excess of ignorance ye fall ! 
Would ye might learn from this discourse of ours, 
That He, whose wisdom, so transcending all, 
Gave to the heavens He framed, presiding powers. 
That sphere to sphere might each responsive shine, 

^ CoHV. IV, v, 155-176; II, xiii, 30-33. Epist, VI, 1-8, and 
De Mon.^ passim. 

* Inf. II, 94-96, 123-125. 

' See A. Graf, La Credenza nella FatalUh in MUi^ Leggende e 
Superstiziani del Medio Eva, As to predestination, cf. Epist, V, 
1 1 6- 1 1 9, with Thos. Aquinas, Summa^ Pr. pars, qu. xxiii, art. i. 

^ II Metr, i, 2, and Pros, i, 2. See comment of Tozer. 



And every pan «i[h t-ijiial radiance beam. 

So to earth's glories ,ilso did assign 

One general guide :ind guardian power supreme ! 

She in due turn wealth's empty dower translates 

From race to race, from blood to blood, unchecked; 

Hence come the glory an/1 Aiwav nf entes, 

Obeying all a power whc t; 

For like a serpent in the d. 

While mortal wisdom 'g? in vain. 

She, even as other gods rield. 

Disposes, guides and reg ). 

No truce to her mutatio: 

Necessity compels her tt 

So thick the claimants to nci owd; ■* 

She 'tis at whom such mangling terms are cast ; 

Even those who most should (iraise blaspheme her most, 

But her their curses little can annoy, 

For blest is she, and with her fdloiv host, 

The first-created, whirls her sphere in joy.' ' — Parsons. 

What has now become of that free will which makes 
man so much like the angels? Yet Dante at no other 
time came so close to pagan fatalism, and we must 
study him more to find the range of his philosophy. 
In the Banquet he fiercely inveighs at the injustice of 
Fortune, affirming that the imperfection of riches is 
to be noted in the recklessness of the way they come, 
in which no distributive justice shines, but iniquity 
almost always.' Again, in the treatise De Monar- 
ckia,^ he says the ancients called Fortune what we 
call Providence, and once goes so far as to attribute to 

' fnf. VII, 67-96. -WTiirls' (= veilvt) is my emendation for 
'fills.' ' Cotr.-. IV, xi. 51-55. ■ Dt Moa- II, x, 70-72. 

MAN 19 

Aristotle the opinion that the more man is subject to 
intellect the less he is subject to Fortime.^ From this 
chaos we can at least draw the conclusion that Fortime 
plays havoc with the reign of law. 

Between Dante Alighieri's borrowed theories as to 
Fortune and his theories on the influence of the stars 
there is no dividing line, nor is there any other origi- 
nality than that imparted by Dante's genius for expres- 
sion in his astrological philosophy. Mostly through the 
Arabs, astrological teachings had, even before Dante's 
time, been closely allied to surgery and medicine. 
At Bologna astrology was a regular faculty of the 
University, and Cecco d' Ascoli, author of the Acerba, 
and an intellectual adversary of Dante, long held that 
chair. But astrology, in determining the influences of 
the stars on the life of man, was ever hovering close 
to the border-land of necromancy, and sometimes crossed 
the line. Both in recognising in man a temperamental 
kinship with the stars and in damning those who had 
dealt in the Black Art, Dante agrees with the orthodoxy 
of his time ; and the burning of Cecco by the Floren- 
tine Inquisition, in 1327, would have seemed to Dante 
a just meed for ' magic frauds.' 

Between the astrological lore of Ibn-Roschd (Aver- \ / 
roes) and that of Dante there was no essential differ- 

* Canv, IV, xi, 83-85. Aristotle, Ethics j X, 9, describes intel- 
lectual man as the £civourite of the gods, but see Moore, Studies, I, 
p. 253. St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle both take the rational 
view that nothing really happens by chance, but that many things 
happen ' per accidens ' without the ken of man. See comment of 
St Thomas on Physic, Arist, lib. II, lee. 9. This does not disagree 
with miracles wrought by God. 


ence, for each believed in the Intelligences arranged 
in hierarchies, and each believed that the planets or 
stars (for the name varies) had an effect on man's 
destiny.' 'If thou foUowest thy star," says Brunette 
Latini to Dante, 'thou canst not fail of a glorious 
haven, if I paid good heed in the beautiful life; and 
had I not died so soon, seeing the heaven so benign to 
thee, 1 would have given thee comfort for thy work.' ^ 
What better evidence is needed that Brunetto had cast 
the horoscope for the youthful Dante? 

Dante's belief in the influence of the stars never 
dwindled into incredulity,^ and never went so far (to his 
thinking) as to interfere with the dogma of free will.* 
The stars give tendencies before and after birth ; for 
Venus fosters loving, and astral influences cause one 
child to be bom a Solon, another a Xerxes, another an 

As man is bom under a star which influences his 
dcatiny, so he is in the care of Nature in the broader 
sense; and Nature is, on the whole, benignant toward 
man. Nature made Hippocrates for the animals she 

1 Cf. Rashdall. Tht Vtti-Jenilits of Europe in the Middle A^s, 
vol- 1, p- 344- As lo tempera mental kinship with the stars, cf. Alex. 
Nn'KAM, Ot itptem donit el septem pianelii, Wright's ed., p. 39 ff. 
Kur an analysis of Ibo-Roschd's syslem, see RE.\.tN, Averrois tl 
I'.ixtrriflsmt, p. tio ff. Of Averroes, Beov. da Imola says, ' Aver- 
H»,i non scivit .istrologiam ; sed astra non mentiuntur.' For an 
•n«l}il* of D.inic's system, coasult F. Paolo Luiso. ^ Slruttura 
Jl/Mvlf / Poelica del Faradiso Danteito,' in Rassegna NationaU, 
(w July 16, 1898, « Inf. XV, 55-60. 

* fttrf. XX, 13-14, shows Dante's belief at its weakest. 

'/^.rf. XVI. 67-71- 

»/Vf, XXX, 109-II7. /-tf/^tfrf. VIII, 1 11-148. 

MAN 21 

holds most dear; and Nature had a wise intent when 
she left oflf making giants.^ 

Two great zoological puzzles stirred the theologians : 
How could so many animals as they knew have got , 
into the ark? And how could a good God have made^ 
so many noxious beasts? — for those of a certain craft 
considered then, as now, that the world was made 
wholly for man, and that all the animals were meant 
to serve him. The first difficulty was obviated by 
enlarging the arkA The second was explained away 
in various fashions. Peter Damian dedicated to the 
monks of Monte Cassino a treatise De bono religiosi 
status et variorum animantium tropologia, which, as 
Gaspary says, is nothing else than one of the oldest 
allegorical beast books. * Nature changes, for the theo- 
logian, into a mistress of moral science. God, accord- 
ing to Damian, endowed the animals with their forces 
and qualities to the end that man, from the contempla- 
tion and explanation of them, may derive precepts for 
the salvation of his soul.'^ Such a theory does away 
with the superfluous animals. St. Augustine says: 'I 
confess I am ignorant why mice and frogs were created, 
or flies and worms. . . . All creatures are either useful, 
hurtful, or superfluous to us. . . . As for the hurtful 
creatures, we are either punished, or disciplined, or 
terrified by them, so that we may not cherish and love 
their life.'* These or like doctrines held sway in 

1 Purg. XXVIII, 97-102 ; XXIX, 136-138. Inf. XXXI, 49-57- 
Qmv, III, xii, 59 fT. 

* Cf. A. D. White, Warfare of Science with Theology^ I, 31, 54. 
' A. Gaspary, Storia delta Letteratura Italiana^ I, 29. 

* De Genesij de Trinitatej passimy dted by White. 



Christendom for nearly eighteen hundred years, and 
hold sway still over the majority, who have not yet 

learned that various creatures appeared on our globe 
ages before man, and that everything, from the rat- 
tlesnake to a hundred thousand mysterious beings 
under the sea, from the lacerating nettle to the love- 
liest rose, exists without divine reference to man ; 
that man battled with other animals for untold ages 
before he got a few of them into his power; and that 
now, as of old, millions of species exist that have noth- 
ing to do with man. Neither were they created to fur- 
nish material for sermons, nor, as used to be thought, 
to embody the Evil One, but exist, each and every one, 
for their own sake alone. And that very science which 
has afforded mankind a defence against 'noxious beasts' 
and sickening germs has also taught the more intelligent 
part of us to look upon Nature kindly, and to wonder, 
with truly religious reverence, at her infinite complexity 
and the never ceasing reign of law. 

Dante Alighieri uttered only a few words bearing on 
the noxious and superfluous beasts. He says of the 
giants : — 

Sure, Nature, when her hand forebore the skill 
To make such monsters, had a wise intent. 
Taking from Mars those ministers of ill ; 
And if she do not of her whales repent, 
And elephants, who closely thinks will find 
That she herein a just discretion shows : 
For, were ill will and strengtli gifted with mind, 
Vainly would men such argument oppose.' 

— Parsons. 
'/«/. XXXI, 49-57- 

MAN 23 

Here the theory as to the ' noxious beasts ' lingers 
still, but in a form modified, perhaps, by the inevitable 
choice of the hugest, rather than of the most ferocious, 
animals known. 

Dante had a vague theory on what we now call the 
struggle for life. 'Every animal,' he writes, *as soon 
as bom, both rational and brute, loves itself, fearing 
and shunning those things which are contrary to itself, 
and hates them.' And Dante recognises one feature of 
the differentiation of species by adding that there begins 
among animals a dissimilarity in the advance of this 
instinct, for one goes one road, one goes another.^ 

The most important of Dante's tenets hang upon the 
legend of Adam. Dante, as we have seen, held that 
Adam and Eve began life in the Terrestrial Paradise 
opposite Jerusalem. Since the Terrestrial Paradise was 
completely surrounded by sea, how did Adam's offspring 
and the animals arrive in Europe and otherwise spread 
over the earth .^ In his treatise De Vulgari Eloquentia^ 
Dante affirms that God chastised the builders of Babel 
by making them speak as many languages as there were 
kinds of artisans ; and to this confusion he attributes the 
dispersion of mankind.^ That the root of human progeny 
was planted in the East, but that after Babel mankind 
were scattered over the earth,^ agrees well enough with 
the theory as to the situation of the Terrestrial Paradise; 
but when Dante says that men came at length to the 
West, wherefore then for the first time some or all of 
the rivers of Europe slaked the thirst of rational throats, 

* Canv. IV, xxii, 48-56. ' De V, E, I, vii, passim. 

• De K. E. I, viii, ad init. 

W 24 D, 


one is prone to inquire what had become of the throats 
that were not rational. Perplexity changes to suspicion 
when Dante says that men brought with them a three- 
fold language, 'whether they came, then, for the first 
as strangers or were returning to Europe as indigenes.' 
How could they have been indigenes of Europe if they 
originated in Adam.' 

Mankind became frail through the sin of Adam. No 
wonder, therefore, that mankind was so ready to sin 
again at the persuasion of the giant Nimrod, who was 
really responsible for the building of Babel and the 
consequent confusion of tongues.' Why did God at 
the beginning grant speech to man, and why was speech 
not given to the angels and to the lower animals? 
Speech was given to men in order that they might 
exchange ideas. The lower animals, devoid as they 
were of reason, had no need of language. Dante dis- 
poses of Ovid's magpies by saying that Ovid was speak- 
ing figuratively. ' It is false that any birds speak, for 
such an act is not speech, but, as it were, an imitation of 
the human voice.' As to the serpent that tempted Eve, 
we learn that its organs were so operated by the devil 
that a voice resulted like true speech. It is interesting 
to learn from what Dante says later that the serpent 
must have spoken Hebrew. Balaam's ass, on the other 
hand, could not have protested had her organs not been 
operated by an angel. Yet neither angels nor devils 
have a language. The angels need none because they 
know everything through God ; the devils have none, for 
in order to make their perfidy known to one another 
' De V. E. I. vii, 1-33. 


MAN 25 

they need only to know each of the other that he exists 
and what is his rank ; which they do know, for they 
knew one another before their fall.^ It seems that 
medieval thinkers differed in this matter; for Richal- 
mus, a Cistercian, credits them with knowing Latin,^ and 
it would be easy to show from contemporary documents 
that they knew and could speak every idiom in Europe, 
though they often did so with a certain huskiness, or 
even whinnying. 

Of all Dante's seriously propounded quillets and quod- 
libets as to man's place in nature almost nothing re- 
mains. They have slowly faded from the minds of 
thinking men, and in their stead have come theories 
founded, not on the turning of a verbal kaleidoscope, but 
on the fearless study of all those great truths that exist 
for those who know how to find them ; not in oracles, 
but in the bosom of the earth, and in the millions of 
creatures whose complexity is everywhere and always 
governed by law. 

* De V, E, I, ii, passim. Cf. Conv. Ill, vii, 10 1 -124. 
' Cap. LXIII. Cf. p. 31, n. 5. 

From n MS. of Ihe ' Hotius D( 

XII cenlmy. Allti Didron 

The Angels 

God created all the angels, both the good and the 
bad,' but the good alone he created intentionally; the 
wickedness of the bad angels arose outside of God's 
design. Nevertheless he foresaw their wickedness." 
Those that fell became demons, and they must have 
numbered thousands.^ Those that were loyal continued 
in their various hierarchies to move the nine heavens, 
and thence they exert a certain influence on the destiny 
of men.* 

These angels are ' substance separated from matter ' ' 
(a scholastic subtlety), and are diaphanous.* Through 

^ Par ad. VII, 130-132; XXIX. 22-33. ^ Conv. Ill, xii, 66-72. 
» Farad. XXIX, 49-63. Conv. II, vi, 95-98. Inf. VIII, 82 ff. 
• See chapter on *Man,' pp. 19-20. • Cohv. Ill, vii, 47-50. 

^CiMW. II, v,4-8. a.Parad.Vi,Afi-^. 


the mirror God they know all things ; nor do they need 
language, for they have an ineffable and ready suffi- 
ciency of understanding.^ They have also immutable 
free will.^ So much for theology. What, now, are the 
poet's ideas ? 

Remote though angels are, they sympathise, not with 
Jews nor Saracens, but with Christians, and seek to 
defend them from evil.® An angel of God saved Buon- 
conte from a demon,* and when Virgil and Dante were 
hampered and almost dismayed by a band of fiends, 
there came flying to the rescue through the dank thick 
gloom of Hell an angel. 

I saw above a thousand ruined souls 
Flying from one who passed the Stygian bog. 
With feet unmoistened by the sludgy wave ; 
Oft from his face his left hand pushed the fog 
Whose weight alone, it seemed, annoyance gave. 
At once the messenger of heaven I kenned. 
And toward my master turned who made a sign 
That hushed I should remain and lowly bend. 
Ah me, how full he looked of scorn divine ! 

He reached the portals ; with a little rod 
Touched them : unbolted, instantly, they flew ; 
Then, on the horrid threshold as he trod, 
' O Heaven-expelled ! ' he *gan, ' accursed crew ! 
What frantic pitch of insolence is this ? 
Why vainly kick against the Will supreme. 
Whose mighty aim was never known to miss, 
Who to your pangs adds oft a new extreme ? * * 

— Parsons. 

^ Conv, III, vil, 46-64. De V, E. I, ii, 12-22. 

* De Mon. I, xii, 30-37. * P^rg, V, 104. 

» EpisL VIII, iii, 33-38. » Inf. IX, 79^96. 


This rescuing angel seems to have a human body. He 
speaks, and also carries a fairy wand. Thomas Aquinas 
declares that angels have not by nature bodies united 
to themselves, but may assume them, as when angels 
appeared to Lot and the men of Sodom. Thus they 
raay seem to he living bodies but they are not so; nor 
do they really speak by means of the assumed body, 
but it is something like speech in so far as they form 
sounds in the air like human voices.' It would be 
hard to find a more lucid explanation than this of the 
Angelic Doctor. 

Although the angel seemed to fly, yet Dante says 
nothing about wings. Elsewhere, however, he beheld 
such an angel as painters fancy — an angel with wings 
like a swan's,^ white wings, of course, for in Dante's 
time no European had seen any but white swans.^ His 
angels are often dazzling, are 'Ughts,' 'splendours,' 
'fires.'* Some — and they are seraphim — have six 
wings with which they make for themselves a cowl." 
Most curious of all are those angels that Dante saw 
driving away the serpent from a garden in Purgatory, 
— most curious, for they wore garments green as new- 
bom leaves, and green feathers in their wings. 

I saw that army of the gentle-bom 

Thereaflerward in silence upward gaze 

As if in expeclation, pale and humble ; 

And Erom on high come forth and down descend, 

' Summa, Pr. pars, qu. li, arl. i, 3 ; qu. lii, art. I, 2, 3. 
' Purg. XIX, 46. ' See chapter on ' The Swan,' p. 299. 

*fiirg.XV,i6. /lirflrf. XIV, 34; XXII. 46; XXIII, 28, 
' P^ad. IX, 77-78. Scartazzini cites Isaiah vi, 3, 3. 


I saw two angels with two flaming swords — 

Trancated and deprived of their points, 

Green as the little leaflets just now bom 

Their garments were, which by their verdant pinions 

Beaten and blown abroad, they trailed behind. 

One just above us came to take his station. 

And one descended to the opposite bank. 

So that the people were contained between them. 

Clearly in them discerned I the blond head ; 

But in their faces was the eye bewildered. 

As faculty confounded by excess.^ 

— Longfellow. 

When Dante wrote these words the Byzantine period 
had passed, and Cimabue and Giotto were painting 
angels more like men from the waist upward, but for 
spirituality's sake deprived them of feet. In the Vita 
Nuova * Dante says that he was busy one day drawing 
an angel, when he looked up and saw worthy men 
watching him. After they had gone he returned to his 
work, that is, of drawing angels. What were they ? 
Had they feet? Were they naked? or clad, like all 
the angelic figures of Cimabue and Giotto ? Had they 
beards or other evidence of sex ? We shall never know, 
and yet it would not be amiss to suppose that they were 
naYve figures, winged fantasies, but far less spiritual 
than the angels limned with a goose quill on the first 
manuscript of the Divina Cotnmedia, 

1 Purg. VIII, 22-36. « § 35. 


IS Brood' 

Ch' egS re di men&ogna? 

By the year i' is in his prime. Minia- 

turists painted h hapes as traditioo sanc- 

tioned or imaginaii^.. v^um > Hewn in stone, he 
still haunts the spires and balconies of the great Gothic 
cathedrals. Men fear him no longer, but he, being of 
stone, still leers over towns and cities as in the days 
when he shared with God the ever ripening harvest of 
souls. Through the Devil's pride came his fall and the 

' The reader may like to consult the following usefiil and interest- 
ing works on Demonology : Artl'ro Ghaf, // Diavolo, Milan, 3d 
ed., 1890 (delighlful, but fails lo give sources), also his Demoiwlo- 
gia di Danti, in Mili, Ltggcnde 1 Siiperslizioni dil Medio Kvo, 
Turin, 1893 ; Dr. Paul Carcs, The History of tlu Devil and Ike 
Idea of Evil. London and Chicago, 1900 (scientific and richly illus- 
trated) ; Andrew D. White, A History of Ike II 'arfare of Science 
with Theology, especially chapter on ' Possession,' and chapter entitled, 
■ From the " Prince of llie Power of the Air '' to Meteorology,' New 
York, 1898. RosKOFF, Geschichte ties Teiifels, Leipzig, 1869, is 
rather antiquated and makes dull reading. 

'Giovanni Villani saw that Dante went lo Bologna. Cf what 
Dante says in Conv. I, iii, 20-33. 

'/n/XXin. 142-144. 



fall of man.' ' Through envy of the Devil came death 
into the world.' Men had free will, yet he was the cause 
of their sins.* Men were fondly watched by God and 
his angels, but the Devil contrived somehow to get at 
last the greater part of mankind, whom he carried off to 
a region of ingenious sufferings that should never end. 
Not only was he the Tempter, but he brought diseases, 
poverty, drought, and storms.^ Though Hell was his 
lair, the Devil roved wherever there were men ;* some- 
times in the shape of a monster, sometimes as a man 
or embodied in the likeness of a noxious beast, he sought 
his prey.^ There were few or none he had not tempted. 
By many visionaries, and by churchmen whose word is 
worthy of equal trust, he had actually been seen. Who 
will doubt such authorities as St. Jerome, St. Augustine, 
and Luther ,' 

The Devil, then, existed and was greedy for men's 
souls. But how did he make shift to get them ? Had 
he in general a real body made of ' dust ' like yours and 
mine ? Or was he incorporeal ? How much intelligence 
had he ? Could he speak and converse with other devils 
and with men ? The opinions of the theologians differed 
considerably on all these points, though all — to a monk 

' Parad. XXIX. 55-56- 

'/«/. XXXIV, 36. DeMon. Itl, iii, 47. 

* See A. D. White, op. cit. I, 323-372 ; II. 27-30. 

* Lactantius, in Migne, Palrolagia., vol. 6, col. 332. 

' Richdmus {1270 A.D.) opined that devils take on the shapes (hat 
fit Iheir enterprises. See Pezii, Thesaurus Ante, novis., X. I, pars ii, 
col. 376 seq. ; Beati Rkhalmi . . . Abbalis ard. Cist, libir Rtvela- 
tionum (it hisidiis tl vcrsutiis Damonium adv. Homines. See 
RosKOFF. op. cU. 1, 305, 342, and St, Jerome, Migne, Patroloffa, 
vol. 26, col. 530 and 531. 



— believed that he existed.* That was the pivotal idea 
on which all theories swung. 

In the Middle Ages every sin was conceived by many 
to have its special demon ; so Dante sets over the vari- 
ous realms of Hell fiends whose habits match the wicked- 
ness of the damned.^ His fiends, however, are never 
beautiful, as they so often seemed to those they tempted 
on earth ; but we come upon them, naked and horrible, in 
their own domain, wherein, all occasion for temptation 
being absent, they have no reason to assume bewitching 
forms. Dante's fiends are not abstractions of evil, but 
correspond corporeally to what various devils of folk- 
lore and ancient mythology had come to be in his time. 

How came there to be demons ? One answer, from 
theology's point of view, is iiaVve and plain. Inspired 
by pride, Satan raised his brows against his Maker.^ 
For this he was cast out of Heaven with a host of re- 
bellious or neutral angels, so soon after his creation that 
you could not count twenty. As these angels had been 
arranged in orders before the fall, so, afterward, they 
maintained a kind of system. Dante's fiends hardly 
seem to rove at will, but rather to be set over special 
regions of Hell. 

IlJearly all his greater devils, such as Charon, Minos, 
Cerberus, Fluto, the Furies, the Minotaur, the Centaurs, 
the Harpies, and the Giants except Nimrod, had figured 
as demigods or demons in Grasco-Roman mythology. 

' One oflence laid at the door of Avenoes was that he did not 

believe in the devil. See Renan, Averrals et rAverroisme, p. 199. 

* Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Pr, pars, sec, qu. cix, 





The early fathers, following the sentence of St. Paul, 
made the gods of the Gentiles devils.' To these we 
may add certain demoniacal beasts ; for such are Dante's 
ounce, lion, wolf, and also his black bitches, his serpents, 
his dragon, as well as certain gadflies, and wasps that 
torture the sluggards." 

Though Dante, in his treatise De Vulgari Eloquentia? 
denies that devils speak, in the Divitia Commedia he 
not only endows them with language, but lends them 
keen wits, as we shall see. Minos expresses his opinion 
with his tail, Cerberus barks, the Minotaur is dumb, so 
is Geryon ; Lucifer busies his three mouths crunching 
three traitors ; but most of the other devils speak, and 
one of them is a logician.* 

Hardly had the two poets entered through the awful 
Gate when they drew near to those sinners who had 
lived without infamy or honour. They were mingled 
with the wretched band of those that were neutral when 
Lucifer fell.^ The out-and-out rebels were met at the 
gate of Dis, whither Dante and Virgil had been ferried 
by Phlegyas across the Stygian pool. How these fiends 
look, Dante fails to say ; but there were more than a 
thousand that had rained down from heaven, and they 
wrathfully tried to keep the two poets from going far- 
ther.* It is of these thai St. Augustine wrote as follows: 
' That some angels sinned and were thrust into the 

1 See, also, Vulgate and all early 
Grat, Demanehgia di Danlt, pp. 86-87. 

of Ps. X 

' 5; f 

a Uiese va 

irious animals. 

• ■- ii- "-33, 

•/«/■ HI, 37-42. 

♦ /«/ xxvn, 122-123. 

•/«/.vm, 81-130. 



lower part of this world which is to them as a prison 
even to the final damnation to come on Judgment Day, 
the Apostle Peter shows clearly by saying that God will 
not spare the sinning angels, but thrusting them into the 
prisons of nether darkness he will give them over to be 
punished on Judgment Day.' By whom? The query 
is hard to answer. Dante's fiends are all wrathful, and 
often quarrel, but seem to relish their business, which 
they ply with an energy not outdone even in the heyday 
of the Inquisition. 

Dante's fallen angels, however, show a sense of justice 
and are keen in making the penalty fit the crime. Se- 
ducers and panders, for instance, are scourged by horned 
demons. But why are they horned ? Could not some 
other kind have handled the scourge as well.' Horns 
were worn in the Bacchic orgies,' and have been the 
emblem time out of mind of those who have sullied 
conjugal honour,' This is why Dante saw homed de- 
mons lashing seducers and panders with great whips. 

This side and that, along the livid stone 
Beheld I horned demons with great scourges. 
Who cruelly were beating them behind. 
Ah me ! how they did make them lift their legs 
At the first blows ! and sooth not any one 
The second waited for, nor for the third." 

— Longfellow. 

' Ovid, Mel. IV, 19. Catullus, LXIV, 263. 

'Cahier (Mitangts. 11, 3s) reproduces a design of lajs A.D., 
which shows Charity holding in her left hand a turtle dove, emblem 
of conjugal fidelity. Beneath is a shameless woman astride a he-goat 
labelled 'LUXU RE.' 

'/«/.XVm, 34-39- 



Other demons have gaEfs with which they hook sin- 
ners bobbing in a pool.^ The Centaurs shoot arrows at 
any one that emerges from the boiling blood ; ' and the 
schismatics, such as Mahomet and Bertran de Born, are 
forever being ripped open by sworded devils.^ Not only 
have these devils gaffs, swords, and arrows, but their 
own claws or other unnamed weapons with which they 
render eternal life unutterably dreadful for the damned. 

In Antenora, — a pit of the traitor's hell, — Dante 
grasped one sinner by the hair, saying, 'Tell who thou 
art or not a hair shall stay.' 'Though thou make me 
bald, I'll never tell thee.' With barks of pain the 
smner, fearing recognition, kept his eyes stubbornly 
bent down, and Dante had already twisted and pulled 
out more than one shock when another cried: — 

' What doth ail thee, Bocca ? 
Is it not enough to clatter with thy jaws 
Bui thou must bark ? What devil touches thee ?" 
— Longfellow. 

It is probable that Dante meant to have devils in most 
parts of his hell, for here are devils at the very entrance, 
others at the gates of Dis. Bocca's companion suspects 
the presence of one near the bottom of Hell, and the soul 
of Guido da Montefeltro was carried by a devil all the way 
from Minos, who judges all the damned, to the eighth 
bolgia of the eighth circle, or next to the last. The fres- 
cos of Pisa show how these diabolical body-snatchers 

» Inf. XXI and XXII passim. » Inf. XII, 73-75. 

«/«/ XXVIIl, 37-42, Cf. Tundal's Vision, Scdta di Curiosity 
Lett., vol. 118, p. 43. • /«/ XXXII, 106-108. 


carried off their burdens, Dante saw one laden with a 
sinner come running to a pool of heaving pitch. 

I saw it heave, and then, comprest, subside j 

And while I gazed intendy as I could 

Down in the den, ' Beware ! ' my leader cried, 

And drew me toward himself from where 1 stood. 

I turned, like one who lingers to behold 

Something ihat, seen, might weil persuade his flight, 

Yet, as his blood with sudden feat grows cold. 

Checks not his speed to satisfy his sight ; 

And saw a fiend not far behind our back. 

Rushing up toward us o'er the rocky road. 

How fell his aspect was ! how fierce and black ! 

And oh, what cruelty his gesture showed 1 

Swiftly, with outspread wings, he skimmed his way ; 

Across his high and peaked shoulder cast, 

A sinner's carcass on both haunches lay, 

The fiend the ankle sinews griping fast, 

' Ye of our bridge,' he cried, ' curst-claws ! I bear 

One of Saint Zita's elders In my clutch j 

Plunge him down deep and back I will repair 

To fetch you more. His land breeds plenty such : 

There, save Bonturo, every man's a cheat ; 

There yes of no for money they can make.' 

Hurling him down, back o'er the hard rock, fleet 

He sped like a mastifTset some thief to take. 

The sinner plunged, then, doubled up, arose 

While underneath the bridge more demons cried: 

' No sacred visage ^Ta!ebolge knows ! 

Far different swimming this from Serchio's tide 1 

Unless by our fell forks thou wouldsl be maimed. 

Look lest thou get above the pitch by chance.' 

More than a hundred prongs at him they aimed, 

Crying, ' Here under cover ihou must dance ! 

So, if ihou'rt able, do thy filching hid ! ' 


And struck him down as cunningly as cooks, 
Lest the meat rise above the cauldron, bid 
Their scullions keep it under with their hooks.' 

— Parsons. 

This black devil with the sharp shoulders and wings 
was a pet type of medieval artists,^ but is none the less 
extraordinary, for he seems to know ail about the 
Ancients of Santa Zita; yet how did he get his informa- 
tion? In verse 8 of canto V the damned are described 
as confessing their sins, and in verses 55-57 of canto 
XXIII we learn that the band of devils to which our 
black cherub belongs could not leave their ' fifth ditch.' 
Whence, then, did this devil fetch his victims ? Are 
we to suppose that he possessed miraculous knowledge, 
that he had learnt the sinner's offence and the wicked- 
ness of Lucca through a chain of demons reaching up 
to Minos; or that Dante has made a slip? There are 
slips not a few in the Divina Commedia. 

The band to which this devil belongs numbers ten, 
and, quite as old acquaintances of ours are called Old 
Nick, Old Scratch, and otherwise, so these have signifi- 
cant nicknames — Badtail, who is the chief, then Dog- 
face, Harlequin, Swinetusks, Frost-treader, and so forth,' 
— but the names of the others bafHe translation. With 
this troop advanced Dante and Virgil. 

I have, ere now, seen cavalry shift camp, 
Segin the assault and muster in array; 
And sometimes in retreat with rapid tramp ; 

i/«/XXI, 19-57. 

• CfiSAWUS Heisterbacensis, Diatogus Miraculorum, Distinctio 
V, cap. 5. • Inf. XXI, passim. 


Light horsemen o'er your Gelds have I seen play. 

Ye Aretines ! and squadrons as they passed, 

The dash of tournaments and tilting knights, 

Sometimes with drums and oft with tniinpet blast, 

And bells and signals given from castle heights, 

With foreign instruments and with our own ; 

But horse or foot I never saw before 

Moving to music of so strange a tone, 

Nor ship by any sign of star or shore. 

With those ten fiends we went. Ah, troop of sin ! 

Fearful companionship ! but ever so 

With saints at church, with gourmands at an inn ! ' 

— Parsons. 

No wonder Dante thought himself in bad company ! 
One of the devils, at least, has a tail, another has tusks 
like a wild boar, and probably all have wings. One has 
a snout, and one, Rubicante, is mad. They show their 
teeth and are eager to get not only their hooks but their 
claws into a sinner. With raised eyebrows they threaten 
griefs to God's wards, — so Dante fears, — but Virgil 
cheers him. 

' Fear not,' he answered, ' let them snarl at will ; 
'Tis for their seething victims only meant.' 
By the left bank the fiendish cohort veered ; 
But each his tongue first pressed his teeth between 
And with this signal at their leader leered. 
Who blew a bugle note of sound obscene,' 

— Parsons. 

Dante feared these devils ; yet High Providence had 
decreed that tl.ey should never leave their pil.^ Hence 

» Inf. XXII, i-is- ' /"/. XXI, 133-139. 

»/«/. xxin, SS-S7- 



they could not follow him with their hooks. Had such 
limitation existed for all devils, how could they have got 
into human bodies or raised storms ? According to the 
Gospel of St. Mark* Jesus wrought miraculous cures. 
'At even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him 
all that were diseased, and them that were possessed 
with devils . . . and he healed many that were sick of 
divers diseases, and cast out many devils ; and suffered 
not the devils to speak because they knew him,' At 
another time the Saviour rebuked an unclean spirit, say- 
ing, 'Hold thy peace and come out of him. And when 
the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud 
voice, he came out of him.'* The story of the Gerge- 
sene swine and Huxley's essay are so well known that 
one need scarcely cite them. That this belief in demonia- 
cal possession flourished until it was at last overcome by 
science, during the Renaissance, has been demonstrated 
by Mr. Andrew D. White in his History of the Warfare 
of Science with T/uology? But had Dante this supersti- 
tion ? One of his sinners, being bitten by a serpent, falls 
' like a man bound by an oppilation or dragged down by a 
demon.'* Had Dante not believed in demoniacal pos- 
session, he would have been a heretic in the opinion of 
perhaps all his lay contemporaries, to say nothing of the 

Not content with entering men's bodies, devils disturb 
the very elements and raise great storms. Buonconte 
da Montefeltro told Dante in Purgatory how after his 
death at Campaldino a good and an evil spirit strove 

■ i, 3i, 34. « n. 97-167. 

^Jiid. 23-26. */«/. XXIV. 112-114. 



for his soul; how God's angel won and the evil spirit 

cried : — 

'O thou from heaven, why dost thou rob me? 

Thou bearest away the eternal part of hlra. 

For one poor little tear, that takes him from me J 

But with the rest I'll deal in other fashion ! 

Well knowest thou how in the air is gathered 

That humid vapour which to water turns, 

Soon as it rises where the cold doth grasp it. 

He joined that evil will, which aye seeks evil, 

To intellect, and moved the mist and wind 

By means of power, which his own nature gave ; 

Thereafter, when the day was spent, the valley 

From Pratomagno to the great yoke covered 

With fog, and made the heaven above intent. 

So that the pregnant air to water changed ; 

Down fell the rain, and to the gullies came 

Whate'er of earth it tolerated not ; 

And as it mingled with the mighty torrents 

Towards the royal river with such speed 

It headlong rushed, that nothing held it back." 

— Longfellow. 

This Buonconte da Montefeltro, whose soul was car- 
ried off by an angel, though his body was washed down 
to the sea through the agency of a devil, — this 
Buonconte had a father less fortunate. St Francis 
came for his soul, but one of the black cherubim cried : 
'Take him not away; do me no wrong. He must come 
down among my minions because he gave the fraudulent 
counsel, for which I have ever since been at his hair ; 
for he who repents not cannot be absolved, nor can re- 
pentance and a sinful will exist together because of the 
' Purg. V, 103-IJ3. Cf. White, ofi. at. 1, 336-350. 



contradiction, which admits it not' 'O sorrow,' cried 
Guido, ' how I shuddered when he took me, saying, " Thou 
didst not think, perchance, that I was a logician ! " ' > 

Stranger still was the fate of one Frate Alberico and 
of Branca d' Oria, whom Dante discovered in the ice hell 
of traitors. To this friar Alberico Dante made there a 
promise which he broke in a way that will always cast 
a shadow on the poet's otherwise candid soul. 

One of those sad souls in that cold crust 

Cried : ' O ye spirits of so cruel kind 

That to the lowest region ye are thrust ! 

These frozen curtains from mine eyes unbind ; 

Let me a little vent this bursting heart 

Before again my gathering tears congeal.' 

I answered him, ' First lell me who thou art, 

If Ihou wouldst have me those glazed orbs unseal ; 

And, if I free thee not, may I be sunk 

Down to the bottom of this ice ! ' ' My name,' 

The wretch replied, ' is Alberic the monk ; 

I'm he whose fruit from no good gardens came; 

Now for those figs of mine I get this date.' 

' What ! art thou dead, then ? ' I exclaimed ; and he 

Answered me thus : ' I know not in what state 

My body in the upper world may be. 

This one advantage beareth over all 

The rest of Hell our Ptolemfean part. 

That oft the soul is hither doomed to fall 

Ere Atropos compel its final start. 

That thou more willingly mayst rub away 

These frozen drops that overglaze my face, 

Learn that no sooner doth a soul betray. 

As I did, than a demon takes its place 

1/m/". X.XVII, 113-133. 


Who rules the body till its term be nm, 
While to this cistern here the soul is hurled j 
Even now perchance the body of this one. 
Who winters here behind ine, walks the world ! 
If thou but newly art descended here. 
His outward semblance haply thou mayst know : 
Thai's Master Branca d' Oria ; many a year 
Hath glided by since he was chained below.' 
' Now 1 believe thou'rt mocking me,' said I ; 
' For Branca d' Oria surely hath not gone 
To his grave yet, but in the world on high 
Eats, drinks, and sleeps, and puttelh raiment ou.' 
' Ere to the foss of those cursl-claws,' he said, 
' Up where the pilch boils, Michel Zanche came ; 
This caitiff left a devil in his stead, 
Yea, in his own and in his kinsman's frame. 
One who shared with him in his traitorous plot. 
But put thy band forth now and let me see : 
Open mine eyelids ! ' And I ope'd them not; 
Rudeness was courtesy to such as he.' 

— Parsons, 

It was not, as Scartazzini fancies, an ingenious inven- 
tion of Dante's to imagine a devjl in a corpse which he 
causes to appear alive. Ciesaritis of Helsterbach had 
written a century earlier of a cleric whose body was 
enlivened by a devil instead of a soul.^ Indeed, there is 
nothing truly new in Dante's conception of the devil and 
his works. Dante took what suited his purpose from 
literary traditions or from the folk-lore of his time. No 
human mind could imagine a new colour, though Nature 


' Ofi. cil. XII, 4, 'De derico cuius corpus diaholus loco animi 



might reveal one. Nor could Dante or any other poet 
devise something wholly new. Dante let his fancy play 
on old designs, and his genius enabled him to give them 
a life which has not yet gone out. 

Having endeavoured to show Dante's theories and 
superstitions as to devils, and his method of expression, 
we shall now consider certain other demons. 


Charon,^ whom Dante took bodily from Virgil,^ is the 
first of our poet's demons whom he names, and is still, 
as of old, the Ferryman, whose task is to carry the leaf- 
light souls across Acheron. Dante sees him coming 
through the gloom, an old man with hoary locks. He 
has fleecy cheeks and eyes that glow like blazing 
coals; for Charon is wrathful, and wrath may be said, 
by a stretch of imagination, to make a man's eyes 
flame. In darkness a man's eyes are invisible, but those 
of a dog or cat are lighted, as it were, by a ' diabolical 
glow.' This natural phenomenon may explain all the 
devils with red or flaming eyes that ever disturbed Chris- 
tendom. A red-eyed fiend appeared to the virgin Agnes 
Blannbekin, who flourished under Rudolph of Hapsburg 
and Albert I of Austria ; ' and Tundal saw in his vision 
black imps whose eyes seemed lamps aglow.* Not only 
are Charon's eyes like hot coals, but are encircled by 
rings of flame. These are purely diabolic and Dante's 
own invention, devised, perhaps, as a substitute for the 

'/«/. Ill, 82-129. "'^w- VI, 298-301. 

• Cf. RosKOFF, Gackkhlt des Ttuftls. I, 344. 

* See SctUa di Curios, tell., vol. 13S, pp. 6S-69. 



black rings that often encircle the eyes of persons given 
up to violent sorrow. 

Dante's Charon, shade though he may be, is strong 
enough to beat the spirits with his oar and to row them 
over Acheron. Loyal to infernal precedents, he bids 
Virgil and Dante angrily to go another way, but Virgil 
answers, ' Charon, be not wrathful ; thus it is willed there 
where will is power and ask no more.' Then the Fer- 
ryman's fleecy cheeks were still. 

Is Charon naked or not ? Virgil clad him like a dirty 
Roman. Dante mentions no cloak, and, as most of his 
lost souls except the hypocrites are naked, it may be 
consistent thus to imagine Charon. 

No necessity of allegory forced our poet to alter essen- 
tially the looks of this demon, but Charon has undergone 
a shght change of soul, for he seems to know that he is 
no longer a servant of the antique Gods. In thirteen 
hundred years the world above him has made some 
changes in its divinities and demons, and Charon, son of 
Erebus, feels that he must obey the new regime, 


Having been ferried across Acheron, the lost souls 
arrive in some mysterious manner or are fetched by the 
black cherubim into the presence of Minos,' — one of 
the most ingeniously devised and probably the queerest 
of Dante's infernal functionaries. After thirteen hun- 
dred years Minos has grown a tail — the chief justice of 
the nether world has a tail I — and no ordinary append- 
'/«/. XXVII, 112-114. 




age, but so long that he can wind it round his body 
nine times. And Minos snarls. The imagination 
struggles to see him as he stands at the entrance to 
the dark kingdom. 

There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls ; 
Examines the transgressions at the entrance ; 
Judges and sends according as he girds him. 
I say, that when the spirit evil-born 
Cometh before him, wholly it confesses ; 
And this discriminator of transgressions 
Seeth what place in hell is meet for it ; 
Girds himself with his tail as many times 
As grades he wishes it should be thrust down. 
Always before him many of them stand ; 
They go by turns each one unto the judgment ; 
They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled, 
' O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry 
Comest,' said Minos to me when he saw me. 
Leaving the practice of so great an office, 
' Look how thou enlerest and in whom thou tnistest ; 
Let not the porlal's amplitude deceive thee.' 
And unto him my Guide, 'Why criest thou, too? 
Do not impede his journey fate-ordained ; 
It is so willed there where is power to do 
That which is willed ; and ask no further question.' ' 
— Longfellow. 

Extraordinary fantasy ! This demon Minos can speak, 
but rather than do so to the sinners, he decides upon 
the enormity of their crimes by the twists of his tail, 
which must be kept going day and night at a terrific 
speed to dispose of such a multitude. Dante's Minos 
has kept some of the dignity anciently ascribed to the 


lawgiver and king of Crete and to his brother Rhada- 
manthos,^ but the demigod has turned into a demon,' 
and got a tail to be used for expressing divine opinion 
as to the heinousness of the sin. Each sinner on arriv- 
ing before Minos seems to lose all guile, and make, as 
if hypnotised, a rnnfpjtsinn nf all his sins. So Minos is 
not a mind readcj nte's system of ethics, 

and is thus not i slian scholastic with a 

keen sense as to f the sinner's wicked- 

ness and as to his sin, but has a tail, like 

countless devils o and tradition. Minos, 

like Charon, gives bolical temperament in 

bursts of fury. Si he with the fraudulent 

counsellor, Giiido that, having entwined 

his stubborn back eight times, for sheer rage he bit his 
tail, then said, 'This one belongs to the thievish fire.'^ 
These words seem to warrant the supposition that the 
thoughts of Minos were sometimes too subtle to be 
expressed by his tail. 

' Cf. Edw. Moore, Stu>/ia in DanU, Firsi Series, p. 183. 
' I CoriDtliians 1, 20 ' But I say tlial the things whicli the Gen- 
tiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils.' 
'/«/. XXVII, 124-127. 


The demon Cerbero set by Dante to guard the glut- 
tonous is medievalised into a revolting monster whose 
features seem to have developed out of a refashion- 
ing allegory. Dante's words suggest some loathsome 
creature, a hybrid of dog and man.' 

lo iotio al lerzo cerchw della piova 
Eterna, maledttta,freddii e grtfe : 
Regola e qualita mat non P e rtuova. 
Grandine grossa, e acqua tin/a, e neve 
Per r aer Unebroso si riversa : 

' Femicci, in GiorH. Anadieo, 1834, tries to show that Dante's 
Cerbero is as little as possible like a dog. Wilh Femicci's opinion 
1 thoroughly agree. 


Piite la terra che quests rieevt. 
Cerbero,fiera crudele e lUversa, 
Con tre goU caninamenfe latra 
Sopra la gente eke guivi e sommena, 
Gil occhi Jta vermigH, la barba unta ed atra, 
E il venire largo, e ungkiate le mam: 
Graffiti pit sbiriti. itipaia} ed isquatra. 
Urlarg ne eani : 

Dell' tit. (' altre sehermo; 

Volgonsx rofam. 

Qiiando , il gran vermo, 

Le bocci 9f(i le sanne : 

Non avei. \esse femio} 

E il Du, ue spanne; 

Prese la • le pugna 

La git& _ ue eannt. 

Quale quel eane ehe abbatando agugna, 
E si racqiieta pm che il pasto morde, 
Che solo a divorarlo inlende e pugna ; 
Cofai si/ecer quelle faece lorde 
Dello demoiiio Cerbero che introna 
L' anime si, ch' esser varrcbber sorde? 

In the third circle am I of the rain 
Eternal, nialedict, and cold and heavy ; 
Its law and quality are never new. 
Huge hail and water sombre-hued, and snow. 
Athwart the tenebrous air pour down arnain ; 
Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this. 

' Some MSS. read 'iscuioa' (cf. Longfellow's trans.). 'Ingoia' 
is also acceptable, for Cerbero is a monster and acts monstrously. 
Cf. the actions of the ' worm ' in the vision of Alberic cited on p. 50. 

^ Cf. p. 340, note 2 ; this verse from Arnaut Daniel (cited by 
KuHNS, The Treatnuiil 0/ A'ature in Dante, p. 35), 'non ai membre 
com ftemisca ni ongla.' ' Inf. VI, 7-33. 


Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth. 
With his three gullets like a dog is barking 
Over the people that are there submerged. 

h^ has nnH unrtiimn^ [ jgijH and blaclt, 

ws his hands ; 


ters them. 


;o dogs ; 


e other ; 



reat worm 1 



1 his tusks. 



X tended 
1 well filled, 



J craves, 

e gnaws, 



I -begrimed 




be deaf. 


— Longfellow. 
;nger at the gates 



how Cerberus still 
ng tried to thwart 



le baptismal church at 

f ak 

e not) Cerberus being 

"•^B--" - - 

- re 

isting with wide-open 

mouth, but vainly. 





Scarlet eyes, a black and greasy beard, a broad belly, 
hooked hands' and quivering limbs, — such perhaps 
are the attributes of a glutton exaggerated into a 
demon ; but where shall we find these features in the 
classics or in any antique work?^ In his Genealogy 
of the Gods Boccaccio says that Cerberus had a beard. 
Whence he derived this information would be hard to say. 

Dante's Cerbero is a medieval demon ; of the ancient 
Cerberus^ nothing is left but the three jaws, the glut- 
tony, the harking, the name, and a ferocious desire to 
foil a righteous will. This obstinacy was shown by 
Charon, Minos, and by most of the demons, no longer 
forced by policy to be compliant or courteous, as they 
often were when bent on some mischief in the upper 
world. The surroundings in which Dante found Cer- 
bero are like those in which Friar Alberico came upon 
a like demon in his voyage through Hell. 

' After all these things I was led to the Tartarean 
Regions, and to the mouth of the Infernal Pit, which 
seemed like unto a well, regions full of horrid darkness, 
of fetid exhalations, of loud shrieks and loud howlings. 
Near this Hell was a worm of immeasurable size, bound 
with a large chain, one end of which seemed to be 
fastened in Hell. Before the mouth of this Hell there 
stood a great multitude of souls which he absorbed at 
once, as if they were flies ; so that, drawing in his 

' Cf citation from jEiteid gtvea in chapter on 'Harpies,' p. 6[. 

*The figure reproduced above is from vol. VIII, pi. ix, of Man. 
/ned. pubblicati liiilr htitiito di Corrisp. Archiol.^ and differs in no 
essential respect from another plate (tav. xxxxix) in vol. II. 

■ Probably Virgil's. Cf, ^n. VI. 417-423- 


breath, he swallowed them all together ; then, breath- 
ing, exhaled them all on fire, like sparks.' ' 


After their encounter with Cerbero the two poets came 
upon Pluto, the great foe, keeping watch over the fourth 
circle, in which were punished niggards and squanderers. 

'"Pape Satan, pafe Satan akppe" began Pluto, with 
his clucking voice. And that gentle sage, who knew 
everything, said to comfort me, " Let not thy fear hurt 
thee; for whatso power he have shall not take from 
thee the descent of this rock." Then he turned to that 
swollen lip and said, " Be silent, accursed wolf ! inwardly 
consume thyself with thine own rage ; not without cause 
is this going to the abyss; it is willed on high, there 
where Michael did vengeance on the proud adultery." 
As sails swollen by the wind fall in a heap when the 
mast snaps, so fei! to earth the cruel beast.'* 

Again an ancient deity, Pluto or Plutus,^ reappears 
after thirteen centuries as a devil whose shape is mon- 
strous, but as impossible to define as is the meaning of 
his uncouth language. Could Pluto have meant to 
blaspheme? Pape is the regular Italian equivalent of 
pap(P,* a word used in Boethius* to express astonishment. 

1 Longfellow's translation of the Vision 0/ Friar Albtrtc. 

' Inf, VII. 1-15, Norton's translation. My opinion as to Pluto's 
jargon was not formed until I had read both the older writers and 
the modern critics. 

• Sm Paget Tovsbee, Dante Dictionary, s.v. ' Pluto.' 

* 'Pap»' in MSS. would often be wrilien 'pape.' 

* De Cpus. Ph. IV, Prosa ii, ad init., 'Turn ego, papjc inquam, 
(It magna promitlis ! ' See other citations in Forcellini. 



Satan may be an invocation of the Evil One, or merely 
a profane cry; but aleppe — what can aleppe mean? 
St. Ambrose says that the first letter, Aleph, means 
doctrine.^ Another patristic writer devotes a chapter 
to show that Aleph means Christ, for Christ is the first 
of all." Could Pluto have meant to cry, 'Ho, Satan! 
Ho, Satan! Christ!' Such blasphemy would be natu- 
ral in a demon. Nor should any one wonder that Pluto 
has been able to pick up a little Hebrew in the course 
of so long a life. Indeed, all the infernal functionaries, 
no matter what their own tongue may have been, could 
hardly fail to gather many oaths from the cosmopolitan 
throng of sinners. 

Pluto uses gibberish, but why has he a harsh or 
clucking voice.' A certain Richalmus, who flourished 
about 1270, being bothered in the performance of his 
priestly functions by various devils, cried out, ' Behold 
how during my discourse the devils pester me with 
coughing; thus the demons do their talking,'^ Cassa- 
rius of Heisterbach records that the devil, on being 
asked why his voice was so rough, replied, ' Because I 
am always burning.' * 


For setting fire to the Delphian temple of Apollo, 
Phlegyas was slain by that god and doomed to everlast- 
ing punishment in the lower world. Dante makes of 

' Expos, in Ps. cxviti, Migne, Palrolopa, vol. 15, col. 1263. 
' MiGNE, Patrologia. Perhaps Laclanlius or Jerome. See Parad, 
XXVI. 17. » Cf. RosKOFF, GtsckicMe des Teu/els, I, p. 337. 

* Op.cil. I. p. 319. 




him a wrathful demon, and, stranger still, a ferryman, 
who against his will carries Dante and Virgil across the 
Stygian marsh to the city of Dis, of which Phlegyas is 
the guardian.^ Since the souls of those who came be- 
fore Minos are sentenced and then hurled below or 
carried down by devils, Phlegyas can only seldom have 
had any ferrying to do;^ yet there was a system of 
signals so devised as to inform this demon of the arrival 
of passengers, and we may imagine these signals in 
charge of various devils. 

Of Phlegyas's looks Dante has not a word to say. 
Like most of his kind, Phlegyas is hot-tempered, and 
gives way to his wrath on discovering that he has failed 
to gather in another lost soul. Phlegyas is a shade, yet 
seems fairly to fly in his little craft, which is very old- 
Scarcely has he landed his visitors when they are hin- 
dered by a band of more than a thousand nameless 


Having passed the band of more than a thousand 
devils, Virgil and Dante are again hindered by three 
Furies, who suddenly rise on the glowing top of a tower 
in the city of Dis.* These Furies are stained with blood, 
have feminine limbs and demeanour, have small horned 
serpents for hair, and are girt with greenest hydras. 
Virgil, who knows well these minions of the queen of 

' Inf. VIII, passim. On Phlegyas, see Tovnbee, Dante DiciioH- 
ary, s.v. 'Flegias.' 

' See H. F. Toier's comment on Inf. VIII, 19. 
■ See pp. 32-34. 
*/»/. IX, 35-38. 


everlasting sorrow, cries to Dante: 'Look at the fierce 
Erinyes ! This is Megara on the left ; she that weeps 
on the right Alecto. Tisiphone is in the middle." 
Thereupon Virgil was silent. With their nails all were 
tearing their breasts, beating their palms, and cr>ing 
so loud that Dante ' ' ard Virgil for dread. 

'Come, Medusa, anc im to stone,' they all 

said, looking down. lour we did not make 

Theseus atone for 'Turn away,' spoke 

Virgil, 'and keep si »; for, if the Gorgon 

appeared and thou re would be no hope 

for thy return.' W is Virgil drew Dante 

close to him. 

O ye who have sound understanding 
Think well upon the doctrine hidden 
Beneath the veil of mystic rimes ! ' 

Thus Dante calls our attention to the meaning of these 
fiends whose ethical purpose is to hinder the soul's 
progress toward repentance. These Furies are past 
sins whose mere appearance is to make man despair 
of God's mercy. The Gorgon typifies despair. Such 
is Butler's interpretation, Alexander Neckam takes 
Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megiera to symbolise respec- 
tively evil thoughts, evil speech, evil deeds. ^ 

From Virgil Dante got the idea of putting these 
Furies on the tower of Dis;^ their bodily characteristics 
are almost all from Statius,* but their behaviour is an 

' Inf. IX, 37-63. 

» Wright's ed.. p. 134. • ^n. VI. 554-555- 

» Tkebaid, I, 103 ff, Cf. MoORE, Studies in Dante, First Series, 
p. 245. 




inventioa of Dante. Like Filippo Argenti and Minos, 
they tear themselves, being overcome by wrath. Of 
Dante's many demons only one is mild, and that is 
Geryon, ' the foul image of fraud.' 


To watch over the seventh circle Dante has set the 
Minotaur, and we are now far down in Hell where the 
Violent are plunged in Phlegethon, a river of boiling 
blood. The monster, whom Dante seems to have left 
in the ancient medley of man and bull,' lies in a 
rocky place at full length. Hard by are scurrying Cen- 
taurs. On seeing Virgil and Dante, the ' infamy of 
Crete ' bit himself like one whom anger racks within. 
Then Virgil shouted : ' Maybe thou believest that here 
is Athens's duke who put thee to death up in the world ? 
Go, beast, for this one comes not by thy sister's teaching 
but goes to see your torments.' At this taunt the 
Minotaur went staggering like a bull that has got 
the death blow, and Virgil cried warily : ' Run to the 
pass ! While he is maddened it behooves thee to go 

One may well believe that this monster, whom Dante 
and Virgil could pass with impunity only while he was 

' Cf. Virgil's idea, .^n. VI, 23-26. In a mosaic pavement of San 
Michele Maggiore in Pavia one may see Theseus slaying the Mino- 
laar wilh a club. Tlie Minotaur is designed with a bull's body and a 
man's head. These figures are surrounded by this inscriplion, 
Danle probably got his main idea from Ovid, Mel. VllI, 156-161, 
166 ff. Whether Dante thought Ihe Minotaur had a man's head or 
a. bull's would be hard to say. ' /«/. XII, 1 1-27. 


furious, offered a more sinister hindrance to the souls of 
the Violent on their way to bloody Phlegethon. Yet 
the Minotaur may have been lying there as a watcher, 
or merely as a gloomy symbol of that ' bestiality ' which 
Dante betokens by all these combinations of man and 


Centaurus est une autre beste, 
Poitrine, espauUs, mains, teste 
Ha tot ensi eome ont heme. 
Asne resaniie, c' est la some 
Aval par desox la eentu{[)re 
Moult est de mauvaise nature} 
A manuscript of the eleventh century in the library 
of Boulogne-sur-Mer is embellished with an illumination, 
' Le Bestiaire de Gervaise, Romania, 1, p. 430. 



r perhaps two centuries older, which represents the signs 
of the Constellations and of the Zodiac. The Archer 
here is a Centaur in a beaver cap, He may or may 
not have wings, for the drawing is obscure.^ Two 
Centaurs, winged, with swords and shields, and fighting 
listlessly, are sculptured on the cathedral of Freiburg-ira- 
Breisgau.' A German checkerboard (1260-1300 a.d.) 
shows amid other monstrous figures a curiously pudgy 
Centaur who has just let fly an arrow. ^ But the most 
famous of all medieval conceptions of the Centaurs is 
at Assisi.* 

There Giotto, Dante's contemporary and perhaps his 
friend, has best wrought the conception of the Middle 
Ages. St. Francis on his knees before the Virgin is 
taking the vow, and to one side is a horror-stricken 
Centaur. With his lifted hand he seems to protest at 
the saint's surrender. 

From the tenth to the sixteenth century Centaurs 
often occur, especially on church doors. On the bronze 
portal of Augsburg one is shooting at a lion, another at 
a man. Similar scenes are carved on the churches of 
Brenz and of Aries ; for Centaurs, from antiquity down 
through the Middle Ages, were used to symbolise the 
overruling animal passions. St Jerome records that 
when St Anthony, in the nineteenth year of his age, 

' Gazette del Beaux-Arts, vol. S7, pp. 107-108. 

' Cahier, Sfilanges, vol. I, pi. xxiv. 

' Von Hefner-Alteneck, Trachten, Kunst-merke und Geratk- 
ichafttn, vom fruhen Mittelalter bii Ende des Aefitaehnitn Jakr- 
hunderts, lA ed., II, pUtes cxxxvii and cxxxvili. 

' Carlo Fea, Descrix. ragionata delta . , . basilica papaU <d 
S. Franeuco d* Assist, pl. vii. 


went to visit St, Paul the Hermit, in the desert, he met 
a creature half man and half horse. The saint made 
the sign of the cross as a protection against diabolical 
influences, and then inquired the way to Paul's hermit- 
age. Thereupon the stiange hybrid uttered some harsh, 
semi-articulate whine ' " id, pointing with his 

right hand in the p , galloped off. This 

apparition, according :, was an emissary of 

Satan sent to frighter . Anthony.' 

Dante not only m entaurs demons, but 

punishes them (how, jd to say) by setting 

them on guard over the seventh circle of 


A moat I saw, with Villi's words agreeing. 
Of ample width and bending like a bow : 
While thus it seemed to compass all the plain. 
Between it and the precipice's base 
Ran Centaurs armed with arrows, in a train, 
As in the world they once pursued the chase. 
They stopped at seeing us advance ; and three 
Rushed with their bows (their arrows choosing first), 
And one cried afar off : ' What seek ye ? 
What destined round adown the cliff accursed ? 
Speak where you stand, or else I pull the cord.' 
' Not unto thee, to Chiron there alone. 
Will we give answer,' thus replied my Lord : 
'Thy will to rashness evermore was prone.' 
Then touching me, he said : ' 'Tis Nessus ; lo' !; ! 
Who for the beauteous Dejanira dying, 
Himself full vengeance for his murder took. 

' Cf. E- P. Evans. Animal SyntboUsvt in EccUsiastical Archi- 
tecture, pp. 317-318. Cf. also GreGORv, Morai. in Job. lib, VII, 28, 
and I Cor. ii, 14 (Vulgate). 



Behold the middle one his bosom eyeing ; 
That is great Chiron, who Achilles bred ; 
And yon is Pholus, erst so full of ire. 
By thousands thus about the streamlet's bed, 
They gallop, shooting each that riseth higher 
Than his offence permits him to ascend.' 
As nearer to those agile beasts we drew, 
Grim Chiron, with an arrow's feathered end, 
Behind his jaws his long beard backward threw. 
And thus his giant mouth the monster showed. 
' Do ye perceive,' he to his comrades said, 
'The one behind in walking shakes the road ? 
Not so are wont the footsteps of the dead.' ' 

— Parsons. 

When Virgil had explained to Chiron the cause and 
aim of their journey, asking guidance and a Centaur to 
bear Dante, Chiron turned to Nessus, and, mounted on 
him, our Florentine rode along the crimson pool. On 
the facade of the cathedral at Chartres in France may 
be seen another rider mounted on a Centaur, but there 
is some difference between what that sculpture means 
and the privilege vouchsafed to Dante. 

These Centaurs vary little from the antique. Cacus, 
however, whom Dante, misinterpreting Virgil," made 
also into a Centaur, is a monster. Dante met him in 
another region of Hell ; for Cacus was in life not only 
violent, but violent with fraud. The poet saw him tn 
pursuit of a sinner. On his back swarmed snakes up to 
the nape, and there lay a fiery dragon.^ So the Furies 

'/«/. XII, 53-82. SeeToYNBEE, DanU Dictionary, 1. v.' Cm^xari.^ 
' ^ti. VIII, 193-I99, eapeciidiy 194, See ToiraBEE, Dante Die- 
\ tioMory, s.v. ' Caco.' • /«/. XXV, 17-33. 


had snakes for tresses, and snakes writhe on the Cer- 
berus of Virgil, but no such Centaur as this snake — 
and dragon -rid den Caco has come down from ancient 
times. A bronze Centaur in the Louvre bears neither 
serpents nor a dragon, but a Cupid, whose graceful pose 
and air of happiness ' ' o a friendship between 

hira and the Centaur 

After their encoui ; infamy of Crete ' and 

the Centaurs, Virgil ime to a pathless wood, 

— not such a wood own to living men, but 

one where the fronds are dusky and the branches knotty 
and twisted. No fruits are there, but poisonous thorns. 
This b the abode of the Suicides, whose souls are in the 
weird plants, and here dwell the Harpies, — brooding 
thoughts embodied in ghastly, birdlike shapes that for- 
ever haunt and torture those who have done violence to 

There do the hideous Harpies make their nests, 
Who chased the Trojans from the Strophades, 
With sad announcement of impending doom ; 
Broad wings have they, and necks and faces human, 
And feet with claws, and their great bellies fledged, 
They make lament upon the wondrous trees.' 

— Longfellow. 

Now, when the soul of some suicide reaches this forest, 
it goes to no established place, but whither fortune wills, 
and there grows up in a plant. The Harpies, then, feed- 
ing on the leaves, create pain and for the pain an outlet.' 

' /«/. XIII, 10-15. ' l"/- XIII, 94-101. 



In the Harpies Dante has made several important 
alterations. Not only has he removed them from the 
Strophades to Hell, but he has modified their looks and 
actions. Virgil gives them virginly faces, wings, befoul- 
ing bellies, mouths pallid with hunger, hooked hands.^ 
In Dante's Hell they appear with broad wings and feet 
with claws. In giving them hooked hands {nncacque 
ttianus^), Virgil was perhaps foliowing the traditionary 
sculptural form which shows the Harpies with both feet 
and hands.^ Dante's description agrees perfectly with 
a Harpy carved on the capital of the first column to the 
right of the portal on the church called San Clemente at 
Cesauria, This sculpture antedates 1 200 a.d., and may 
be as old as the ninth century.* 

' Cf. /«/■ Xni, 14, with In/. VI, 17. See chapter on 'Cerbero,' 
pp. 47-49. 

'j£m. Ill, Z09-217: — 

' ServatuRi ex undii Strophadum me lilore piimum 

AccifnuDl ; Strophades Graia stsinl nomine dictae, 

Insulae lonlo in mapio. quoa din Cclaeno 

Hiipfiisqae colutil atiae, . , . 

Trislius baud illis moDsmim, nee saevlor ulla 

Pesdi cl ira deum Stygiis sese titulit undis. 

Vii^Dei volueram tuIIub focdissima Yenlris 

Proluvies. uncaeque muius, cl pallida semper 

Ora fame." 

Cf. also .«■»«. in, zjsff. 

• See two designs on pp. 264 and 265, vol. I, of Hisloiri de la 
sculpture grtcque, by M. Collignon. 

* See H. W. Schultz, DenkmdUr der Kunst des MitUlatten 
in UnttritaHtn, Atlas, pi. Iv. 

The two poets move forward to the left until they come 
to the brink of an abyss. How shall they get farther 
down ? Virgil, well versed in magic and in the trickery 
to be used with demons, taking from Dante a certain 
cord, casts it into the void. Hardly has the charm 
fallen when there rises, swimming, a wondrous figure, 
the demon Geryon.* 

' " Behold the wild beast with the pointed tail, that 
passes mountains, and breaks walls and weapons; behold 
him that infects all the world." Thus began my Leader 
to speak to me ; and he beckoned to him that he should 
come to shore near the end of the trodden marbles. 
And that loathsome image of fraud came onward, and 
landed his head and his body, but drew not his tail 
upon the bank. His face was that of a just man (so 
benignant was its skin outwardly), and of a serpent all 
the trunk beside ; he had two paws, hairy to the armpits ; 
> Imf. XVI, 106-136. 



■ his back and breast and both his sides were painted with 
nooses and circles. With more colours of woof and 
warp Tartars or Turks never made cloth, nor were such 
webs woven by Arachne. 

I' As sometimes boats lie on the shore, so that they are 
partly in water and partly on the ground, and as yonder, 
among the gluttonous Germans, the beaver settles him- 
self to make his war, so lay that worst of beasts upon 
the rim that closes in the sand with stone. In the void 
all his tail was quivering, 
twisting upwards its ven- 
omous fork, which like a 
scorpion's armed the 

'The Leader said, "Now 
must needs our way bend 
a little toward that wicked 
beast that is couching 
there." ' ' — Norton. 

Virgil leaves Dante a moment in order to get Geryon 
to lend them his strong shoulders; meanwhile Dante 
speaks with the usurers; but, fearing to delay overlong, 
turns and finds Virgil mounted on the back of the 'wild 
animal' Geryon. At a word from Virgil to be sturdy 
and bold and to mount in front, — for Virgil wishes him- 
self to ward off the baneful tail, — Dante obediently seats 
himself on the great shoulders, shivering as if in a quar- 
tain fever. Then Virgil gives the word: 'Geryon, bestir 
thee now. Wide be the rings and the descent be slow. 
Mind that thou bearest strange freight.' 
' Inf. XVII, r-30. 




At this command Geryon backs slowly out; then, fe^ I 
ing himself quite free, turned his tail where his breast * 
had been, and, waving it like an eel, he gathered the 
air in with his two clawing limbs. Slowly in circles i 
Geryon swam down into the thundering abyss and there ] 

set his riders siiUer'"- ■" ^s off like an arrow from ^ 

the bow.' 

Such is the demt Of the three-bodied king ' 

of Spain ^ who by a is said to have kept open 

house to strangers ah and kill them,^ nothing 

remains but the i Dante's Geryon is not ' 

wholly an original ather a blending of such 

physical traits as best siuicu the allegory of fraud. Nor 
is Geryon wholly a compilation, for in an irregular nook 
on San Marco at Venice lies a demon with a serpent's 
body and a human face slightly bestialised.* Gerj'on is, 
also, not unlike the ' mantichora ' described by Solinus 
as having a human face, a lionlike body, a tail like a 
scorpion's pointed with a sting. So nimble is this 
mantichora, so great a leaper, that not even the widest 
spaces can delay it nor the broadest obstacles.* In the 
Bible, too, are words which may have influenced Dante, 
for in Genesis (iii, i) we learn that the serpent was 
more subtile than any beast of the field ; and to St. John 

' Cf. /«/. XVII, 2 {Chepassa i monii, i rompe i muri t Varmt), 
with ivhal B. Latini says of the lynx, Tresor, p. 248, ' . . . esl de 
si clere veue, que si oil percent !es murs et les nions,' etc. 

' Cf. v£>i. VIII, 202, ' tergemious Gerjooes.' 

• Boccaccio and the Aoonimo Fiorentino. See their commentaries. 

• See RusKiN's Seven Lamps, new ed,, Sunnyside, Orpington, 
Kent, i38o. pi. xiv. 

• Lib. LIl, cap. 37. Cited by Toynbee. 


there appeared locusts ' whose faces were as the faces of 
men. . . . And they had tails like unto scorpions, and 
there were stings in their tails, and their power was to 
hurt men five months.' • So much for the man's head, 
the serpent's body, and the scorpion's sting. But where 
did Dante get the knots or nooses and the little rings? 

Lancii* in 1858, called attention to a griffin at Pisa, 
covered with a horse-cloth (gualdrappa), presumably of 
stone, in which were cut knots and little rings. In this 
griffin's decoration Dante's contemporaries would have 
been likely to see evidences of Moslem magic and devils. 
That Dante was once in Pisa seems likely from the 
observation shown in his mention of Caprara and Gor- 
gona. Nevertheless, there is far better ground for 
believing that Dante derived his main notion as to the 
construction of Geryon from Solinus and from the Bible, 
and that he probably found the little rings either in 
various illuminated pictures of the dragon,^ — a creature 
often identical with Geryon from the neck to the tip of 
the tail — or that he found both knots and rings in those 
Tartar or Turkish cloths ' from which he certainly 
derived Geryon's brilliant hues. 

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Oriental 

' Rev. ix, 7, 10, 19. 

* Dtlla forma di Geryon, etc. Lfttera al chiarhsinw profenore 
Cavalitre Salvatori Betti. Rome, 1858. This brief book has a 
frontispiece showing Dante and Virgil on Geryon. 

* See chapter on ' Dragon,' p. 321 ff., and design, p. 63. 

' See article on ' Tartar Cloths,' by P. Tov.vbee, in Romania, Oc- 
tober, igoo, pp. 559-564. When Tristtan had died they covered him 
with such cloths: covrent U d'un paiU roc. See Bartsch AND 
HOKNiNG, LangHt et LUttraiurt Fran^aiset, col. 221, vs. at. 

66 daxte and the animal kingehdm 

carpets or rugs or ' cloths ' were owned by many Euro- 
peans, who employed them in the gorgeous ceremonies 
of the Church and to adorn their houses or their per- 
sons. In their interwoven or embroidered knots and 
spangles, their little wheels or rings, their shimmering 
hues, Dante had hc*^ -^in..™ ^^j patterns to apply to 
the skin of his den; 

Taken for all in s an extraordinary fan- 

tasy,* Backing a\ edge of the abyss, he 

seems a ship with a :head ; once under way, 

he is like a fish imit uely the downward soar 

of a falcon. Yet 0' as an arrow and speeds 

away like a flash when ireea oi nis riders, whose mission 
he adequately understands. Whether or not Ger>-on 
ever had any other function than to lower visiting poets 
to the foot of a jagged rock near the trenches called 
Malebolge, is a puzzle which Dante leaves to an already 
strained imagination. 


Though the myth-makers of Asia seem to have 
attributed a fish's tail to the sirens (usually male), the 
truly classic shape of these monsters is half-woman, 
half-bird. The monuments of the Middle Ages, as well 
as the stories of the North, represent them with a fish's 
tail." In other words, the literary classic tradition yields 
to the folklore brought into Europe by the tribes that 
came out of the East. Patristic theologians and exe- 

' Chrysaon, a woman of black eyes and agreeable btx, bad the 
body of a dragon. 

' Cf. Cahier, Milangti, 11, 177. 



getes confounded sirens and mermaids, believing them 
to be real creatures expressly intended to serve as deter- 
rent types of carnal appetites and sensual enticements.^ 
They allure sailors with their song, as of old, and, having 
put them to sleep, tear their flesh and kill them. ' Such 
are they,' says Hugo of St. Victor,^ 'such are they who 
love the delights of this world, its pomps and theatrical 
pleasures. Made dissolute by tragedies and comedies, 
as if overcome by a heavy sleep, they become a prey to 
the devil.' It is the scepticism of credulity that trans- 
forms these creatures, half bird, half fish, or even half 
horse,^ into three bawds.* They sing sweetly still, but 
have lost their borrowed beasthke elements; and monk- 
ish influence, working upon Dante, has converted one 
of the sirens into a loathsome, yet almost human demon. 

NelP ora che non puo il calor diiirno 
Intepidar piu il frediio della lunn, 
Vinlo da terra talor da Saturno ; 
Quando 1 geomanti lor maggior fortitna 
Veggiotw in orienU, innansi all' alba, 
Surger per via che poco U sta bruna ; 
Mi venue in sogno una /emmina balba, 
Negli occhi guercia e sopra i pie distorta. 
Con U man monehe, e di colore scialba. 

' Cf. E. P. Evans, Animal Symbolism, p. 316. 

^ De Betliis el alus rebus, lib. II, cap. 32. 

' A Tusco-Venetian Bestiary gives Ihe three combinations. 
GOLDSTAUB UND Wendriner, Ein Tosco-Venezianischir Eesliariiis, 
p. 27. Halle. 1892. 

* IsiDOR OF Seville, Eiymnl. XI, iii, 30-31, declares the sirens 
were really three harlots. In thi.s he is followed by St. Ambrose, 
Enarralio in Ps. xtiii ; by Brunetto Latini, Tresor, pp. 189- 
190 ; Hugo of St. Victor, loc at.; and perhaps by others. 


lo la mirava ; e, come il sol eonforta 
Lefredde membra che la nolle aggraxia. 
Cost lo sguardo mio le facta scoria 
La lingua, e poscia tutta la drizzaza 
In poco d' ara, e lo smarrito vollo. 
Come amor vuol, cost lo colorava. 
Pot ch' eir avea ii parlar cost disciolto, 
Commciava a cantar si, che con pena 
Da lei avrei mio intento rivolto. 
lo son, canlava, iff son dolce Strena^ 
Che i marinari in mexzo mar dismngo ; 
Tanlo son di piacere a sentir piena. 
lo volsi Uliss£ del suo cammin vago 
Al canto mio ; e qttal meco si ansa 
Rado sen parte, si tutlo P appago. 
AncQr non era sua bocca richtusa, 
Quando una donna apparve sania e presta 
Lungkesso me per Jar coUi confusa. 
'O Virgilio, o Virgilio, chi e questaf 
Fieramente diceva ; ed ei venia 
Con gli occhi Jitti pure in qiiella ones/a. 
L'alira prendeva, e dinami tapria 
Fendendo i drappi, e mostravami il ventre ; 
Quel mi sveglib ciflpusso che «' uscia} 

V > C£ Purg. XXXI, 45 ; Parad. XII. 8 ; and Episl. V, iv, where 

^r Daote says. 'Nee seducat illudens cupiditas. more Sirenum, nescio 

H qua dulcedine vigiliam ralioDis moriificans. . . .' Hugo of St. Victor 

r writes, ' Dc Sirenarum seu Sirenmn natura.' ' Purg. XIX, 1-33. 

Ib that hour's chithness when the heat of day 
Tempers the coldness of the moon no more. 
Vanquished by Earth, or oft by Saturn's sway, 
AVhen geomancers in the East, before 
The dawn's white light subduing soon the gray- 
Read of their major fortune the bright score, 


There came, in dreaming, a woman to my sight, 

Stammering, cross-eyed, maimed in both hands, each one 

Of her feet dubbed ; with countenance dead-white. 

I looked on her, and even as the sun 

Comforts the cold hrabs all benumbed by night. 

So gave my gaze a glibness to her tongue ; 

Her shape grew straight, and love's lost colouring ran 

Back through her cheeks, as love would have them, young. 

Then, with her speech thus loosened, she began 

To sing so, not to listen had been pain : 

' I'm the sweet Siren. I am she who can 

Misguide the mariner in the middle main; 

So fall of pleasaunce is my voice lo hear I 

I turned Ulysses, with the notes I pour. 

From his vague wanderings ; and whoso gives ear, 

To grow familiar, seldom giveth o'er 

Delight in following me so wholly dear ; 

Who learns to love me, leaves me nevermore.' 

Scarce was her mouth shut when a iady came 

Up close beside me, rapid in her tread. 

Whose holy mien that other put to shame. 

' O Virgil, Virgil ! ' angrily she said ; 

'What wretch is this?' and while my master bent 

His steps toward her, fixed by her innocent face ; 

She seized that other, and her garment rent 

Before her bosom, and disrobed the place 

Which broke my slumber with its noisome scent. 

Benvenuto da Imola,^ skilled in the secrets of aUe- 
gory, discerns in these hideous attributes — the stam- 
mering, the squint, the twisted body, maimed hands, and 
deadly pallor — the physical effects of greed, trickery, 

• Comentum super Dantis Aldighirij Comoediam. Toynbee 
quotes him at length. See Dante Dictionary, s. v. 'Sirena.' 


drunken gluttony, flattery, and lust Though gross vices 
bring about physical vileness and deformity, the inter- 
pretation of Benvenuto seems valuable only because it 
embodies a belief of that time. 
■ However well Dante describes this horror, the vision 

was not new, for to ~ "' — ; celibate that ' Protean 

monster of hell ' api in pleasing guise, only 

to assume some I ipe that revealed the 

demon. Cjesarius ch tells bow a certain 

cleric sang so swet long was thought deli- 

cious by all. But e along one day, and 

catching the sweet zither-like tone,' said, 

' That is no man's voice, but tne devil's,' and straightway, 
to the wonder of all, he exorcised the devil, who went 
forth, whereupon the corpse collapsed and stank. All 
knew then that the body had long been the plaything 
of a demon.' 


There were giants in the eanh in those daj-s. — Genesis vi. 4. 

Dante believed in giants.* He put Briareus, Ephi- 
altes, and AntEeus * almost at the bottom of Hell, 

• ' Et cytharae illius dulcedinem aure percipiens. . . .' Brunetto 
Latini says of the Sirens, "la premiere chantait merveilleusement 
dc sa bouche ; I'autre de flaiit et de canon (Giamboni : ' di cetera ') ; 
la tierce de citole.' 

'' Dtalogus Miraculorum, Dislinctio XII, cap, iv, ' De derico 
cuius corpus diabolus loco anima vegetabat.' 

"See De Mon. 11, x, 84-91. De V. E. I, vii, 24-28. See also 
Coiiv. Ill, iii, 51-66, and note 64-66, which are hardly gratuitous. 
Cf. also Inf. XXXI. 49-57. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, 
also believed in giants ; see his Summa, Pr. pars, qu. li, art. 3. 

* See the adequate articles as to these giants in Dante Dictionary. 



where they were dwarfed by the immensity of Lucifer, 
and he implies that the Titans — Tityus and Typhon ' 
— were also warders at the mouth of Circle IX of Hell. 

Though the Bible hardly warrants such a conclusion, 
Orosius and St- Augustine made a giant of Nimrod,^ 
and him, too, we find doomed with the others, half 
sinner, half demon. None of them had been loyal to 
the gods or to God. Our poet saw another giant in a 
vision, and he, too. was a monster of evil.' 

From the brink of the eighth circle Dante descried 
through the foggy gloom shapes that seemed Hke 
towers. One was Nimrod. 

As long and large a visage he upreared 

As is Saint Peter's pine at Rome, and such 

His other bones proportionately appeared : 

Since from the bank that girt his waist so much 

Of his vast form was visible that three 

Tall Frieslanders could not have reached liis hair ; 

Thirty good palms of him mine eye could see. 

Below where men their cloak-clasps use to wear. 

' Rafel mai amech izabj almi ! ' Thus 

The savage mouth, which hymns of sweeter note 

Would ill agree with, straight saluted us. 

' Fool,' said ray Leader, ' hush thy clamorous throat. 

Soul of confusion ! With thy horn alone 

Vent thy brute fury, for thai brays it best. 

Search on thy neck there ; thou wilt find the zone 

That binds it dangling round ihy giant breast.' 

Then thus to me : ' The slave is self-accused ; 

Nimrod that is, to whose bad thought is due 

• /«/ XXXI, 124. See Dante Dictionary, s 
' See Danle Dictionary, s.v. ' Nembrotto.' 
» /"tf/y. XXXII. 151 ff.; XXXIII, 40-45. 

rifo' and 'Till 


Thai in the world one language is not used ; 
There let him stand, nor vain discourse pursue, 
For every language is to him a sound. 
Like to his others ; jargon without sense.' ' 

— Parsons. 

Nimrod is not only imagined as being some thirty- 
five feet high, but he speaks gibberish whose meaning 
various commentators have tried hard to divine, though 
Dante expressly states that the language of Nimrod is 
known to none. As in the northern myths, these giants 
are dull enough to be outwitted by men. By flattering 
Antaeus with the hope that Dante can give him fame, 
Virgil coaxes Antaeus to lower himself and Dante down 
toward Lucifer.* 

Though Satan knew how to take on shapes of dragons, 
wasps, and toads, of monks and damsels, or other shapes 
so numerous that all the windows of the Gothic cathe- 
drals would scarcely contain them, there existed for 
centuries in the heated fancies of credulous men one 
cause of all wickedness — the ancient adversary,^ the 
liar and father of lies,' the Evil One. Him Dante put 
at the bottom of Hell, with his gigantic body sheathed 
in ice from the middle of his breast. He is the creature 
who once was beautiful, but, having dared to raise his 
brows against his Maker, he was hurled down from 
Heaven to the Antipodes. The land fled before him 
and made our hemisphere.* 

1 /«/. XXXI, 

* Inf. XXlll, 144- 


'/If/ XXXI. 115-145- 
'•inf. XXXIV, passim. 

* Purg. XI, 20. 



Lucifer, then, is at the centre of the World, and there 
imprisoned forever he fans with six batlike wings — 
banners of Hell — whose motion freezes the stream 
Cocytus. He has three faces, — the one in front, ver- 
milion. Over each shoulder are the others ; that on the 
right is yellowish, that on the left black as faces from 
the head waters of the river Nile. Beneath each face 
issued two mighty wings, as befitted so huge a fowl, 
and at the stirring of these six wings, which wore no 
feathers, but, batlike, were covered with thick hair, 
rose three freezing winds. With six eyes he wept, and 
down his three chins trickled his tears and bloody foam. 
In each mouth he was crunching a sinner ; but his bit- 
ing was nothing to the clawing which sometimes left the 
sinner's backbone bare of skin. The sinner in greatest 
pain was Judas, whose legs were writhing. Of the two 
others one was Brutus, in the black snout; the other 
Cassius, both traitors like Lucifer. 

Now, when the two poets had seen all, they bode their 
time; then Virgil, with Dante clinging to him, fastened 
to one of the shaggy wings and climbed down from fell to 
fell, and, reaching the thigh, set Dante where he seemed 
to behold Lucifer upside down, for they had turned now 
at the point whither all weights are drawn and were 
making their way out to look again upon the stars.* 

Neither this ice-hell in which Lucifer is frozen origi- 
nated in the mind of Dante nor did Lucifer. Lucifer 
is a Gothic demon. His body is the product of the 
allegorical tendency that built churches in the form of 
a cross, and strove, sometimes with gloomy, sometimes 
^/rt/.XXXlV, passim. 


with playful fantasy, to perpetuate theological imagery 
and dogma. It was an art that revelled in the grotesque 
and often tore nature asunder in order to get forms that 
should symbolise ideas corresponding to no single natu- 
ral truth. As God, then, was the Father, the Son, and 
the Holy Ghost, and as each of these divisions of the 
indivisible Trinity signified Power, Wisdom, and Love, 
so there arose in opposition a triune demon. A Christ 
of Salerno, the product, per- 
haps, of Byzantine influence, 
is represented with three 
faces. ^ An Anglo-Saxon 
manuscript of the early 
eleventh century shows a 
Satanic image in which a 
second face is sprouting 
behind the left ear." 'The 
three-headed hoar-giant of 
the Edda, Hrim-Grimnir, 
who lives at the door of 
death,' and Triglaf the triune deity of the Slavs are 
closely akin to Dante's Lucifer.* A three-headed Satan 
appears in a French miniature of the thirteenth century.* 
Boccaccio alludes to the Lucifer of San Gallo ; Sanso- 
vino says that a devil with three mouths was painted in 
the church of San Gallo at Florence, and, finally, in the 

> For reproduction, see Die Garltnlaube, No. 47, i88i. 
»Cf. Akturo Graf, ' Demenologia di Danu; in hia Miti, 
Lt^ende e Suptrstitioni del Media Evo. p. 93. 
' Cf. Carus, History of the Devil, p. 249. 
* DtDRON, Icanegrapkie Ckrilitnnt, p. 544. 



chiiTch of Sant' Angelo at Formis, near Capua, a great 
painting, deemed a work of the eleventh century, repre- 
sents Lucifer crunching Judas, while a twelfth century 
sculpture in the church of Saint Basil at Etampes rep- 
resents Lucifer grinding three sinners.^ 

'When Bishop Otto of Bamberg converted the Pom- 
eranians to Christianity he broke, in 
1124, the three-headed Triglaf idol in 
the temple of Stettin and sent its head 
to Pope Honorius 1 L at Rome.' ^ If, as 
Dino Compagiii asserts, Dante went on 
an embassy to Rome in 1301, he may 
have got an inspiration for his Lucifer 
from the triune deity of the Slavs. ^ 
But it is more likely by far that the 
notion of a three-headed Lucifer had 
long before spread throughout Europe, 
and that Dante invented little when 
he devised this monster with a sinner 
in each mouth and with batlike wings ; 
for the wings of bats were as habitually 
attached to devils as were the wings of birds to angels. 

Nevertheless, Dante's entire conception of Lucifer 
remains the mightiest type of Evil in all time; for it 
grew in the Devil's prime in the mind of one of the 
three greatest poets the world has ever known. In the 
existence of Lucifer Dante believed as sincerely as he 
believed in the existence of God ; * but like all other men 

' Cf. Graf, op. cit. p. 94. ' Cf. Carus, op. cit. p. 249. 

' A suggestion by Dr. Krause, cited by Cams. 
* See Dante Dictionary, s.v. ' Lucifero.' 

A Three-heaued 
After Didron 


he had to make shift to find in the horrors of our known 
world the shapes that were to embody his ideal of the 
creature from whom all woes come. As both Dante 
and his beloved St. Thomas Aquinas saw in the Trin- 
ity Power, Wisdom, and Love, so Dante made visible 
in the three faces of Lucifer the very essence of Impo- 
tence, Ignorance uch are the origin and 
expression of Da i of the Evil One. 



The Lower Animals 

Although there existed in Dante's time theories as 
to genera and species, none of the keenest thinkers, 
neither the Encyclopedists, Vincent of Beauvais, Albert 
of Bollstadt, and Thomas of Cantimpr^,^ nor the meta- 
physical Thomas Aquinas,^ nor, finally, Dante Alighieri, 
made any scientific application of those terms. To 
Dante man belongs to one species ^ and is an animal,* 
as he is to all Dante's contemporaries and to ourselves. 
Yet Dante gave to man a place to himself in the Uni- 
verse because he conceived that man alone has a rea- 
soning soul, immortality, and a duty to himself and to 
In nature there is an incredibly delicate gradation of 
' For an account of ihese three, see J. V. Carus, Oesckichu dtr 

* Com. on Physic. Arist., lib. VII, cap. 4, lee viii, S 8 ; see also 
VII, cap. 3, lec. V, § 5, where he says, ' . . . inter onines qualitales, 
6gurse maxime consequuntur et demonstrant speciem rerum. Quod 
maxime in planus et animallbus patet, in quibus nullo certiori iudido 
diversitas specierum diiudicari potest, quam diversitate tigurarum.' 

* See, e.g., De Man. I, iii, 39-45, 78-81 ; De ('. E. I, ii, 36-43 ; 
xvi,7-25; II, i, 44-48; Ctfwv. IV, Kvi, 104-106; Ciiwf. II, v, 25-18; 
Purg. XVIII. 49 ff. ; Conv. IV, xxii, 47-56. 

* Cf. Boccaccio {\jtz.9,),'Vumana sptm^'E 1' umana genera- 
done, speiie di questo genere che no! diciamo anitnali.' Inf. V, 88 ; 
/■urtfrf. XIX, 8s ; Canz.X, 101; Conv. II. ix, 78-87; III, vii, 101- 

* See chapter on ' Man,' p. 11. 


things. Millions of species have lived and gone, but 
still there exists a great chain whose links reach from a 
pebble up to man. But where between the pebble and 
man does the soul begin ? Where is the beginning of life ? 

'The soul,' writes Dante, 'has three principal powers, 
/ — to live, to feel, and to reason. . . . The vegetative 
power by which we live is the foundation upon which 
we feel, that is, see, hear, taste, smell, and touch ; and 
this vegetative power of itself is a soul, as we see in all 
the plants. The sensitive soul cannot exist without it, 
as there is nothing that feels that has not life. And this 
sensitive soul is the basis of the intellectual, that is, of 
reason; and therefore in living mortal beings the rea- 
soning power is not found without the sentient, but the 
sensitive soul is found without the rational, as in beasts 
and birds and fishes, and all the lower animals.'' Thus 
Dante denies reason to the lower animals. But if the 
lower animals have not reason, how do they live ? What 
is their motive power.' Instinct,^ — the answer is plain. 
But what is the difference between instinct and reason ? 
In modern science instinct is an inherited habit which 
varies ever so slightly from parent to offspring accord- 
ing to the exigencies of nature, and in every aniraal, 
including man. To Dante instinct is appetite, an in- 
born motive power, a tendency to act like an animated 
mechanism. It is the only main mental faculty of the 
lower animals. It is the bird's tendency to make a nest, 

' CoHV. Ill, ii, 85-112, cf. 139-154. Tran-slated by K. HiLLARD; 
Tiu Banquet, Kegan Paul, Trench. TrUbner & Co., London, 1889. 
33-36, 'Jnferioribus quoque animalibus, 


*Dt K E. I, 
Pr. sec., qu. 

Cf. St. Thomas, Summa, 



the bee's to make honey.' With a psychological crude- 
ness due to an entire lack of experimental science, Dante 
puts between instinct and reason a wail which as an 
observer of nature he is more than once forced to 
break down; for we shall find that he attributes a 
higher mentality than mere instinct to various animals. 

' Since the lower animals are led by instinct alone, it 
was unnecessary to provide them with language; because 
all of one species have the same acts and passions, and 
thus through their own are able to know those of others. 
Among those of different species, not only would speech 
have been needless, but even harmful, since no friendly 
intercourse would have taken place between them.'^ 
Had Dante ever seen some barnyard fowl roosting 
placidly on its favourite cow, or a big dog carrying 
gently in his mouth his friend the kitten, he might have 
got a hint valuable to his philosophy. What Dante says 
indicates that he had failed to observe two of the most 
obvious facts in the life of animals. Not only is there 
a very great difference in the acts and passions of ani- 
mals of the same species, but they frequently make 
friendship with animals of different species,^ 

^Pur£. XVIII, 49 ff.. Parad. I, 109 IF., XVIII, ill ; Coiw. 1, i, 
S-6; IV, vi, loo-ioj. Commenliiig on Aristotle's opinion as lo ants 
and spiders, St. Thomas Aquinas declares that nature, not intellect, 
is the moving power. Physic. Arist. lib. II, cap. 8, leciiii, § ;. 

* Dt V. E. I, ii, 33-43. Alberlus Magnus treats of animals' lan- 
guage in De Animal, lib. V, tract, ii, cap. 2. He notes the dilTerence 
of male and female, the efFect of breeding lime, the cock's crowing 
over a victory, and the rivalry of crowing contests. Intelligent 
speech, however, is confined to man. 

• White, ^if/ic^-Hi-, XLVIII: 'If I admire when I see how much 
congenerous birds love to congregate, I am the more struck when 


Lactantius, whose dark bigotry is lighted at times by 
flashes of thought, declares that rehgious worship is 
peculiar to man. • Other things, even those that are 
thought to belong only to man, are found also in the 
other animals, for, when they mark and distinguish 
each other's voices by signs of their own, they seem 
to talk; also, there appears in them something like 
laughter when, with drooping ears and grinning, and 
with a wanton eye, they frolic with men or with their 
own mates and young. Do they not share in something 
like mutual love and fondness? The very ones that 
look forward and store away food have, as it were, 
foresight. In many are perceived signs of reason, too. 
For, since they seek their own good, shun harm, avoid 
dangers, make their hiding-places with several outlets, 
surely they have some understanding. Can any one 
deny reason in them since they often give man himself 
the slip.* Furthermore, those whose business it is to 
make honey, having settled on the places assigned 
them, fortify their camp, making their abode with 
indescribable art, and serve their king {sic). I know 
not whether there be in these a perfect foresight, and 
thus it is uncertain whether the traits attributed to man 
are common to other living things; assuredly they are 
devoid of religion.' * 

Galen,' a heathen physician of the second century 

I see incongruous ones in such strict amity. If we do not much 
wonder to see a flock of rooks usually attended by a flock of daws, 
yet \K is strange that the former should have a flight of starlings for 
their associates.' For funher overwhelming evidence the reader 
may cotuult Romanes and Danvin. 

> MiGNE, Paralogia, vol. 6, col. 374. " Dt Solertia Animal. 



whom Dante honoured, expresses an opinion more 
heretical than that of Lactantius; but such views are 
not in the stream of thought that flowed down from 
Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas and carried on its bosom 
almost every writer of the Middle Ages, including 

Dante denies the lower animals free will,' which is 
the prerogative of man and the angels.' He also 
denies them immortality,^ declares that they have never 
changed,* and implies that they cannot sin.^ Sinfulness 
is possible only when the will is free, and the will is 
free only in man. 

Following an immemorial and far from laudable 
habit, Dante makes ' bestiality ' mean an unnatural 
condition of man. Thus, Vanni Fucci, a sacrilegious 
plunderer, says to Dante: ' I rained down from Tuscany 
not long ago into this cruel hole. I liked not a human, 
but a bestial life, — mule that I was ; and Pistoia was 
my fit lair.'^ Thus, also, certain Sodomites declare 
that they did not follow human law ; ^ and Florence is 
'bestial.'^ In th^ Banquet Dante speaks of treachery, 
falsehood, theft, plundering, deceit, and their like, as 
'inhuman sins.'® The enumeration scarcely betokens 
profound knowledge of man's nature or of that of the 
beasts. Such a theory is based, not on zoology, but on 
conceit. Man fondly imagines himself a borrower of 

• Dt MoH. I, xii, 17-37. Cf. St. Thomas, Siimma, Pr. pars, qu. 
» Inf. XI, 25. 
•/»/. XXIV. i22-ia6. 
' Purg. XXVI, 81-87. 

txxxiii, art. ] 

' Farad. V, 19-24. 
' Conv. II, \x, 80-95. 

* Conv. IV, xiv, 85-99. 

i, 79-83. 

' Farad. XVII, 67. 


sins often far more common in himself than in any 
other animal. Once, at least, Dante seems to have hit 
upon the truth, for there occurs in the Banquet an 
almost scientific theory as to the relation of other 
animals to man. ' In the intellectual order of the uni- 
verse there is an ascent and descent by almost con- 
tinuous steps from the highest to the lowest, as we see 
in the physical order, and between the angelic nature, 
which is intellectual, and the human soul there is no 
step at all, but they are, as it were, on one continuous 
grade; so, between the human sou! and the most per- 
fect soul belonging to the brutes there is again no 
interval; and as we see many men so vile and of such 
low nature that they seem hardly other than beasts, 
therefore we must also assert and firmly believe that 
there are men so noble and of so lofty a nature that 
they are scarcely other than angels, otherwise humanity 
would not extend in both directions [through this scale], 
which could not be.' ^ 

This is a nobly heretical gleam, but only a gleam, 
which may have stolen on the poet unawares; for in 
medieval authors one happens occasionally on thoughts 
so contrary to their whole philosophy that one is almost 
as much taken off his guard as if one were to come 
upon a believer in fetiches and holy water gloating 
over some heresy of Darwin. 

As a dogmatist moralising about the life of animals, 
their place in nature, their habits and mortality, Dante 

1 Com: III. vii, 69-88, translated by K. Hillard. For upholding 
a doctrine like this, and for other reasons, Vanini had his tongue 
torn out and was strangled at Toulouse on February' 9, 1619. 



ofiFers some confusion. Not one great truth did he 
maintain, but he simply followed in the tracks of those 
fettered reasoners who had gone before. As a poet 
he sees most often with his own eyes; as a poet he 
thinks best. In poetry he seems to have gone more 
fully through the wonderful realm of nature. In poetry 
Dante was less hindered by dogma; and though he 
touched many a conventional chord in his symphony,^ 
we shall find that he knew also how to make new 
harmonies. No art ever wrought well that falsely 
interpreted life. This is why there is an abyss between 
Dante the dogmatist and Dante the poet. 

* E.g. in Inf. II, 1-3 ; Cam. XV, 33-35 ; Son. XLII. 

The Monkey or Ape 
Simia quam similis, turpissma btstia, nobis! ' 


Even though it be true that jugglers were often 
accompanied by monkeys whose antics excited the 
derisive curiosity of medieval idlers,* there exists no 
evidence that Dante ever stopped for a scornful glance 
at such a show. His characterisations of the monkey 
are absolutely conventional,* and merely come like an 
echo from hard rocks. A sinner tells him: — 

St vedrai ih' io son P ombra di Capocchio, 

Chefalsai li metaUi con akhimia, 

E ti dei ricordar, se ben t' adocchia. 

Com' io/ui di natura buona scimia.* 

And thou shall see I am Capocchio's shade, 

Who metals fabified by alchemy ; 

Thou must remember, if I well descry lliee, 

How I a skilful ape of nature was. — Longfellow. 

' ' The monkey, ugly beast, liow like ourselves ! ' — a verse known 
to Hugo of Si. Victor (lib. II, cap. 2), who says, 'Siiuiae Latinc 
vocaotur eo quod in cis similitudo rationis huitiaax senlitur.' 

*See Btbliographica, London. 1896, vol. II, pp. 326-328, and 
Fr. Diez, Pocsic Her Troubadours, 2d ed., p. 39, 

* The monkey's imitativeness is found in some versions of the 
Physiologus and in many bestiaries. Cf., e.g., Alex. Neckah, 
pp. )o8-2io; Trcjor, p. 250 ; a Provengal bestiar>- of cent. XIll, ed. 
by Bartsch, Ckrtslomatkic Provcn^ale, l83o, col. 333 ff. : ' Lo airai 
Tol contrafar tot cant ve far.' ' Inf. XXIX, 136-139. 



The Sardinians spoke an Italian closer in some ways 
to Latin than was the Tuscan. Our poet, ignorant of 
the historical reasons for this phenomenon, cuts them 
off with a sneer,^ ' Again, let us throw aside the 
Sardinians, who are not Latins, but to the Latins seem 
to belong ; since they alone appear to be without a 
vernacular, imitating grammar ^ as monkeys imitate 
men, for they say Domus nova and Domintis meus,'^ 

Once more the monkey fares ill ; for Dante declares 
that, notwithstanding appearances, and despite what any 
one may say, it is false that any beast does 'acts' or 
goes by rule, as appears in the monkey and some others. 
They cannot, ' for they lack the reason from which 
these things proceed.' * 

It is evident, then, that the monkey never led our 
poet from the straight and narrow path of orthodoxy. 
Indeed, no medieval philosopher seems to have come to 
any other conclusion with regard to the monkey than 
that he is a kind of imitative caricature of man. 

^ De V. E. I, xi, 42-47, 'Sardos etiam qui non Lalini sunt, 
sed Latinis adsociandi videntur, eiciamus : quoniam soU sine pro- 
prio vulgari esse videolur, grammaticam tanquam simis hotnines 
imiianies, nam : Domus nova, et Domhius ineus, loquunlur.' 

' Grammar (grammatica) of course meant Latin in the Middle 

' By chance Dante has chosen two expressioiu; wherein the Sar- 
dinian of his time had not diverged at all fi-om the Latin introduced 
by the conquering Romans about 327 B.C. 

' Conv. Ill, vii, 104-113. 


Dante's Meeting with the Three Beasts 

Ad varia quogue negotia profocturi ex prima animalis occursu 
votorum attspUia capiebant : qux si lata fuissent cxptum alacrts 
iUr carpebani, sin tristia, rcflexo cursu propria repetebant. 

— Saxo Grammaticus on the Slavs. 

The prophet Jeremiah utters a wild cry against evil- 
doers who have broken the yoke and burst the bonds, 
' Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and 
a wolf of the evening shall spoil them, a leopard shall 
watch over their cities : every one that goeth out thence 
shall be torn in pieces : because their transgressions are 
many and their backslidings are increased.'' To this 
mysterious cry of vengeance Dante AHghieri gave a 
new meaning. Not only did he sec a special symbol in 
each of the three beasts, but he gave to the whole pas- 
sage an application derived from a source that lies deep 
in the mythology of the Middle Ages. 

In the Divine Comedy Dante feigns to have met at 
early morning, near a gloomy wood, three beasts, an 
ounce, a lion, and a wolf.' Such a meeting was omi- 

' Jeremiah v, 6, 

' In the vision of Ihe renowned Abbol Joachim of Calabria, whom 
Dante endows with Ihepropheticgifl (Parad.Xll, 140-141), the soul, 
not yet let into the garden of heaven, is first stopped in a dread- 
ful place by lynxes, lions, and serpents. See Cahier, Meiaitgss 
d'ArcUologie, II, 16. 


nous of good or evil ; for, according to folklore, who- 
ever ran across some living thing near the dawning 
could read in the character of the creature met his 
change of fortune. To meet a priest constituted an 
evil omen. It was bad luck to have a hare run across 
one's path; for the hare is faint-hearted. A wolf, 
on the contrary, was a lucky omen.^ The ounce and 
the lion, being exotic animals, had no place in this phase 
of folklore, except in Dante, in whose poem they seem 
to forebode neither good nor evil, but to be simply 
embodiments of sin, man's consciousness of his wicked- 
ness, which, at a certain point on life's road, takes on the 
form of three dreadful beasts. Thus Dante distinctly 
shows the influence of a very ancient phase of folklore, 
which perhaps never held sway in the people's minds 
more powerfully than in his time. Dante's meeting 
with the Siren ^ is only another proof that he was 
steeped in popular superstitions ; for it was held good 
luck to meet a bawd in the early morning, and when 
Dante met the Siren he was on his way through Purga- 
tory to Heaven, and it was a little before dawn. 

^ See Grimm, Deutsche Mythologies chapter on ^ Angang,^ pp. 
1072-1086. * See chapter on < The Siren,' p. 66 ff. 


The Ounce — La Lonza 

Having strayed midway on life's road, Dante found 
himself in a gloomy wood. How he came there he did 
not know, so drowsy was he at that point where he 
abandoned the true way. But having reached the foot 
of a hil! that lay at the end of the dreadful valley, he 
looked upward and beheld the rays of the planet that 
leads men aright on every path. Then his fear was 
somewhat stilled, and like one who, breathing hard, 
reaches the shore and turns back to the dangerous 
water, gazing long ; so his soul, still fleeing, turned back 
to behold the life of sin. The poet now tells how he was 
thwarted from going further by three bestial foes : — 

Poi ck' ei posalo unpoco it corps lasio, 
Riprtsi via per la piaggia diserta, 
St eke il piijermo sempre era il piii basso; 
Ed ecco, quasi al comi»ciar deir erta, 
Una lonsa leggiera ' e presta motto, 
Che di pel maculalo era coperta. 
E non mi si partia dinanzi alvolto ; 
Ansi impediva tanto H mio cammino, 
CIC io fui per ritornar piit volte rolto;* 

' Cf. Tristan, vss, 199-200 : — 

' La biche, et le chevnul se treuvent sans duiger 
Prcs du cerviCT cruel, el de I'once legcr. ' 
' Perhaps Dante means that the rough and gloomy wood of fear- 
ful doubt was almost preferable to the lust of the flesh, which is 
what the ounce seems to mean, as I shall tr>- to show. 


Tempo era da! principio del mattino ; 

E il sol montava su con quelle sielk 
Ck' eran con lui, quando I' amor divino 
Mosse da prima quelle cose belle; 
Si die a bene sperar m' era cagiotu 
Di quellafera alia gatetta pelle, 
L' ora del tempo, e la dolce sfagione : 
Ma nan si, eke paura nen mi desse 
La vista, che mi apparve, d' un leone. 
Questi parea, che contra me vetusse 
Con la testa alta e con rabbiosa fame. 
Si che parea che I' aer ne temesse : 
Ed una liipa, che di tutle brame 
Sembiava carca nella sua magrezsa, 
E molte genii fe' gid viver grame} 

' And lo ! near the beginning of the slope, an ounce," 
light and very fleet, covered with a dappled skin, who 
would not quit my sight, but so hindered my journey 
that I was more than once bent on returning. It was 
near the morning hour, and the sun was rising with 

' Inf. I, 28-51. 

' Apparently no translator except Butler has rendered loma by 
'ounce.' Boyd, Wrighl. Gary, Hindley, Drayroan, O'Donnell, Brook- 
sheok, Thomas, W. M. Rossetti, Parsons, LoDgfellow, Ford, Tora- 
linson. Pike, Minchin, and Piumpirc (revised edition) have ' panther.' 
J. Carlyle, Plumpire (first edition), Bannerman, Pollock, Peabody, 
Willde, Sibbold, D. Johnston, Sullivan, Musgrave, and Lee-Hamilton 
have 'leopard.' Ramsay has 'pard.' C. Potter, 'some forest beast,' 
'a spotted pard.' C. E. Norton, 'she-leopard' (cf. Landino). 
Cayley renders 'lynx.' Perhaps all the French translators except 
E. Littrd have 'panlhfre.' Most of the Germans render 'panlher- 
thier'; a few by 'pardel,' or ' pardel-thler'; three by 'panther.' 
Greek translation reads -n-apSuXis. The oldest French translation 
(thought by Renier and perhaps by Stengel to date early in the 



those stars that were with that orb when love divine first 
moved those beautiful things ; so that the hour of the 
day and the sweet season were my good cause for 
hoping well as to that wild beast with the pretty skin, 
yet not so much but that dread smote me at the sight 
of a lion. He seemed to be advancing against rae with 
his head high and with ravening hunger, so that the air 
seemed to fear. And then a she-wolf, which with all 
greediness seemed laden in her leanness and had already 
brought many into misery.' 

Driven back by the wolf, Dante meets with Virgil, 
who becomes his guide through the 'grievous realm.' 
The two poets, having descended into the depths of 
Hell, come to a point where Virgil uses a strange means 
to get still farther down. Dante says ; — 

lo aveva una eorda tntorno cinta, 
E con essa pemai alcuna volta 
Prender la lonsa alia peile dipinta. 
Posda che /' ehbi tutia da me sdolta 
Si come il Duca in' avea comandata, 
Porsila a lui aggroppata e rawolta. 
Ond' ei si volse inver lo destro Into, 
Ed alifuanto dt lungt dalla spoiida 
La gitto giuio in gutW alto iurmlo. 
'E' pur convien che novila risponda,' 

sixteenth or late in the fifteenth century), reads, in MS. of Turin, 
'une leonce'; MS. of Vienna, 'un once.' The Catalan fragment 
(Febrer's translation, 1428 a.D.) renders ; — 

£. Lillr^ translates, 'Esv 

« legere et moult aperte.' 


Dicta fra me meJesmo, ' al nuovo cenno 
Che il Maestro con /' occhio s't secaiida.' 

' I had a cord girt round me and with it I had thought 
once to catch the ounce with the painted skin. Having 
unloosed this wholly, as my Leader had bidden me, I 
handed it to him, knotted and coiled. Whereupon he 
turned toward the right, and, at a little distance from 
the brink, he cast it down into the deep black hole. 
"Surely some strange thing must answer," I bethought 
me, " to this unwonted signal which my Master so follows 
with his eye."' — The response is the monster Geryon, 
'the foul likeness of fraud,' who lowers the two poets 
into another pit of the nether world. 

Having before us now all that Dante says of the 
ounce, we shall see whether any light can be shed upon 
the puzzle by examining various documents of antiquity 
and of the Middle Ages. Without the shadow of a 
doubt Dante borrowed his conception of the three 
beasts from Jeremiah ;^ and the pardus of the Vulgate, 
which was, of course, Dante's version of the Bible, 
corresponds in a sense to la lonza, the ounce of Dante. 
Jeremiah cries to wrong-doers, that ' a lion out of the 
forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evening shall 
spoil them, a pard shall watch over their cities : every 
one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces : 
because their transgressions are many and their back- 
slidings are increased.' Elsewhere* Jeremiah exclaims, 
'Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the pard his 

'/"w/XVl, 106-117. 

■ Jeremiah v, 6. " xiii, 23. 


spots ? then may ye also do good that are accustomed 
to do evil." 

St. Jerome takes the pard of Jeremiah to mean the 
onslaught of Alexander upon India.' His contempo* 
rary, St. Ambrose, avers that the pard's variety of hue 
signifies the various impulses of the soul. This, he goes 
on, is taken to refer, not only to the figure, but to the 
fickleness of wrath, because the Jewish people, stained 
by the dusky, restless, and fickle mutations of their faith- 
less mind and soul and spirit, could not cling to the grace 
of a good purpose ; nor would they return to any better- 
ing or correction, having once taken on a bestial wick- 
edness.' Four hundred years later Rabanus Maurus' 
follows Jerome as to the onslaught of Alexander, and 
increases the mystification by saying, ' Some use this tes- 
timony against the Church, wishing to spread the report 
of various natures, and so great do they declare the 
blackness or variety of sins that they cannot become 
glistening with the beauty of one hue. These persons 
forget,' writes Rabanus, ' that fo God all things are pos- 
sible." Elsewhere {De Univ. Vf 11, cap. i) this writer, 
describing the panther, says she is friendly to all animals 
except the dragon. 'A second pard (after the panther) 
is a spotted kind, very swift and bloodthirsty, for in a 
jump it leaps to the death. The pard, furthermore, sig- 
nifies the devil full of divers vices, or any sinner be- 
spattered with the spots of crimes and of many errors. 

' Comment, in Jtremtam Proph., lib. 1, cap. 5, 'Alexandri impe- 
tum prxliguraas, et velocem de Occidenle usque ad lodiam per- 
cussionem.' etc. ' Hexa/neron, lib. VI, cap. iil, 15. 

• Expos, super Jtremtam, lib. Ill, cap. 5. 



Wherefore the prophet says, " ^thiops non mutavit pel- 
lem, et pardus varietatem suam." Likewise the pard is 
antichrist, besmirched with the spots of wickedness, as 
in the Apocalypse: " Et bestia ascendebat de mari, similis 
erat pardo " (Apoc. XIII, i~2). Elsewhere, however, it 
is written, "Habitabit lupus cum agno, et pardus cum 
hfedo cubabit" {Isaiah xi, 6). This was fulfilled at the 
coming of Christ, since those who once were ferocious 
live with the innocent, and those who were befouled with 
the spots of sins(errorum maculis)are converted through 
penitence to the truth of Faith. The leopard,' adds Ra- 
banus, ' is born of the adultery of a lioness and a pard.' ' 

Finally, one Hugo a Sancto Caro {Hue de Saint 
Chers), who lived in the first half of the thirteenth cen- 
tury, commenting on Jeremiah v, 6, gives sensuality, 
pride, and greed as the characteristics of youth, middle 
age, and old age. ^ 

The panther in the M iddle Ages was believed by many 
to sleep three days, then to awake and raise her voice, 
whereupon there came forth from her a sweet odour, 
and all animals from far and near followed her voice and 
the fragrance. Only the dragon was afraid and hid 
away.^ The panther is Christ. Dante unquestionably 
knew this story. 

* Lauchert, Geschichte des Physiologus, pp. 199-200, says, 
' Boppc wiinscht, wie der Leopard als Bastard gelleckl ist, so sollte 
ein richer zage [a rich poltroon], der ebea so schaell wie dieses Thier 
voa der Ehre zur Schande ist, auch buntgefleckt seia, zu seiner 
Schaode, damit man ihn gleich als Kebskind erkenne.' Cf. IsiDOR, 
Eiymol. lib. XIII, cap. 2. 

' Cited by Witle. See his comment on loma, 

*HiLOEBERrus Cenom, in Migae, vol. 171, cot. 1223. Id the 



The lynx was known for his sharp glance, and for his 
envious habit of denying to man a curing stone called 
lyngurium, which he carried in a part of his body. 
Brunetto Latini declares the lynx could see through a 
wall or a mountain ! ' Une autre maniere de loups sont 
que on apele cerviers ou lubernes [other MSS. read 
'lupernes'] qui sont pomeles de noires taches autressi 
comme 1' once [Ital. version: Un' altra maniera di lupi 
sono che si chiamano lupi cervieri, che sono taccati di 
nero come leonza], mais des autres choses est il sem- 
blables au ioup, et est di si clere veue que si oil percent 
les murs et les mens, et ne porte que i fil, et est la plus 
obliouse chose dou monde, car la ou il manjue son past 
et il regarde par aventure une autre chose, il oblie main- 
tenant ce que il manjoit, si que il ne set revenir, ainz le 
pert dou tout. Et si dient cil qui le sevent que de son 
piz naist une pierre precieuse qui est apel^e liguires ; 
ice cognoisl bien la beste meismes selonc ce que li home 
dient qui li ont veu covrir s'orine de sablon, par une 
envie de nature, que tel pierre ne parviegne as homes.'' 

Besliaire Divitt, by Gun-LAUME le Clerc de Normandie, ed. by 
C. Hipp«au, Caen, 1851, p. 256: — 

' La besle qui > non pnntiere 

Cf. Philippe de THAt>N, Bartsch, Chrat. col. 88 ff., and Id edition 
by E. Walberg, Lund. 1900, pp. 18-22. Cf. also Gervaise, ed. by 
P. Meyer, Romania I, pp. 420 ff., and Brunetto Latini, Treior, 
p. 249. St. Hildegard sees in panther sj'mbol of vanity. See I'hysica, 
lib, VII, cap. 7, In Migne, voL 197, cot. 1319. Albertus Magnus dis- 
believes storj- of sweet odour. Cf. chapter on ' The Panther,' p. 130. 
' Trisor^ p. 248. Cf. SoLiNUS, Polyhistor, II, 37, also Albertus 
Magnus, Dt Animal, lib. XXII, traa. ii, cap. i. 



Most of this description is borrowed almost word for 
word from Isidor of Seville {Etym. XII, ii, 20). 

The lynx, then, or 'lupus cerverius,' •cervarius,' etc., 
covered up the precious lyngurium in the sand lest it 
might be of utility to man. Not a few scholars see a 
reference to the lonsa (ounce) in words uttered to 
Dante by Ciacco with regard to Florence : — 

Superbia, invidia ed avaritia sono 
Le trefavilU che hanno i cori aectsi} 

' Pride, envy, and avarice are the three sparks that have 
set hearts aflame.' 

Since Dante no doubt meant the lion to signify pride, 
and the wolf to signify envious greed, there is little rea- 
son to believe that he meant the lonza, or ounce, to signify 
envy — an interpretation in accord with the tradition as to 
the lynx. No tradition seems to support the theory that 
Dante meant a panther. And when we use these words 
it must continually be borne in mind that they are hardly 
more than mere words about which have clustered vari- 
ous legends. The classifications of modern naturalists 
have little or nothing to do with these ancient names and 
their parasitical fables. Any accurate determination of 
the animal meant by Dante seems next to impossible. 
Indeed, it is highly improbable that Dante or any ancient 
or medieval writer had a clear idea as to the various 
animals now called lynx, panther, aud leopard. What 
Dante beheld was a spotted beast, very swift and light, 
which did not attack him, but simply kept before his 
eyes. Surely this creature is not Alexander making an 

' Inf. VI, 74-7S- 


onslaught upon India ; nor is it, as one Italian asserts, a 
symbol of fraud, for Dante distinctly calls Geryon the 
'foul image of fraud ' (quella sozza imagine di froda, 
hif. XVII, 7), nor would such an interpretation agree 
with any tradition. 

Were it not for the cord which Dante took from his 
body, — the cord wherewith he had thought to catch the 
ounce with the painted skin, — and were it not that the 
wolf undoubtedly symbolises envious greed, envy would 
seem more acceptable than any other interpretation. 
But the cord suggests strongly the scriptural phrase of 
girding up the loins, and still more strongly the cord of 
the Franciscans. Though Dante himself may never 
have belonged even to the third order of the Cordeliers,' 
the girdle which he wore was part of their symbolical 
costume, served a practical purpose, and was the token 
of the chaste life they were sworn to lead, or of chastity 
in the larger sense, — continence, we may say, — for, ac- 
cording to an old and by no means foolish belief, the 
seat of the sensual, especially of sexual, passion is in the 
loins,' Dante says he once thought to take with his 
girdle the ounce with the spotted skin. The phrase 
seems to mean that he would have used the symbol of 
continence, not to allure to him a beast which caused 
him almost to turn back on Ufe's road to avoid her, but 
rather to bind her, to make her, also, continent, or a 
captive of continency. Nevertheless, Dante by an over- 
sight put Manto into the fourth bolgia of Hell and 

' See Bun, Commento topra la Divtna Commedia. 
' Benvenuto da Imola, ■ habebat cordam circa lumbos, ubi viget 
luxuiia mulieris,' 



also into Limbo, and by a like fallibility of his literary 
craft he may have neglected to make the allegory of the 
loma logical. He has in any case mystified us and all 
his old-time readers by an obscurity which adds nothing 
to the beauty of the poem. Not only is it uncertain 
precisely when Dante thought to catch the ounce with 
the painted skin (for he made no endeavour to do so on 
encountering her near the gloomy wood), but one can 
hardly conceive why a simple cord should be an adequate 
means of bringing up the monster Geryon, unless this is 
merely a part of the heavenly plan for showing Dante 
through the mysterious places of Heil. As Virgil ap- 
peased Cerberus with a clod of earth, so he may have 
wrought this magic on the demon Geryon. What Dante 
meant is unlikely ever to be known. 

When Dante encountered the ounce it was early morn- 
ing, and, as he says, the hour of the day and the sweet 
season caused him to hope well concerning that beast 
with the pretty skin. In the sense of mystic theology 
noon would have been the ' noblest hour of all the day and 
the most virtuous ' {Com: IV, xxiii, 145-147), but physio- 
logically and psychologically we may justly conceive that 
Dante's good sense would have indicated the morning 
hour as that in which man is least given to the lusts of the 
flesh, when he is most vigorous and eager for good works. 
And the sweet season of Easter would have beamed on 
him as if from heaven ; for it was on Good Friday of the ; 
year 1300 that he encountered the ounce.' What other 
moment of all the year could so have strengthened his 

' See Edw. Moore, Time Riferencts in the Divina Commedia 
(Itol. U-anslation, Cli Accmni al Tempo, pp. 10, ll). 


hopes to conquer incontinence as such a day ? Nor 
is it mere chance that Dante met the ounce before he 
met the lion and the wolf, for the Divine Comedy con- 
denses the vicissitudes of life into a few days, and thus 
the three beasts seem to follow one another as youth is 
followed by manhood and manhood by old age. Neither 
envious greed nor overweening pride is the besetting sin 
of youth, but lust, lust for pleasures ; for this is precisely 
one of the three great Dantesque categories of sin. 

Non ti rimembra di qtulk paroU, 

Colle qitai la tua Etica pertralia 

Le Ire disposizion che il del non vucle ; 

Ineotitinensa, malisia e la maOa 

Bestialilade t e come incontinenza 

Men Dio offende e men btasimo aecatfa f ' 

Hast thou no recollection of those words 

With which thine Ethics thoroughly discusses 

The dispositions three, thai Heaven abides not — 

Incontinence, and Malice, and insane 

Bestiality ? and how Incontinence 

Less God offendeth, and less blame attracts ? 

— Longfellow. 

Each of the three beasts represents a demon of sin, 
and each sin thus embodied in an allegorical beast is 
more terrible than the preceding sin. Yet it would show 
small knowledge of humanity to imagine that Dante's 
classifications are exact. Indeed, nothing but the adu- 
lation engendered in small minds by Dante's greatness 
is responsible for trying to make all his plans of the 
other world, all his theories of life, biographies of indi- 

1 /«/. XI, 79-«4- 



viduals, allegories and schemes of sins, fit together like 
the parts of a mechanism. Dante's mind was not a 
divine organ, like that of a pope, but a man's mind ; 
and nothing is less judicious than to interpret Dante 
with the premise that Dante could not err. 

Dante not only changed the order of the three beasts 
in Jeremiah, but in two cases he changed their gender. 
The lupus becomes la liij>a, the parous becomes la lonsa. 
So his demoniacal dogs are bitches, as in Virgil and 
Lucan. Dante's reason for choosing the bitch-wolf 
is obvious.' Though there existed a word lon::o, lonza 
was much the more usual form. But why did Dante 
employ /o«j« where parda would have done as well? 
Perhaps, as some one has suggested, perhaps he did so 
for the three /'s, — una loiisa leggiera, un leone, una liipa. 
Seeing what a fancy medieval poets had for such 
embellishments, one can readily believe in the allitera- 
tive theory. Again, as will presently be shown, Dante 
was influenced in his choice by the classics. 

What kind of a beast may Dante have meant by this 
ounce of his.' Had the poet ever seen one? Benvenuto 
da Imola, a sound-minded man, sheds light here. ' I 
believe,' writes he, 'that the author means rather the 
pard than anything else, not only because the pard's 
qualities seem better to agree with lust, , . , but, also, 
because that Florentine word lonsa seems to mean the 
pard more than some other wild beast. Wherefore, 
when once a certain pard was being carried through 
Florence, the children ran up, crying, " See the ounce ! " 
and this was told me by that most bland Boccaccio of 
' See chapter on 'The Wolf,' p. 114, note 3. 


Certaldo.' (Unde dum seme! portaretur quidara pardus 
per Florentiam, pueri concurrentes clamabant ; vide Ion- 
ciam, ut mihi narrabat suavissinius Boccatius de Cer- 
taldo.) Though the word lonsa was applied by one 
writer, at least, to the hyena,' and by others to the 
lynx,^ Dante lays stress on the spotted skin, which he 
calls ' lively ' and ' painted.' Thspcl maculato of Inf. I, 
33, is Virgil's^ maculosis tegmine lyncis (^Eti. I, 327),* 
and the p^Ue dipinia of Inf. XVt, 108, answers closely 
to the following lines of Ovid; for it is well to remember 
that the acceptation of folklore clustering about a name 
and an artist's scattered borrowings of physical descrip- 
tion are not the same, as is very often obvious in Dante. 
Here are the lines (_Met. Ill, 668-669): — 

Quern circa tigres simulacraque inama lyncum 
Piclarumque iacent fera corpora pantherarum? 

* Acta SS. lunii, p. 436, de S. Raynerio, ' In ipso deserto reperit 
duas hyxnas, quas \'u]giis vocat lon^ss. leone velociores et auda- 
ciores.' Cited by Du Cange. According lo Philippe de Thaiin 
(Walberg"s ed., p. 45), 

■ Hyene slgnefie. 
Ne Inrai nel vus die, 
Ume aver, cuvcitus. 
Ki ei( luxuTius; 

* E. Raimondi (DelU Caccie . . . Libri Qtiattro), pp. 188, 190, 
195. R. Belleau (ed. Marty- La veai«), Uei PUrres PricUaies, 
voL II, p. 171 : — 

' Del onces mouchetlei d'esloiles sur le dos 

Onces a I'cEil sublil, au pit souple el dispos.' 

Ibid. p. 239, 'Pierre d'once, ditte Lyncurium.' Cf Pliny, XXVIII, 

32, ' Peregrinx sunt et lynces quae clarissime omnium quadrupedum 

cernunl.' • See note i, p. 99. 

* But in Virgil it is not Venus who wears this akin. 

' Cf. Statius, Ackill. II, 406, 'imbelles lynces sectari,' with the 
behaviour of Dante's ounce. Cf. also Horace, Od. Il,xiii,40, 'Aut 
timidos agilare lyncas." 



Except Emperor Frederick of Swabia, whose descrip- 
tions of birds are often extraordinarily accurate, medie- 
val writers give what they imagined to be the habits of 
an animal, rather than its physical attributes. It is 
even safe to affirm that in the whole range of medieval 
zoology there is not one thoroughly scientific description 
of the looks of a dog or a horse, of a wild boar or a 
bear. The difficulty of identifying any variable exotic 
species is, therefore, almost insuperable. Yet we may 
be sure that leopards or similarly spotted beasts had 
come into Europe before 1229. Leopards and bears 
are mentioned as princely gifts in the Roman de Briit^ 
of Wace, — a poem composed about 1 155 ; and William 
of Malmesbury records' that Henry I of England longed 
fervently for the wonders from foreign lands, — leopards, 
lynxes, camels, — of which breeds England had none, 
and right joyfully, as he said, begged them of other 
kings. Frederick II of Swabia states in his Art of 
Hawking MxaX in the chase hunters use instruments or 
animals as, for example, various leopards, lynxes male 
and female, ferrets, and some others.^ By lynxes {Uncos 
et lincas) he certainly did not mean the bobtailed creature 
with tufted ears, but some species of pard, as the Persian 

1 Vs. 10889 ff- 

* Dt gestis regum An^ia: V (H. Saville, Rer. AHglic. script. 
Franccf. i5oi),p. 161, 'Prona voluptate lerrarum exleranim mitacula 
inhiabat, leones, leopardos, lynccs, camelos. quorum fietiis Anglia 
est inops, grand], ut dixit iucunditate a regibus alienis expos lulans.' 
Cited by Alwin Schultz in Das Hdfische Leben, I, 452. 

* De Arte Venandi, I. cap. t, 'Aut habent animalia quadru- 
pedia, domestica, agrestia, scilicet modos Leopardonim, Caaum, 
Lincos, Lincas, Fiirecto», et alia plum.' 


yuz or the cheetah. Frederick passed through Parma 
with leopards in 1229.^ Probably not long before 1285 
an ounce was shown in Florence.' On April 5, 1291, 
the Capitano del Popolo in the presence of the priors 
moved that fifty small florins be paid pro Comuni 
Bindo de Luca for a leopard. In June the Podest4 
had to do with the payment of sixty soldi and ten 
denari to Piero del Maestro for feeding the leopard.* 
From all these facts one may believe that Dante had 
seen a leopard, and that, in order to describe it, he used 
a word which other writers have applied, not only to the 
hyena, but also to the sharp-eyed lynx, whose nature is 
so envious that it hides from man its valuable lyngurium, 
or urinal stone. Etymological ly lynx or lince and ionsa 
are probably of one origin. That the word \vy^ or lynx 
was split by the learned into lince and by the others into 
lon::a seems plain. 

On Dante's Itmsa, or ounce, there has been written 
enough to fill a volume, not wholly a valuable volume ; 
for much that has been said is mere beating of bushes 
where the ounce never lay. Most critics have gone 
astray by failing to seek light in the animal lore of the 
Middle Ages. 

' See chapter on 'The Elephant,' p. 201, note 4, 

* T. Casini, Aneddoli e Studi Danteschi, p. 53, cites the ConsuUe 
dtlia Ripubblka Fierenima for 1285. ThLs ounce had died or 
departed before June 29, 1 28;, when Raniero del Sasso made a propo- 
sition 'de curiis faciendis iujita Palatium Potestaiis, in loco in quo 
morabatur leuncia.' 

* CoRsuUe della Rep. Fwr. II, pp. 20, 91. Cited by Torraca. 


The Lion 

The ' Physiologus ' tells that the lion has three peculiari- 
ties. First, to throw the hunters off his track he rubs out 
his footmarks with his tail. This signifies the mystery of 
our Lord's becoming a man, a secret hidden from the 
heavenly powers and from the devil. Secondly, when 
the lion sleeps his eyes never close. Thus slept the 
body of Christ at the crucifixion, but his God hood 
watched at the right hand of the Father. Thirdly, the 
lioness bears her cub dead, but on the third day his sire 
comes, breathes into his face, and thus brings him to 
life. This means our Lord's resurrection on the third 

Add now to these three attributes two more, and we 
shall know mainly what was thought about the lion 
in the Middle Ages. In the Bible and in the Fathers 
he figures in a good sense as the king, — the Lion 
of Judah,^ — or typifies in stately fashion the might 
of Hell. It is chiefly^ as a majestic beast, as an 

' Cf. LauCHEKT, Gtschkhie ties Physiologus, p. 4. 

* Epist. V, i, i6-2a. Cf. Genesis xHi,9. 'CatuliLS leonis luda: ad 
praedam, fill mi. Bscendisti : requiescens accuBuisti Ut leo, et quasi 
leaena, quis siacitabit eum > ' Cf. the English version and Revel, v, 5. 
Cf. Hugo of St. Victor, De Bestiis II, cap. 1, 'Sic ei Salvaior 
noster, spirilualis Leo de tribu luda,' etc. 

■ Other references are as follows : (a) Astronomical : a sign of 
the Zodiac appropriate to Mars, Parad. XVI, 37 ; as representiiig 



heraldic charge, as a name for Christ, or as a type 
of brutal, demoniacal might that the lion figures in 

Dante must have seen a live lion before he began the 
Divine Comedy, for Pope Boniface had given one to the 
Commune of Florence, — a young lion, whose fate is 
thus chronicled by Giovanni Villani: 'While this lion 
was kept bound with a chain in the court of the Palace 
of the Priori, there came thither one day an ass laden 
with wood. Seeing the lion, the ass, cither through 

power. Farad. XXI, 14-1S' W Greek and Roman mythology: 
Story of Athamas, fnf. XXX, 7-^. See Tovneee, Dictionary, s.v. 
'Atamante.' Antaeus and his prey, /«/. XXXI, 118. Cf. Locan, 
Phars. IV, 601-602. Polioices dressed in lion's skin, Conv. IV, 
wtv, 63. See ToYSBEE, Dictionary, s.v. 'Adrasto.' A verse in 
Dante's first Eclogue (22), ' Placatique ruant campi de monte leones,' 
smacks of Ovid. Dante is fancying a golden age. (t) Heraldic: 
Inf. XXVII. 49, 51, Mainardo Pagano, a lioncel azure on a field 
argent, /n/. XVII, s8-6o. According to JacopodelJa Lanaarmsof 
Gianfigliazzi were a lion azure on a field or. Farad. XII, J4, arms of 
Castile. According to Postillator Cassinensis (cited by Scartaziini) 
arms were as follows, ' Cuius signum scuti est ad quarteria ; in duo- 
bus quarteriis supra in uno est castellum et in alio est leo ; et sic etiam 
est in aliis duobux quarteriis inferioribus, nam leo superior subiugat 
castellum inferius, et castellum superius subiugat leonem inferiorem.' 
/«/. XXVII, 45, Ordelaffi arms, (rf) Lions stricken with lockjaw 
for the benefit of Daniel (Daniel vi, 22), Di Mon. Ill, i, 1-3 : 'Con- 
clusit ora leonum et non nocuerunl mihi ; quia coram eo iustilia 
inventa est in me.' («) In the probably spurious Peoitectial Psalm, 
Oxford Dante, p. 19;, vs. 2S-30: — 

' E lunto h to mla cor diseoaiolnto, 
Ch' io gemo e luggio, come b il teone, 

This is an 'original ' insertion — highly original. (/) The lion fig- 
ures also in the half-proverbial expression, ' ignosccodum est iUi 
qui leoacm in cubibus formidaret," DeMon. Ill, iv, 75-76. 


THE LION 1 05 

fear or miraculously, straightway assailed him so sav- 
agely and kicked him so hard that he killed him, and 
the help of many men there present was of no avail. 
This was held to be a harbinger of great changes, for 
many befell our city in those days. But certain scholars 
said that the prophecy of the Sibyl was fulfilled, wherein 
she said, "When the tame beast shall kill the king of 
the beasts, then shall the Church begin to fall asunder." 
Soon afterward this was made manifest in Pope Boni- 
face.' ' Though Dante could hardly have failed to see so 
a rare curiosity as this lion, there is no evidence in his 
works that he got a fresh conception of the lion's nature. 
As the Eagle of Polenta covers Cervia with its pin- 
ions,^ so the lion in the arms of the Ordelaffi holds 
Forli beneath its green fore paws.^ Thus a chance 
emblem of heraldry is made to figure the encroach- 
ments of a prince. If. now, the princely hunger for 
lands is joined to pride, the heraldic emblem becomes 
almost a reality, and the poet finds strong imagery for 
the devouring sin. 

> Cron. VIII, 62. In 1160, according to Tonaca, the Florendnes 
kept a lion at public cost. Cf. Guittone's fourteenth letter to the 
Florentines. In the annals of Parma for May, 1299. we read, 'Item 
eodem tempore una leona donata fuit communi Panne, que postea 
alevata tuit in tenta pro communi quousque vixit.' 

» See chapter on 'The Eagle," p. 258. 


' La lEtra. che k' pk la. [iinga prnva, 
E de' Franceschi sanguinoso mucchio, 
S0II0 1e branchc vetdi si litrova." 
The Ordelaffi bore on their shield the upper half of a lion vert, 
i^. a lion verl issuant. In Litta, Fami^it Cekbri Jtaliant, vol. LX, 
this lion is pink — 'sanguine' — on a field or. 



Having strayed in a dusky wood, Dante encounters 
an ounce, yet hopes to overcome her with the help of 
the morning hour and the sweet season of Easter. 
Hardly is this danger past when he is confronted by a 

Tempo era dal principts del maltino : 
E il sol montava su con qiielU sttUe 
Ch' eran con lui, quando /' amor divino 
Mosse da prima quelle cose belle ; 
Si che a bene sperar m' era cagione 
Di quellafera alia gaielta pelle, 
V ora del tempo, e la dolce stagione : 
Ma non st, che paura non mi desse 
La vista, che mi appanie, d' un leone. 
Qiiestj parea, che contra me venesse 
Con la test' alta ' e con rahbiosa fame? 
St che parea che /' aer ne temesse? 

'The time was at the beginning of the morning, and 
the Sun was mounting upward with those stars that 
were with him when Love Divine first set in motion 
those beautiful things; so that the hour of the time 
and the sweet season were occasion of good hope to 
me concerning that wild beast with the dappled skin. 
But not so that the sight which appeared to me of a 
lion did not give me fear. He seemed to be coming 

^Cf.Parad. IX, 50-51: — 

'Tal signonggia e va con la icsa alta, 
Che gift per lui carpir li h la rogna. ' 

* Albertus Magnus, De Animal, XXIl, iract. ii, cap. 1, says the 
lioD does not assail men, ' nisi in magna fame quando alium non in- 
venit cibum.' Cf. 1 Peter v, 3, * Adversarius vester diabolus tanquam 
leonigiens circuit, quaerensquem devoret.' Cf. ijiiij/. VII, v, 98-99, 
and De Mon. Ill, iv, 73-76. » Inf. I, 37-48. 

against me, with head high and with ravening hunger, 
so that it seemed that the air was affrighted at him.' 
— Norton. 

The onslaught of this lion is not true to life, but 
shows the king of beasts in a conventional attitude. 
He attacks his foe, not with furious bounds and with 
the head somewhat lowered, but he stalks toward him 
grandly, and the air seems to tremble. The lofty pose 
of the head betokens pride,' the pride of a man — some 
would have it of Philip the Fair; the ravenous hunger 
is hardly for flesh and blood, but rather for worldly 
power. No tradition could make this lion-demon 
signify anything but overweening pride and devour- 
ing might, whose hunger is appeased by wealth or, 
rather, by empire.^ It is our 'adversary the devil, 
who, like a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom 
he may devour ; ' and he sins grandly — unlike the fox.' 

The lion's stateUness, unnaturally portrayed by Dante 
in the lion that came toward him with ravenous hunger 
and his head high, is rightly described when the lion is 
in repose ; and in such an attitude Dante may have 
observed the lion presented by Boniface to Florence. 
To the poet Sordello, whose spirit Dante met in Pur- 
gatory, are addressed these lines : 

O anima hmbarda, 
Come it stavi altera t tiisdegnosa, 
E nel mover degli occhi onesta e tarda ! 
Ella nan a diceva akuna cosa ; 

^Cf.Parad. IX, 50-51. 

• Inf. XXVII, 75. See chaplei 

'Cr. Farad. Vf. 106-108. 
n -The Fox,' p. 125 ff. 

^^^^^nB LIIV lll.iJi.aLic eyes didst slowly roll ! 
^— Meanwhile to us it never uttered word, 

H^H But let us move, just giving us a glance, 
^^^H like as a lion looks in his repose. — Parsons 

Since our poet in all likelihood never saw S 
who was born sixty-five years earlier than Dante 
not recorded after June 30, 1269, as alive), he could 
have known whether Sordello or Sordello's shade 
be lionlike in attitude ; but the description of a caga 
is so truthful as to set the reader wondering. Pa 
this Sordello is merely a statuesque recollection i 
ion that was kept in the Palace of the Priori, and 
cicked to death by the ass, who may not have k 
fhat 3 rare curiosity he was destroying. 

J^irg. VI, 6i-i6. Cf. Genesis xllx, 9, dted on p. 103, nol 


The Wolf 

Throughout the Middle Ages wolves abounded over 
all Europe.' Giovanni Villani tells of one that appeared 
in the heart of Florence, and Motta reports that as late 
as 1512 wolves infested the Lombard plain and killed 
people at the gates of Milan.^ They swarmed in the 
English forests of Edward 11,^ and in France they 
prowled in straggling bands through the woods and on 
the plains, penetrating by night into the midst of towns, 
and in the early years of the fifteenth century roamed 
in mid-Paris.* Their enmity to shepherds and fiocks 
was of course proverbial. Here is a sample, ' So extreme 
is the hatred between sheep and wolves, that musical 
strings made of the entrails of the wolf and of the sheep 
when struck together give out no sound.' ^ 

In Dante the feud reappears, dressed sometimes in 
Dantesque language, sometimes in that of the Bible. 

"Loup habonde[ntJ en Ilaille et en mainte autre terrc' — 
Treior, p. 247. 

* E. Motta, Archivio st. lombarda, 1891, XllI, p. 247, n. 3. 

* Cf. Eitcydopadia Britannka, 9th ed., s.v. 'Wolf.' 

* RosifeKES, Histoire de la Soci^ti Franfaiu au Moyen Age, vol. 
II. pp. 425-426. Cited by Kuhns. 

' Albertus Mag.vus, De Animal. XXII, tract, ii, cap. i. Cf. 
commeDtary of F. Villani. 



The shepherd lies by his flock at night, watchful lest 
some wild beast scatter it, 

Guardando perche fiera non to sperga} 

and Florence, where Dante spent his childhood and 
youth, is the sheepi . he slept as a lamb, 
hating the wolves thai -* Giving his thought 
a Biblical turn, the i crises a greedy priest- 
hood as ravening w dress of shepherds.' 
Dante dislikes dogs ; ; not so bad as wolves, 
for the poet thus desi iw of Amo: — 

It goes on foUi. la .- uiore it grows, 

The more ii finds the dogs becoming wolves, 
This maledict and misadventurous ditch.* 

— Longfellow. 

Yet the wolf and his cubs, weird phantoms, fall before 
the dogs that drive them to the mountain, and there kill 

» /^/y. XXVII, 84. Qi.Parad.\\,%. 
» Parad. XXV, 4-6. 
^Parad. XXVII, S5-56; — 

' In vesta di pasloi lupi rapaci 
Si ve^on di quassd p«i lull! i p.isctii.' 
Cf. Parad. IX, 132, and Cans. XVIII, 59-60: — 

' Eleggi omai. le la fiatenia pace 
Fa pia pet te, "1 slar lupa rapacc. ' 
Cf also Matt, v-ii, ij, ' Beware of felse prophets, which come to 
you Id sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.' 
Cf. Tosco-Venei. Besti/zrim,^. 34, 'Eziandio [come il lupo] sono tuti 
li meschini omeni che entrano in zeni ofizi eclcsiastichi mondani pro- 
priamente per imbolare et per ranpinare quele cose che 11 condusero 
in pericolo di morte.' 
*/^r^. XIV,49-S'- 

rthem in the prophetic dream of Ugolino. Count 
Ugolino della Gherardesca tells how the Archbishop 
Ruggieri, the traitor, like a huntsman -in-chief and leader. 


Quesli pareva a me maestro e donno, 
Cacciando U lufio e i lupicim al monte. 
Per che i Pisan veder Lueia non fionno. 
Con eagne magre, studiose f conte, 
Gualandi con Sismondi e con Lanfranchi 
S' avea messi dinarai datlafronte. 
In pkciol corso mi pareano stanehi 
Lo padre e i figli, e con P acute scant 
Mi parea lor veder feniier lijianchi} 

He in my vision lord and master seemed, 
Hunting the wolf and wolf-cubs on the height 
Which screeneth Lucca from the Pisan's eye ; 
With eager hounds well trained and lean and light, 
Gualandi and Lanfranchi darted by, 
With keen Sismondi ; these the foremost went. 
But after some brief chase, loo hardly borne. 
The sire and ofispring seemed entirely spent, 
And t^ sharp fangs their bleeding sides were torn. 
— Parsons. 

In this dream the dogs are demons, but the wolves. 
phantoms though they be, are pursued like real maraud- 
ing wolves, back to their fastnesses, and there are 
caught and slain.' 

How, then, is Dante's attitude toward the wolf medi- 

i/«/-XXXni, 28^36. 

*Cf, LeRoy Modu! {ffuilMs XXK\X, XL), chapter entitled 'Cy 
devise comme on preut le leup a force de chiens sans lilets.' 

^now^y the ' wolves ' of Florence. Agai 
to a cornice of Purgatory assigned to the co 
poet bursts out furiously against the 'ancien 
she-wolf here, as was the one that hinderec 
him back at the mouth of Hell: — 

Maltiielta sie lu, antica lupa, 

»Ch€ piii cfie tulle /' a lire beslie hai predt 
Per la tua fame senza fitu eupa!* j 

Accursed be thou, wolf of ancient brood, 
That hast more prey than any tieasi besidi 
Having a greed so infinite for food. 

— Parsons. 

And this food, for which the bitcb-wolf is 
terra e peltro, — land and pelf.* 

Having strayed from the straight road that 

' That Dante's contemporaries ever thought of ) 
between ■mulf or ■u'otf and Ouel/o has not been prov 
is from ' Welf,' a lamily name. 

'Cf. /'ararf. IX, I2?-I33; Purg.XlV, so; viA Inf. 

■ /»/. VII. 8. 


fair mountain of hope, Dante found himself in a gloomy 
wood, near which he encountered an ounce with a spotted 
skin, a lion, and a gaunt she-wolf. 

Ed una lupa che di tutie hrame 

Sembiava earca rulta sua magrezta^ 

E molU genti /e' gia viver grame. 

Qufsta mi parse tanto lii gravizza 

Con la paura, ckf usda di sua vista,* 

Ck' io perdei la speranta dtW alletza. 

E quale i quei che vokntieri acguisla, 

E giugne it tempo che perder lo face, 

Che in tutti t suoi pensitr piange e s' altrisia: 

Tal mi fece la beitia senza pace, 

Che venendomi ineontro, a poco a poeo 

Mi ripingeva lei dove il Sol tace? 

And a she-wolf that with all hungerings 
Seemed to be laden in her m eagre n ess. 
And many folk has caused to live forlorn ! 
She brouglit upon me so much heaviness, 
Wiih the affright that from her aspect came, 
That I the hope relinquished of the height, 
And as he is who willingly acquires, 
And the lime comes that causes him to lose. 
Who weeps in all his thoughts and is despondent, 
E'en such naade me that beast wiihouten peace, 
Which coming on against me by degrees 
Thrust me back thither where the sun is silent. 

— Longfellow. 

• Albertus Magnus, loc. cit., ' Lupus vorat carnes potiusquam 
comedat et non impinguatur.' 

° 'Con la paura, che usda di sua vista.'' Here we may have [q 
a modified form the story of the wolf which, by seeing a man first, 
makes him dumb. See Trtsor, p. 347. * /nf'. 1, 49-60. 


Now the shade of Virgil appears, aad Dante appeals 
to him for rescue : — 

Tu se' lo mio maestro e il mio autore : 
Tu se' solo colui, da cut io tolsi 
Lo bello stile che m' ha fatto onore. 
Vedi la bestia, per cui io mi voisi ; 
Aiutami da lei, famoso saggio, 
Ch' ella mi fa tremar le vene e i polsi. 
' A te convien tenere attro viaggio,' 
Rispase, pel che lagrimar mi vide, 
' Se vuiii campar d" este loco selvaggio : 
Che questtj bestia, per la qual tu gride, 
Non lascia altrui passar per la sua via. 
Ma ianlo lo impeJisce che P uccide : ' 
Ed ha natura si malvaggia e ria, 
Che mat non empie la bramosa voglia, 
E dopo ilpasto ha piu fame che pria} 
Molti son gli animali a cui s' ammoglia^ 
E piit saranno aneora, infin che ilveltro 
Verri, che la farA marir con doglia. 

' Wisdom, ii, 24, ' Through envy of the devil came death into 
the world.' Cf. Inf. 1, ill, ■ Lk onde invidia priina dipartiUa.' 
» Cf. Horace, Od. Ill, xvi, 17 ; — 

■ Crcscentem soquttur cura pecuniam 

And Ovid, Met. VIII, 813-815 (ed. Riese) : — 

■ Quodque urbibus esse 
Quodque satis poleral populo, non suflicil uni ; 
PiDsquc cupil quo plura dcmillat m alvum.' 

• For the story here indicated see, e.g., Brunetto Lattni, Tre- 
sor, pp, 147-248. The bad faith of Siena, her ' trimming,' passed 
into (his proverb, current throughout Tuscany, ■ La lupa puttaneg- 
gla' (The bitch-wolf is wantoning). See DiNO Compagni, Cronaea 
Fior. II, ad fin. Cf. also Dante's statement in Epist. VIII, vii, i-i : 
' Quidni .* Cupiditatem untisquisquc sibi duxit in uxorem,' etc. 


Questi non ciberd terra ni peltro. 

Ma sapiema e amort e virtuie, 

E sua nation sara tra Feliro e Feltro. 

Questi la caceera per ogni villa. 
Fin che P avrd rimessa nelh inferno. 
La onde invidia ' prima dipartilla.' ' 

'Thou art my master, and my author ihou, 
Thou art alone the one from whom I took 
The beautiful style that has done honour to me. 
Behold the beast, for wJiich I have turned back ; 
Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage, 
For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble.' 
'Thee it behooves to take another road,' 
Responded he, when he beheld me weeping, 
' If from this savage place thou wouldst escape ; 
Because this beast, at which thou criest out, 
Suffers not any one to pass her way. 
But so doth harass him that she destroys him ; 
And has a nature so malign and ruthless, 
That never doth she glut ber greedy will. 
And after food is hungrier than before. 
Many the animals with whom she weds. 
And more they shall be still, until the Greyhound 
Comes, who shall make her perish in her pain. 
He shall not feed on either earth or pelf. 
But upon wisdom, and on love and virtue ; 
Twixt Feltro and Feltro shall his nation be ; 

Through every city shall he hunt her down. 
Until he shall have driven her back to Hell, 
There from whence envy did first let her loose.' 

— Longfellow. 


* Inf. I, 85-105 and 109-111 


Thus Nature's palpable truth is distorted in a dozen 
ways by folklore and allegory. But how magnificently ! 
For this wolf is of the kind that rove in nightmares, a 
ghostly creature looming on some dark road, in a forest 
haunted by other uncouth things, for life is weirdly 
caricatured in dreams. Dante's she-wolf is a demon. 
She has lived for untold ages — ever since sin came 
into the world, but symbolises envious greed. Avarice 
makes men stammering or dumb, and the wolf is the 
symbol of avarice. Now Dante's siren stammers, — 
so Benvenuto explains,' because she is covetous,^ and, 
according to folklore, if a wolf sees a man before the 
man sees it the man is made dumb. Yet a close con- 
nexion between the legend and Dante's words — la 
paura eke usci'a di siia '^'ista (the fear that came from 
the sight of her) — ^is hard to discern. 

Though a real wolf, if alone, almost never attacks a 
man, and, if it attack him, flies upon him or runs him 
down, this she-wolf of his dream drives our poet back, 
little by little, to the forest, and makes his veins and 
pulses tremble. She is gluttonous, but never cloyed. 
Like the wolf of folklore she feeds on earth or land,* 
but will at last be driven back to Hell by the magic 
hound that shall eat neither land nor pelf: and as the 
she-wolf of folklore is said to be followed in her heat 
by many other wolves, so this dream-wolf of Dante is 
wedded to many animals; but when the great hound 
appears, — the hound that feeds on wisdom and love and 

• On Purg. XIX, 7. ' Una femmina balba — hoc respidt ai-aritiam, 
quae non loquitur dare et aperte. 

* See note 2, page 95. 



virtue, — he shall drive her back to Hell, whence Satan's 
envy long ago sent her out into the world. This she- 
wolf, then, is only the embodiment of a sin, only another 
form of the devil. 

Supplementary Note. — An unimportant reference to the wolf 
occurs in Conv. I, vi, 45. 


Dante, like our o 
for dogs. The gre 

The Dog 

larCj had small fondness 

ce they often possess, 

:ven to a bad master, 

elighl in kindness, their 

gi ir histrionic qualities, 

th terest in human afifairs, 

— not one ot these good qualities 

appealed to Dante. He makes a 

saviour of Italy out of the veltro} the 

lordly hound, whose virtue is swift- 

'"*" ness,' and who shall drive back to Hell 

MS, the rapacious wolf;* but this hound 

is unnatured by excessive allegory, 

' The allegory of the -veltro scarcely concerns this essay, which 
b rather a study of nature. The veltro was a heavily built dog, 
probably between our great Danes and the greyhound. Without 
doubt the •veltro and veautres are the same dog. They were strong 
enough to kill bears and wild boars. 'L^autre nature d'alanz veau- 
tres si sout taillez comme laide taille de le\Tier, mab ils ont grosses 
testes, grosses levies et grani oreilles, et de ceux s'aide Ten tres bien 
a chascier les ours et les porcz.' — Gastos Febus, Richel 616, f 46', 
died by Godefroy. Cf. also L£on Gautier, La CluvaUrie, pp. 182- 
183. Partlnopeus de Blois (533) : — 

' Mueles de chiens i fail mener 
Et veaulid por pieudrc saJDglier.' 
See also Viollet-LE-Duc, Diet, du moirilier framaii, vol. II, p. 426. 
See also Du Cange, s.v. 'Canis.' 

* Conv. I, xii, 60-63, 65-67. ' See chapter on ' The Wolf,' p. 1 12 ff. 

After Viollet-le-Duc 

^P Dan 

^B barkin 

XJ irg 

Dante describes only the superficial traits, — the dog's 
barking and mournful howl,' his gluttony, the snarling 
pugnacity of curs, the mastiff's ferocity, the boar hound's 
fleetness, the bird-dog's sense of smell.^ Dante under- 
stood dogs so little as to attribute to thera the metaphys- 
ical perturbation of a scholastic philosopher. 

Between two viands, equally removed 

And tempting, a free man would die of hunger 

Ere either he could bring unto his teeth. 

So would a lamb between the ravenings 

Of two fierce wolves stand, fearing both alike ; 

And so would stand a dog between two does." 


This is no real dog but a schoolman, a Thomas 
Aquinas,* splitting hairs for sheer love of mankind. 

In the Middle Ages there were no systematic scaven- 
gers, no police. Table leavings and filth were not seldom 
cast out of windows to be washed away by the rain, dried 
up by the sun, or devoured by the dogs, which were the 
main scavengers in Dante's Florence, as they are now in 
Stamboul. If a man was rich and owned a goodly house 

] Cassio nello inferno latra.' Inf. 

Poscifl che vide Polissena moria. 

E del suo Polidora in sulla riva 

Del mar si fu la dolorosa accoKa, 

Fonennita latrS si come cane; 

Tanlo il dolor te fe' la mente lorta.' 

Cf. Ovro, Met. XIII, 404-407, 538-540, 567-571. The Ovidian 

figure is repeated in Inf. XXXII, 103-108 ; Vll, 25-27, 43 ; Caw*. 

X!I, 59. » CoHV. I, icii, 60-61, 65-67. ' Farad. IV, 1-6. 

' See commentaries of Scartazzjui and H. F. Toier on Farad. 

IV, 1 


and treasure, he kept dogs,' more watchful than mere 
hirelings. No doubt, then, Dante was many a time 
awakened by these prowlers seeking a meal in the 
streets, or watched their quarrelsome struggle for exist- 
ence. When these creatures have a roaster whose prop- 
erty they try to gu — ' '^ es in the action only the 

ferocity. Devils 1 victim 

With equal i storm of wrath 

As when di )r man to attack 

Who stops ns upon his path, 

— After Parsons. 
Con quet rc/Zu trmpesta 

Ch' eseoH i eani addouo al pcvereBo, 
Che di tubito ehiede ove s' arrrsta? 

What do these words reveal ? Can it be that Dante 
was embittered against these guardians by some per- 
sonal recollection ? He himself tells us how in exile 
he went to nearly every part of Italy, almost in beggary, 
showing against his will the wounds of ill fortune, 
afflicted by grievous poverty, and seeming worthless in 
the eyes of many who had thought of him in another 
way.' Perhaps these dogs, suspicious as dogs are of ill- 

^ ' Et si doit li sires avoir gianz mastins, por garder ses bestes, et 
petitz chiennei por garder sa maison, el levTiers et braehez et oisiaji 
por vener, quant i] se vuelt en ce solacier.' — Brun'ETTO, 
Tresor^ p. 180. Penalties were inflicted on whoever stole or killed 
a watch-dog or hunting-dog. Cf. Du Canoe, i.v. ' Caois.' 

Rabanus Maurus, De l/niv, Vlll,c. I, 'The dog, a most vora- 
cious and bothersome animal, is wont to guard with his barking 
those houses in which he knows he can salisly his gluttony with a 
morsel of bread.' 

' Inf. XXI, 67-69, ' Conv. I, iii, 30-40, 

Quil t qu«l caneche abbalan<ja agugna, 

E si racquela pol che II pulo morde. 

Che solo a dlvorarlo Intende e pu^a. . . . 

Inftmo. Vi. 2B-30. 


clad strangers, had once attacked even Dante. Or, 
again, the poet may have borne in mind some other 
assault upon a begging vagabond ; for to be a beggar 
was no such dishonour then as now. 

Not only is the dog fierce against beggars, but he flies 
'cruelly ' after the hare,' and the Malatestas are the Old 
and the New mastiff of Verruchio.* From a phrase of 
Dante's it seems that mastiffs were employed to run 
down thieves in those days. A devil flings a sinner 
down into the pitch: — 

Laggt" it buttb, e per b scoglw duro 
Si vohe, e mai nonfu masHno scielto 
Con tantafrelta a seguitar lo furo? 

Hurling him down, back o'er the hard rock 
He sped, and never was mastiff loosed 
With such haste to chase a thief. 

Yet the dog may be himself the victim, for the strug- 
gle to exist causes every creature to torture or kill, or to 
> Inf. XXIII, 16-18. 

»/«/.xxvn, 46-48:— 

■ li inasHn vecchio, e il nuovo da Vtmicchio, 
Che fecer di Montngnd il mal goveino, 
La dove soglion. fan dc' di^nil succhio.' 
Scartazzici fails to offer any evidence that Ihe Malatestas had 
a mastiff on their shield. Woodward, Heraldry Brit, and For- 
eign, vol. 1, p, 243. gives Iheir arms thus, ' An elephant's head, the 
trunk elevated sable, tusked argent, ... it issues from a coronet 
and has a golden crest ichancri running down its back from its 
forehead.' Benvenuto see.s no heraldic allusion, ' . . . quorum 
utrumque appellat Mastinum metaphorice, quasi velit dicere, ambo 
magni magistri tymnnidis. Mastinus est fortis, violentus et rapax 
qui Don de facili dimittit predam, quam a 
•/«/. XXI, 43-45. 


be tortured or killed by some other thing. To what 
does Dante liken the busy hands of the damned who 
are forever striking off the Bakes of fire ? 

Per git occkifuori scopfiava lor duolo : 
Di gtia, di la soccorritH con U mani, 
Quandff a' vapori, e guaitdo al caldo suolo. 
Non altrimenti fan di stale i cam', 
Or col ceffo or coi pii, quando son morsi 
O da pulci o da tnosche o da lafani} 

Oh, how their eyes their agonies betrayed \ 

Ever by turns against the fiery sleet 

And ihe hot sand, Iheir swift hands they employed. 

As dogs in summer ply both jaws and feet, 

By flies or hornets or by fleas annoyed. 

— Parsons. 

Dante has little sympathy for these sinners ; for the 
suffering dogs he expresses none. Dogs to Dante's 
mind were little better than wolves. The people of 
Arezzo ' are snarling curs who dwell on the Arno. 

Bololi^ trova poi, venendo giuso 
Ringkiosi piu che non chitde lor possa, 
Ed a lor, disdegnosa, tone il muse.* 

>/«/. XVII,46-si. 

* According to Anonimo Fiorendno, the Aretines had cut oo their 
totem, ' A cane aon magna saepe tenelur aper.' 

' This word is probably not akin to Old French dau/.-, but may 
be built on the Germanic stem 6u(, bol, ' stumpy.' Here Uante seems 
to mean >curs.' The word botolo also meant a special breed. Cf. 
Francesco Sacchetti. nov. 108, ' Avea il detlo messer Guglietmo 
un catello quasi tra botolo e bracchetto,' etc. ; also Boccaccio, g. 7, 
f. 3, ' E se non fosse ch' io non voglio mostrare d' essere sdiiatta di 
can botolo,' etc. • Purg. XIV, 46-48. 

m If the 

Then, downward flowing, it finds curs 
Snarling more than their strength demands, 
And scornful its muzzle turns away. 

If these ' snarling curs ' find their way to Hell, their 
snarling will become a 'bark' or 'howl,'^ and Virgil, 
thrusting Filippo Argenti off into the mire, cries, ' Back 
there with the other dogs I ' ' Ugolino, gnawing the 
skull of the Archbishop, put to it teeth as strong as a 

' But what grief could not do hunger did then.' 
This said, he rolled his eyes askance, and fell 
To gnaw the skull with greedy teeth again. 
Strong as a dog's upon the bony shell .' 

— Parsons. 

Not only do the teeth grind powerfully on Ruggieri's 
skull, — teeth that must grind for eternity, — but the 
whole action, the upward glance, the return to the skull, 
the rolling of the eyes, and the concentration of Count 
Ugolino's spirit on the horrible bone are all the actions of 
a dog rather than of a man. Ugolino gnaws and starves 
forever. Not so the demon Cerberus, who is appeased 
with a fistful of earth, as a dog is satisfied and stops 
barking when once he gets his food.* 

As bays a greedy dog with fierce desire. 

But quiet grows, mumbling the snatched repast 

For which alone his hunger fights and strains. 

— Parsons. 

1 Seep. 119, Dote 1. ' /«/. VIII, 42. 

*/»/. X.XXIII, 75-78- 

* /n/. VI, 38-30. See chapter on ' Cerbero,' p. 47 ff. 


Not only does Dante give to two of his fiends the 
nicknames Dog-face' and Dog-grabber* (for both the 
devils and the damned are curs), but follows a tradition 
by actually putting dogs into Hell to pursue and rend 
the tost souls. Lucan^ speaks of the 'Stygian bitches,' 
and in Tundal's* Vision the Angel says to the Soul, 
' Look now, for the mad dogs are waiting to torture 
thee.' In the wood of the Suicides Dante's ears were 
struck by a crash of some approaching chase : — 

Ed e<€0 duo dalla sinistra casta, 

Nudi e graffiati, Juggendo si forte, 

Che delia selva rompihto ogni rosta. 

Quel dinanzi : 'Ora aaorri, oicorri, morte.* 

E r altro, a cui pareva tardar troppo, 

Gridava: 'Lano, si nonfuro tucorte 

Le gambe tut aUe giostre del Toppo. ' 

E poiche forse gli fallia la lena, 

Di si e d' un cespuglio fece un groppo. 

Diretro a loro era la seh'a piena 

Di fiere cagne, bramose e cerrenti. 

Come veltri (he usdsser di (alena. 

In quel, ehe s' appiattb, miser li denli, 

E quel diltueraro a brano a brano ; 

J^i sen portar quelle membra dolenli} 

>CagnaHO, /uf. XXI, 119. » Grafljacane, /«/. XXI, \21. 

* Cited by Boccaccio : — 

Cf. ViROlL, jEh. VI, 155-258, Conington says 
luual of inTerna] hounds. 

* In Scella di Curios. Lett., vol. 128, p. 44. 

•/«/. XIII, 1 15-129. 

Thus, St a sudden sound we stood aghast ; 
As lo ! two wretches from the left there drove, 
Shattering the impeding branches as they passed, 
Bleeding and scratched and naked, through the grove. 
' Death ! ' ctied the foremost, ' to the rescue ! fly ! ' 
The other, vexed that he less fleetly went, 
Cried, ' Lano ! not so swiftly didst thou ply 
Those legs of thine at Toppo's tournament.' 
Then, as if wanting wind, he stopped, and formed 
A single group there with a stunted plant; 
While close behind them all the forest swarmed 
With grim black bitches, following fierce and gaunt — 
Like greyhounds rushing from the leash they darted, 
And fastening on the wretch who lurking lay, 
Piecemeal his limbs with greedy fangs they paRed, 
And bore the quivering fragments far away. 

— Parsons. 

A black dog frightened the witches at Salem in 1691 ; 
and a black dog in Goethe's Faust is only the prowler 

Faust. Siehst du den schwatzen Hund durch Saat und Stop- 
pel streifen? 
IVagner. Ich sah ihn lange schon, nicht wichtig schien er mir. 
Faust. Betracht' ihn recht. Fur was hallst du das Thier? 
Wagner. Flir einen Pudel, der auf seine Weise 

Sich auf der Spur des Herren plagt. 
Faust. Bemcrkst du, wie in weitem Schneckenkreise 

Er um uns her und immer naher jagt? 

Und irr' ich nicht, so zieht ein Feuerstrudel 

Auf seinem Pfaden hinterdrcin. 

— Faust, I, vss. 1147-1155. 

Since hell, after all, is no more nor less than the 
awfuilest nightmare of mankind, these black bitches 


that pursue Lano differ in no wise from those that 
Count Ugolino saw in his dream, — those lean, eager 
bitches that followed the wolf and his cubs to the moun- 
tain of San Giuliano.^ And, as they overtake the were- 
wolf Ugolino, so the veltro, the magic hound, shall drive 
the gaunt she-wolf back into helf. 

On many torn Ages are to be seen the 

lord and his ladi ble above their handful 

of dust, and at :en stretched a hound. 

As he shares thi )mb, so in life he lay at 

their feet and sh' He is thus almost an 

emblem of the ! the prince be just, how 

could the swiftne for justice be signified 

better than in ) becomes himself an 

avenging Messiah, tiill of wisdom, love, and virtue ? 
The hound is now by dualistic allegory transformed 
into a man, or, rather, into a spirit of Good, powerful 
enough to drive envious Greed out of all Italy.^ 

'/«/.XXXIll, 31-36. Seechapterou'TheWolf,"i>. ill. 
^Inf. I, 100-111. 



Se vidi volpt correre, 
Non dimandar la traccia. 

— Jacopone da TODl. 

That shrewd and pretty little creature, the fox, from 
antiquity down through the Middle Ages was an object 
of fear and pious scorn. He is the wiliest, the most 
fraudulent, of all the beasts. He is the foe, not only of 
laymen, but of clerics and friars, of popes and saints. He 
is the symbol of heresy,' the embodiment of the Devil.' 

Not only has the fox all these characteristics, he is also 
the arch foe of other beasts, and a whole epic ^ is written 
to tell how by countless wiles he hoodwinks Bernard the 
Ass, outwits Noble the Lion, blots the honour of Bruin 
the Bear, and escapes the gibbet after a life of malice 
and shame.* His intelligence, like that of the Fiend, is 

' St. Augustine in Ps. Ixnx, cited by Scarta^zini. Rabanus 
Maurus {De Univ. lib. VIII, cap. i) declares that 'the fox signilies 
mystically the wDy devil, or the sly heretic, or a sinner, and else- 
where, aaith St. Matthew (viii), " the foxes have holes and the birds 
of the air have nests," signifying in the foxes heretics, and in the birds 
of the air evil spirits,' etc. The opinion b perhaps borrowed from 
St. Ambrose {Expos, in Litcam, lib. VII). 

* Hugo of St. Victor, Dt Btstns, 11. 5. 

* Le Roman dt Rtnard. In Flemish, Rtmaert <U Vot, later 
embodied in Goethe's poem. 

* Cf. Gaston Paais, LUUratHrtfratt^aistaH mcyen dge, JS 83-84. 




bent only on wickedness. 'The tricky fox,' declares 
Alexander Neckam,^ ' is armed with frauds inborn. 
Even having been caught, he resorts to exquisite wiles. 
With so great versatility is he endowed as to seem some- 
times to elude the mind of man." And Hugo of St. 
Victor avers that the fox is called vulpes because he is 
volupes (slippery). 'For he is slippery-footed, and 
never follows a straight road, but runs crookedly here 
and there. Fraudulent and sly, he gives his image to 
the Devil.'* 

St. Augustine sees in him one who signifies tricksters, 
and especially heretics full of guile.^ Dante indicts him, 
too, and vents upon him his wrath at the contemptible 
wickedness of certain men. In one of those wholesale 
condemnations of which he alone is capable, the poet 
describes how the Arno, having passed the curs of 
Arezzo and the wolves of Florence, flows (accursed and 
unhappy ditch !) by the Pisan foxes, worst of all; — 

Vassi cadendo, e quanta eila piU ingroaa, 

Tanto piit trava di can/arsi lupi 

La maladetta e sventurala fossa. 

Diicesa pot per piii pelaghi cupi, 

Treva U volpi si piene dijroda, 

Che non temono ingegno che U occupi} 

' Wright's ed^ p. 204. » Loc. cit. • hoc. (it. 

' P«rg. XIV, 49-54. Though I have used Longfellow's transla- 
tion for lack of a better, it seems lo me that the word ingtgno = 
here old French engin, English 'gin,' and that occupi meana 'to 
catch.' Cf. Petrarch {Trait, ben. vh: 9). 'Sono ingegni del dia- 
volo.'etc. Boccacdo (niT'. 98,36), 'Non di men o dove te sap ere che io 
non cereal nk con ingegno nt con fraude d' imporre alcuna macula 
all' onest>i ed alia chiarezza del vostro sangue.' For occupare, 'to 


It goes on falling, and the more it grows, 
The more it finds the dogs becoming wolves, 
This maledict and misad venturous ditch. 
Descended then through many a hollow gulf. 
It finds the foxes so replete with fraud 
They fear no cunning that may master them. 

— Longfellow. 

And into the mouth of Guido da Montefeltro, who had 
taught the papal trickster, Boniface, how to be still trick- 
ier, Dante puts these words (Guido speaks in Hell):^ — 

lofui uom if arme, e poi/ui cordelliero, 

Credendomi, i\ cinio,fare ammenda; 

E eerlo il creder mio veniva inUro, 

Se non fosse ilgran PreU, a cui mat prenda, 

Che mi rimise nelk prime colpe ; 

£ eome e quare voglio eke m' intenda. 

Mentre ch' io forma fui d'ossa e di pelpe, 

Che la madre mi dii, I' opere mie 

Nonfuron leonine ma di volpe? 

Gli accorgimenti e U coperle vie 

lo seppi tutte, e si menai lor arte 

Ck' alfine della terra il suono uscie. 

I was a soldier, then a corded friar ; 

So girdled, thinking meet amends to make ; 

catch,' cf Boccaccio (««/. 17, ig), 'Quale col giacchioilpescatorenel 
fiunte moiti pesci ad un tratlo,' etc It seems lo me the line, — 

'Che non lemono ingpgno che le occupi ' — 

either was meant to have a twofold significance, or should be 
Inmslated, — 

Which fear not (hit any gin 11137 calch tfacm. 

' fnf. XXVII, 67-78, 

' Cicero, De Officiis, 1, 13, 41, ' fraus quasi vulpeculae, vis ieonis 


And surely this had proved no vain desire 
Bm for the High Priest, whom curses take ! 
'Twas he seduced me to my sins once more, 
Hear how and why ; the hearing it is worth. 
While I my bones and pulpy members wore 
Which ray good mother gave me at my birth. 
Mine was the fox's, not the lion's pan ; 
I knew all tricks, all covert ways of fraud, 
And with such cunning carried out their art 
To the world's end my fame was noised abroad. 

— Parsons. 

Not only is the fox thus skilfully made the bearer of 
human sin, but, when he assumes a demoniacal form, the 
symbol of that heresy which assailed the early Church, 
the character of the beast is lost, and nothing is left but 
a demon who flings himself upon the Triumphal Car of 
the Church and is straightway put to flight by Beatrice, 
the figure of Theology. 

Poscia vidi awentarsi nfUa cuna 
Del Irionfal veuolo una voipe, 
Che iT ogni paslo buon parea digiuna. 
Ma, riprendentlo Ui di /aide eolpe. 
La Donna mta la volte in tan la fu la 
Quanta soffenen r ossa serna po/pe} 

Thereafter saw I leap into the body 

Of the triumphal vehicle a fox 

That seemed unfed with any wholesome food. 

But, for his sins upbraiding him, 

My Lady put him to as swift a flight 

As such a. Aeshless skeleton could bear. 

— Longfellow. 
'fl*/y.XXXn, 118-123. 

THE FOX 131 

Again, in a Latin letter addressed to Henry VII of 
Luxemburg,^ Dante lashes Florence by calling her a 
stinking vixen : — 

'Do you not know, perchance, most excellent of 
princes! (nor can you see from the height of such 
majesty), where this stinking fox lies, safe from the 
hunters ? * ^ This is the classic epithet for heresy.® If 
the heresy be only political, it matters not. Baffled to 
find a human figure, the poet vents his anger at his erst- 
while fellows with an epithet dear to the theolog^ians, 
and drawn from the animal kingdom. 

^ Epist. VII, 135-138, 'An ignoras, excellentissime principum, 
nee de specula summse celsitudinis deprehendis, ubi vulpecula fcetoris 
istius, venantium secura, decumbat?^ (For the word 'vulpecula,^ 
cf. p. 129, note 2.) In French venery there were five 'stinking 
beasts * — the wild boar, the wild sow, the wol^ the fox, and the otter. 
King Modus has a chapter on these ' dnq bestes puans.^ 

« Translated by C S. Latham. 

* Cf. Cassiodorus, Hist. EccL V, 47, *• Fcetorem hsereticae pestis 


The Panther 


In Aristotle,' in Pliny,* and, more important still, in 
that mystical bestiary whose unknown author is called 
the Physiologus,* it is told that the panther has so sweet 
a breath as to entice all other animals to follow her ex- 
cept, some say, the dragon. Guido delie Colonne and 
Messer Polo celebrate the modesty of their mistresses, 
who are as unconscious of their sweetness and beauty 
as the panther.* St. Hildebert liked the story, which 
found its way into the Bestiary of Love hy Richard Four- 
nival,* and figures prominently in a poem called T/te 
Tale of the Love Panther.^ In an Anglo-Saxon poem 

' Hist. Animal. LX, 6. (Aristotle explains that the panther uses 
her sweet breath in order to entice other animals where she may 
devour them.) 

' Vin, 63. In X.XI, 39, having spoken of the sweet odour of 
flowers, Plinj- says, ' Animalium nullum odoralum, nisi si de pan- 
theris quod dictum est credimus.'' See Lauchert, CnchichU des 
Pkysiolegus, p. 19. 

' The Physiologus was diffused through Europe earlier than Aris- 

' Cf. Lauchert, ofi. cit. p. 189- 

' Lt Bestiairt d^ Amour, par Richard de Fournival, p. p. C. Hip- 
peau, Paris, 1S60, p. 34. 

' L4 Dil de la Fanthirt d'' Amours par Nicole de Afargival, poiine 
du XIll sIkU, publii d'apris des manuicrili de Paris et de Saint 
Pitersbourg. par HENRY A. Todd (in Soci^I^ des Anciens Testes), 
Paris, 1883. See especially chap. Ill, of Introduction, pp. xvi-xxiii. 



the panther symbolises Christ,' as does the griffin in 

It is in alt likelihood to this legend of the sweet odour 
that Dante refers in his treatise De Vulgari Eloquential 
Searching for what he calls the illustrious folk-speech, 
Dante writes as follows, ' Having hunted through the 
groves and meadows of Italy without coming upon the 
panther we are following, in order to find her let us set 
out on her track more reasonahly, that we may by skil- 
ful zeal entangle her in our snares, for she is fragrant 
{redolentem) and shows herself everywhere.' 

Thus our author seems* to accept a legend so well 
known throughout the Middle Ages as to render easier 
the identification of the ' ounce ' encountered by Dante 
near the gloomy wood at the raouth of Hell.* 

' Sec Ten Brwk, Hist, of English Uteraiure, pp. 63-63 i^^ ^^- 
mn ed.). 

' De V. E. I, xvi, 1-7, ' Postquain veoati saltus et pascua 
aumus Italiae, nee panteram quam sequimur adinvenimus; ut ipsara 
reperire possimus, rationabilius investigemus de ilia, ut 5oler[i studio 
redolentem ubique et ubique apparenlem nostris penitus irreliamus 

* Daote uses the word redokre (without w a rraot that I have been 
able to find) again in De V. E. I, Tcvi, 49 and 54, but keeps up tbe 
metaphor in 45 and 47. 

* See chapter on 'The Ounce,' p. 88 ff. 


The She-Cat — La Gatta 

The efforts of the mouse to escape the cat figure in 
some fables, and were of sufBcient interest to be por- 
trayed, even by illuminators,* in many phases. Dante 
chose that in which the mouse gets into the clutches of 
several cats at once, or, rather, a sinner falls amongst 
several clawing demons. 

TVa male gatU era venuto il sono? 

Among malevolent cats the mouse had come. 

The phrase has a thoroughly proverbial tone, and one 
might almost say that some particular tale or fable lay 
behind this line. Curiously enough, most Italian prov- 
erbs dealing with cats prefer the she-cat to the male, 
though proverbs wherein dogs figure rarely choose the 
bitch.3 Furthermore, the female cat seems to be men- 
tioned oftener, in at least the older Italian literature, 
than the male.* Whatever the truth as to this prefer- 
ence of she-cats to he-cats may be, Dante's line bafBes 

» Cf. Biiliographiea, vol. 11, pp. 324-323- ' M- XXll, 58. 

'Cf. Giusti's collection, /(Uj/w. 

• Cf. Manuzzt. In nov. 1 1 z of Franc. Sacchetti, a certain robbery 

Is laid to a gatta, the fem. gender having apparently little or no 

sextial value. So, also, Boccaccio (nov. 79. 16), ' In una sua loggia 

gli avea dipinla la battaglia de' topi e della gaita.' Cf. note 2. 




research. Perhaps the thought got its earliest prover- 
bial setting from his pen. Considering the scores of 
proverbs or proverbial phrases in Shakespeare not to be 
found elsewhere, one would expect to find more in 
Dante. There are, however, apparently very few ; for 
a thought that has become famous is not necessarily a 

The she-cat is one of a dozen animals to which Dante 
compares his demons. 

The Mouse — II Sorco — II Topo 

' Mystically,' says Rabanus Maurus,' * mice signify 
men who, in their breathless eagerness for earthly gains, 
filch their booty from another's store.' So it was with 
Ciampolo, a political jobber, whom Dante* compares to 
a mouse that has fallen into the clutches of ill-minded 
cats ; (or Ciampolo, having got out of the hot pitch, has 
fallen amidst demons. The mouse is thus looked upon 
as a noxious beast. As Ciampolo has stolen public 
funds, so the mouse, by robbing another's store, is 
finally rewarded by getting into the claws of malevo- 
lent cats. 

Ciampolo hits on this trick to get away. If the 
demons will but stop their clawing awhile and stand 
aside' so that his fellow-jobbers may not fear, without 
budging from the spot he will whistle (the sign at which 
these jobbers emerge from the pitch to cool), and, 

"^ Di Univcrso, lib. VllI, 2, 'Mysiice autem mures significant 
homines cupiditate terrena iniiiactes et pradam de aiiena substantia 
Burri pie Dies.' 

' Inf. XXH. 58, 'Tra male gatte era venuto il sorco.' The form 
'sorco' (for'sordo') had become antiquated In Florence before 1550; 
for Gelli in his lectures on Dante (vol. II, p. 364) comments thus, 
'uno sorcio. doi, diciamo no!.' For another early occurrence of 
'sorco' in its plural -sorchi,' see Libtr de curis avium in Scelta di 
Curios. Lett. vol. 140, p. Jo, '. . . e troverai le plumale [rimanena 
di pelo o di piuma?] pelose di sorchi,' etc, * /«/. XXII, 100. 



whereas he is but one, will get seven to come.' 1 
demon Cagnazzo mistrusts :— 

' Hear his malicious craft, to plunge below ! ' 
Then he, so rich in trickeries, replied : 
'Yea, too malicious, seeking to obtain 
More misery for my comrades in the lake.' 

— Longfellow. 

The demon Alichino, thinking himself too sly to be 
caught, leads the other demons to be deceived. The 
jobber dives, and Alichino tries in vain to catch him. 
The demon Calcabrina grapples with Alichino, both fall 
into the boiling pitch, whereat four demons with hooks 
rush to haul out their companions ' ungrappled ' by the 

Thus Dante and Virgil leave them, and Dante is 
reminded of a fable : — 

ybl/o era in sullafavola d' tsopo 
Lo mio pensier per ia presenU rissa, 
Dov' ei parlb delta rana e del topo ; 
CAipiu non si pareggia mo ed issa* 
Chf I' un con I' allrofa, se ben j' accoppia 
Prituipio ejine con la menlejusa? 

Upon the fable of ^sop was directed 
My thought, by reason of the present quarrel. 
Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse ; 
For mo and issa are not more alike 

'/«/. XXII, 103-104. 

* ' Dicit ergo : che mo et issa, idesl, ista duo njigaria, tjus lantum 
significant quantum de praesenti, sed aliqui tusd dicunt mo, aliqui 
lonibardi dicunt issa.' — Benvenuto DA IHOLA. 

■/«/. XXlll, 4-9- 


Than this one is to that, if well we couple 
End and beginning with a steadfast mind. 

— Longfellow. 

Although Dante has already called the jobber Ciam- 
polo a mouse (XXII, 58), and cotnpared the sinners in 
the pitch to frogs (XXII, 26-33), the fable seems to have 
been suggested to him rather by the immediate quarrel 
which Calcabriua had wished to have with Alichino 
(XXII, 13s), just as the frog 'deceitfully proposes to 
help the mouse.' But in what fable ? At least two ver- 
sions, each of which (unlike the fable of the Cock and 
the Pearl) belongs to the older ^sopic literature, seem 
to contain the essence of Dante's episode, In the branch 
assigned to Romulus the fable runs as follows : — 

A mouse, wishing to cross a river, sought aid of a 
frog. The latter got a thick string, tied the mouse to 
his foot, and began to swim. But in mid-river, to snatch 
away the life of the wretched mouse, the frog dived 
down, Whilst the mouse was still struggling sturdily, 
a kite, flying down, caught the mouse in his claws, and 
carried him aloft with the hanging frog. For thus doth it 
befall those who think maliciously against others' welfare. 

The so-called Anonj-mus Neveleli bears more em- 
phatically on the strife : — 

A mouse, whose journey had brought him to a lake, 
met there a garrulous frog. The frog, having bargained 
for treasure, was eager to do harm. . . . So, then, foot 
is fastened to foot, but with no harmony of mind. Lol 
they swim. The mouse is pulled, but the frog pulls, , . . 
The frog tries to go under, but the mouse stays up and 
withstands disaster. 




Fear itself lends force, is the moral.' 
Again, 'in the version of Marie de France," to quote 
Mr. Toynbee,^ 'the mouse is not drowned, but while she 
and the frog are struggling in the water the kite swoops 
down and carries off the frog, setting the mouse at 
liberty ' : — 

Li Escoufles par cuveitise 

La Sotiz iait. La Raine ad prise, 

Mengiee I'ade devouree, 

Et la Suriz est detivrec. (IV, 79-81.) 

The kite out of greed let go the mouse, but he kept the frog, 
ate him and devoured him, and the mouse is set free. 

If, now, a close resemblance is to be found between 
the story told by Dante of the present strife and the 
fable, Ciampolo, who was earlier compared to a frog 
(XXII, 26-33), must be left out. The two demons, then, 
struggling in the pitch and hauled out after they have 
been ungrappled by the heat, are like the mouse and 
the frog, while the kite is represented by the rescuing 
demons. The deceit in Dante is more complicated. In 
fine, his description bears only a superficial similarity to 
any known version of the .<Esopic fable. 

'Cf. Kenneth McKenzie, Dante's References to jEsap,itk the 
Seventeenth Annual Report of the Dante Society, Cambridge, 189S 
(Boston, 1900), pp. 6-7. Text as giveo by McKenzie; — 
' Muris llCT nimpcnle lacu venit obvia muri 
Rrob loqiuu, el opcm pacta nocere cupil . . . 
Pes coll ergo pedi. sei) mem a mcnlc recedll. 
Tnhilur illc,sed ilia liahiL . , . 
iccgl. sed mus emergil el obUal 
im suggeiil ipse timor. . , ,' 
* See his Dictionary, s.ii. ' Esopo.' 


According to Buti, jEsop was a ' little book read to 
small boys who are learning Latin (Grammatica), in 
which book are certain moralised fables to better their 
manners'; and Benvenuto da Imola declares that^sop 
was an Asiatic poet who wrote a great work from which 
was cuUed that little book that the Latins use, in which, 
among other apologues, is that of the frog and the 

Furthermore, the Anonymous Florentine says that 
from the version in Greek ' Grammar ' was taken the 
Latin Isopetto, the third fable of which begins, 'Muris 
iter rumpente lacu,' etc. This is the version of the Anon- 
ym us Neveleli. 

It was (so Dante says, XXIII, 5) the quarrel of the 
demons that suggested to him the fable. Hence his 
claim that the stories are as comparable as mo and issa 
is safe. The truth, however, seems to be that it was the 
vEsopic fable that suggested to Dante his scene of 
the quarrelHng demons, as the bees suggested to him the 
heavenly rose. If we consider how Dante remembered 
and planned, the fact that his thought turns to jEsop 
only in the next canto becomes of little or no importance. 



The Mole 

Aristotle, basing his observation on the moles of 
Greece, states that they have rudimentary eyes beneath 
the skin, but are nevertheless blind.' For perhaps eigh- 
teen centuries this affirmation of the mole's blindness 
was followed both by classic Roman philosophers^ and 
by virtually all medievals of the Occident,' who would 
no more have thought of looking into the matter than of 
trying to burn a salamander. Dante, however, who 

• Tozer refers lo Hist. Animal. I, g, 3, and Dt Aiiima, III, 1, 5. 
In Hist. Animal. IV, 8, Aristotle says, ' Man, therefore, and terres- 
trial viviparous animals, and, besides these, sanguineous viviparous 
aoimals, are seen lo possess alt these [five senses] except some muti- 
lated genus such as that of moles, since this animal is sightless. 
For the male has not eyes externally apparent ; but if a thick skin 
be taken off from the head, which skin is in the place of the eyes, 
certain rudimentary eyes will be seen, which have all the parts of per- 
fect eyes,' etc. Could Dante have read this passage and given the 
mole sight on the principle that Nature really does nothing in vain? 
Kuhns ( Thi Trtatntent 0/ Nalurt in Dante, p. 147) obviously takes 
Dante's mote to be wholly blind, 'the mole is blind because of the 
pellicle over its eyes." 

» Cicero, Arad. IV, 25 adfin. V^lGl^ Gearg. 1, 181-183. Pliny, 
XI, 51, 'TalpLs visus non est ; oculorum effigies inest, si quis prae- 
tentam detrahat membranam.' Cf. also St. Jerome, in fsai. II, 19. 

* E.g. Hugo of St. Victor (who apparently copies both Pliny 
and Aristotle), Di Bestiis, III, 36, and Brunetto Latiot. Trcsor, 
p. 252. Both these are nearly contemporaneous with Dinte. 



seems usually to have kept pace with science, implicitly 
denies that the mole is blind. 

RUordiH, lettor, se mai ttell' alpe^ 
TY eolse nebhia, per la qual vedessi 
Non altrimenii che ptr peUe talpe ;* 
Come quando i vapori umidi e spessi 
A diradar comimiansi, la spera 
Del sol debikmenle entra per esst ; 
Efia la tua immagine kggiera 
In giugnere a veder, com' to tividi 
Lo sole in pria, che giA nel coreare era} 

fiethink thee, reader, if thou e'er hast been 
Among the Alps o'ertalcen by a cloud, 
Through which all objects were as blindly seen 
As moles behold things through tiieir visual shroud. 
How as the vapours dank and thick begin 
To thin themselves, the solar sphere's faint ray 
Scarce pierces them ; then readily raayst thou 
Conceive, when first I saw it, in what way 
To me the sun looked tliat was fading now. 

I Smvenuto da Imola, writing about the year 1373,* 
nneots on Dante's travels and the mole : ' And note 
here that, although the Alps vary in various parts of the 
world, nevertheless our poet is perchance speaking of 
the Apennines [de Atpe Apennini), and of that part 
between Bologna and Florence where he had experi- 

' ' Alpe' means properly a lofty mountain, writes Vernon. 
*"TaIpe' is probably singular. Scartazzini refers to i'ocabolario 
delta Crusca and Nannucci. Teorica dei P/omi, pp. 57, 6c. 
■flKfy. XVII, 1-9. 
* ToYVhEE, Dante Studies and Xeseare/tes, p. izi. 


enced that occurrence; . . . and note here that the 
mole's seeing appears to be shown in two ways : first, 
because it has eyes and Nature makes nothing in vain ; 
secondly, because, as we see, the mole, straightway on 
seeing daylight, dies (statim cum videt aerem moritur) ! ; 
yet it sees feebly, because provident Nature furnished it 
with a thin membrane lest it should be harmed, because 
it is ever under earth.' 

Benvenuto proceeds to cite Pliny,^ who says that the 
mole is blind. 

Though the American mole shows no outer vestige of 
eyes, nevertheless the common European mole can see. 
Whether Dante is the first to declare the fact would be 
hard to say. 

Cuvier's researches ^ simply confirm Dante's verse in 
discrediting the proverb * blind as a mole,' — unless the 
proverb means the same as ' blind as a bat.' 

1 Nat, Hist, XI, 52. 

* The Animal Kingdom, Arranged . . . by the Baron Cuvier . , . 
with Additional Descriptions by Edw* Griffiths, . . . London, 
1827, vol. II, pp. 197-199. 

The Bear 

The children of Bethel who mocked at Elisha, say- 
ing : 'Go up, thou baldhead! Go up, thou baldhead!" 
atoned for their insolence by one of those summary 
punishments with which Jahveh was wont to gratify the 
ancient Hebrews.* Ehsha looked back at them and 
cursed them in the name of the Lord. Whether out of 
sympathy for Elisha, acting on their own impulse, or 
sent by Jahveh, 'there came forth two she-bears out 
of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them ' 
— one of those savage miracles well known to students 
of demon lore. 

The Vulgate does not specify the sex of the bears as 
feminine. Indeed, they are simply ursi? and Dante 
follows the Vulgate io this case, though he changes the 
pardus of Jeremiah ^ to a loma and the lupus to a lupa. 

Dante recalls the miraculous harmony of Eltsha's 
temper with that of Jahveh in a line: — 

E qual colui che si vfngio con gK orsi. 
Vide il carro d' Eliii a! dipartire} 

And as he who avenged himself with the bears 
Beheld the chariot of Elijah at its start. 

' 2 Kings ii, 23. 3; 
* "Egress! sunt di 
ginla duos pueros.' 

rsi de saltu, et laceravenint ex eis quadn- 
' Jeremiah v, 6. ' /»/ XXVI, 34-35. 



It is not so important to note that the bears came to 
the rescue of Elisha in a way quite unprecedented, and 
never repeated even in myth, as to observe that Dante 
accepts the story seriously, and that it should be 
reckoned not only as a part of his art, but as a part of 
his zoology.' Whoever wrote the canzone * beginning, 

Cosi net mio parlor voglio esser asfro, 
had seen the bears in a gentler frame of mind, perform- 
ing, it may be, to win pennies for some juggler.' 'I 
should not be piteous nor courteous,' writes the poet : 

Ami/arei com' orso quando scherza. 

Rather I would act like a frisking bear. 

The bear may figure as a demon or as a clown. He 
is also a creature greedy to advance his cubs for simony, 
and it is in this capacity that the she-bear is turned into 
an emphatic verse of the Inferno.' 

The Orsini, bearing one of those animal nicknames 
so often adopted by the great families of medieval Italy 
(or perhaps thrust upon them), are said by the Anoninio 
Fiorcntmo to have habitually signed themselves 'de 
filiis ursas.' There is no bear in the Orsini coat-of- 
arms,* and the warUke epithet is therefore precisely 

' Cf. paragraph on miracles, pp. 16-17, o" Serpent of Eden, pp. 
330-332; cf. chapters on 'The Ass,' p. 159 fT., and on 'The Goose,' 

' Oxford Dante, Cans. XII, p, 163, As to genuineness, see Fra- 
TICEI.LI, Dante, Opcre Minori, vol. I, pp. 137 IT. 

■ Cf- Strutt. Sports and Pastinus, cha|i. VI, and plates X5cii and 
xxiii; also Muratori, De Ludis Medii yEvi. * Inf. XIX, 70-71. 

* See arms in Litta, Famiglu Ctltbri Ilaliam, and in J. Wood- 
ward, Htraldry, Brituk and Fareigit, voL I, pi. xi. 


similar to 11 Mastin Vecchio and Can Grande della 

Dante takes advantage of the mere name to make 
out of it a characterisation both of a real bear and of 
Nicholas III, who was so given to simony that he 
availed himself of his holy office to endow his kinsmen 
with land, castle; Hence the words of 

Nicholas to Daji stops to gaze at the 

flaming heels of ;. The pope says ; — 

Know, if it so c 3 know 

That thou hast 1 te this den, 

I the great mantk indeed 

A true Orsini, wl bear 

Whose cubs I str irith such good speed 

That I'm bagged nere as 1 tiaggcd money there.' 

— Parsons. 

The figure is bold and ably used, but the bear's 
nature is humanised too far when he is compared to a 
simoniacal pope. 

' /«/- XIX, 67-72- 


The Horse 

Of the various physical and mental traits of the horse 
that might please or interest a modem lover of nature 
Dante has not a word to say. Virgil found, at least, 
one inspiration in this animal, and splendidly described 
the steed of Mezentius.' Dante left out Nero entirely ; 
and since he had no cut-and-dried plan to introduce 
such and such a fact in nature, the vehemence of his 
fury against dogs and wolves, his disdain for sheep, and 
his glorification of the falcon, compared with such sUm 
attention to horses, are not extraordinary. 

The wooden horse of Sinon^ and the equally leg- 
endary steeds of Elijah he mentions; in one case to 
allow the counterfeiter Adam of Brescia to have his 
revengeful fling, in the other case to describe how he 
who avenged himself with the bears. 

Beheld Elijah's chariot whirled on high, 

When up to heaven the soaring steeds ascended.' 

— Parsons. 

To illustrate an opinion Dante declares that many 
times we say a noble horse and a worthless one because 
in every kind of thing we see the image of nobility or 

' This passage, which exciied the admiration of the English Alex- 
ander Neckam (Wright's ed., p. 260), occurs in the Geargics (HI, 
75 ff.). " Inf. XXX, 1 18. » /«/. XXVI, 36. 



of worthlessness, which depend not upon ancestry; for, 
in animals and minerais, conditions have not changed.' 
' We say of a man that he is worthy who Uves in the 
active or contemplative life to which he is ordained by 
nature; we call a horse good (virtuoso)^ that runs 
swiftly and far, to which end he is designed.' Such 
a valuation antedates obviously any evolutionary system. 
Again, the growth of our desires is marked for the poet 
by the fact that ' we see small children yearn for an 
apple ; then for a little bird; and then, advancing farther, 
for a fine garment ; and then a horse, and then a 
woman ' ! ^ Again, the poet speaks of robbers who 
with their plundered money furnish banquets, give 
horses, raiment, and arms, and think themselves noble 
givers. * 

The horse, says Dante, is as necessary to a soldier as 
our language is to us, and, as those who think best must 
have the best tongue, so the best horses are fitted to the 
best soldiers.* It is more praiseworthy to know how to 
control a bad horse than one not bad,^ and by 'bad' 
Dante of course means from the point of view of man. 

• CoMV- IV, xiv. 79-95' 

• Conv- I, V, 74-79, ' Onde dicemo uomo virtuoso qudlo, che vive 
in vita contemplative o a.ttiva, alle quali ft ordinate natural m ente ; 
dicemo del cavallo virtuoso, che corre forte e molto, alia qual cosa & 

• CoHV. IV,xii, 161-165. 'Onde vedemo li parvoli desiderare mas- 
simamente un porno : e poi piii oltre procedendo, desiderare uno 
uccellino; e poi piii olue, desiderare hello vestimenlo; e poi il 
cavallo ; e poi una donna,' etc- 

• Conv. TV. xxvii. ii7-i;4. f- Dt V. E. 11, i. 62-67. 

• Canv. Ill, viii, 187-189, '. - - siccome i piii laudabile un inal 
cav^illo reggere, che uo altro noo reo.' 



Once he mentions a troop of horsemen actually seen 
(Inf. XXII, 11); again, he beholds cavalry crowding 
about Trajan, — a sculptural fantasy (Piirg. X, 79-80). 
Dante's vaguest allusion to the horse is that strange 
proverb of lost meaning, Non ante tertiam equitabis 
(Before the third hour thou shall not ride).' Perhaps 
the phrase is based on a forgotten ordinance of munici- 
pal law. 

On June 24th, St, John the Baptist's festival day, the 
Florentines raced Berber horses through Florence from 
west to east.^ Whoever arrived first at the easternmost 
ward — that of San Piero — won. Where the horse-race 
ended Cacciaguida was bom. 

Gli antichi mtei ed to nacqui ne/ loco 

Dove si Irvna pria V ultimo sesto _ 

Da quel che corre il vostro annual gioco? 

My ancestors and I our birthplace had 
Where first is found the last ward of the city 
By him who runneth in your annual game. 


St. Peter Damian, in telling Dante how the popes have 
grown worse and worse, describes with delightful satire 
a fashion no longer common. 

Came Cephas, and the mighty Vessel came 
Of the Holy Spirit, meagre and barefooted, 

^ De V. E. I, vii, 17-19, 'Quippe satis exstiterat; sed sicut 
proverbial! ler did soiet, non ante tertiam tquilabts, misera venire 
maluisti ad cquum.' 

^ See Benvenuto da Imoi^, Comenium super Dantis Aldigherii 
(omadiam, vol. V, pp. 161-162. • Parad, XVI, 40-43. 


Taking the food of any hostelry. 

Now some one to support them on each side 

The modern shepherds need, and some one to lead them, 

So heavy are they, and to hold up their trains 

They cover up their palfreys ' with their cloaks, 

So thai two beasts go underneath one skin.' 

— Longfellow. 

Dante's thrusts are savage at times. He is carried far 
by an un discriminating scorn. Two beasts beneath one 
skin t Benvenuto quaintly adds to our historical lore by 
saying that surely if our author were to come to life 
again to-day (about 1380), he could change that word 
and say, st die Ire bestie van soito una pelU, to wit, a car- 
dinal, a harlot, and a horse, Benvenuto adds that he had 
recently heard of one he well knew, who carried his con- 
cubine a-hunting on the rump of his horse or mule.' 

' Though the meaning of palfrey wavers, the commonest seems 
to be a horse for everyday riding rather than a draught-horse or a 
war-horse, Alexander Neckam (p. 260) gives a description of a 
palfrey similar in all probability to the kind referred lo by Dante. 
'The palfrey,' says Neckam, 'is so called because he carries the 
bit at an easy gait (quasi passu leni fnnum ducens!). He rejoices 
in seemly trappings. He likes little bells sweetly jingling on his 
breast, and the brilliance of a suitable jagged bit helps him. Stir- 
rups (sirepje sive scansilis) make it easier for the rider as he presses 
the horse's back, and a strap holds the saddle, especially when the 
rider is raw in horsemanship.' See also John of Genoa, cited by 
Du Cange. 

'Parad.XXl, 127-134. 

' ' Li moderni pastori or voglion chi rincaizi quinci e quindi, sd- 
licet — a dextris et slnistris, e chi li meni, lanto son gravi, idest 
pingues el corpulenti, quales mullos vidi in curia romana; et hoc 
contra macredinem prEdiclorum ; e chi gli alzi dirietro, quia habent 
cappas longas verentes tcrram cum cauda; et hoc contra nuditatcm 
praedictorum. Et ideo, dolore stimulante, subdit ; cuopron gli pala- 



Of human appetite Dante declares it must be ridden 
by Reason ; for, as a horse running loose, of however 
noble nature he be, by himself without a rider is not 
well guided, even so this Appetite which is called iras- 
cible and greedy, though it be noble, must obey reason. 
For reason guides it with bit and spurs, like a good 
rider; the bit he uses when pursuing, and that bit is 
called Temperance, which shows the goal at which 
his pursuit ends; the spur he uses when he flees , . . 
and this spur is called Strength or Magnanimity.' 

Any incipient imagery is now lost in the moraHsing, 
rhetorical tone. Once more the will is a horse to be re- 
strained ; for Dante cries out to his erring Italy : — 

What though Justinian made new reins for thee ? 
What boots it if the saddle remain void ? 
Without his mending thy disgrace were less. 
And O ye tribe that ought to be employed 
In your devotions, and let Cfesar press 
The seat of CEsar, if God's word you heed ! 
See, since your hand hath on the bridle been, 
How wanton grown and wicked is the steed 
Through want from you of tlie spur's discipline, 
O German Albert ! ^Vho abandonest 

freni, pingues el politos, sicut ipsi sunt, de" manti loro, quia eorum 
chlamydes sunt ita loDgx, amplx et capaces, quod cooperiunt homi- 
nem et equum ; unde dicil : si che due beatie van sotto una pelle, scili- 
cet bestja portans, et ipse partatus, qui verius est bestia et bestialior 
ipsa bestia. Et eerie si autor revivisceret hodie posset mutare liie- 
ia.m istam et dicere : Si che tre bestie van sotio una pelle, scilicet, 
cardinalis, meretrix el equus ; .sicut audivi de uno quern bene novi, 
qui portabat concubinam suam ad vcnationem post se in dune equi 
vel muli ; et ipse vere eral sicut equus et mulus sine ratione.' 
1 Conv. IV, xxvi, 41-59. 


Her now run wild, unchecked by curb of thine, 

When thou shouldst ride her with thy heels hard pressed, 

May Heaven's just judgment light upon thy Une ! ' 

— Parsons. 

The same thought occurs when Dante declares that 
the Emperor is a rider of the human will, which, like a 
riderless horse, is manifestly wandering over the field, 
and specially in unhappy Italy, which has remained 
without any means for her control.^ 

Again, having syllogised as to how human bliss must 
be attained by divers means, through philosophic teach- 
ings and teachings spiritual which transcend the human 
will, Dante declares that human greed would turn its 
back on these sacred things if men, wandering in their 
bestiality, were not held in by bit and bridle on the road 
as horses are.^ To those who yield to the Devil's wiles, 
bit or reclayme is of small avail.* 

Not only has the horse no mind of its own, but, 
whether under the sway of God or of a demon, he drags 
Corso Donati toward the mouth of hell. Villani^ writes 
that Corso, hard pressed by Catalans, and being gouty 

' Purg. VI, 91-101. ' Conv. IV, ix, 100-108. 

■ Dt Man. Ill, xvi, 66-74, ' H*c . . - humana cupidius jwslerga- 
ret, oisi homines tamquam equi, sua bestialitate vagantes, in camo et 
freno compescereatur in via.' 

•ftffj. XIV, .45-147;- 

' Ma TOi prondclc 1' esca. si che I' amo 
Dell' arnica aneraaria b s« vi tin ; 
E peri poco val lif no o richiamo.' 

Another still vaguer allusion to ihe horse occurs in Inf. II, 48: — 
' Come falso iredet beitia, qiundo omtira.' 
* Crow. VIII, 96, cited by Toynbee. 



both in feet and hands, let himself fall from his horse, 
and that one of the Catalans gave him a mortal spear- 
thrust and left him for dead. Such mainly is the story 
of Dino Compagni.^ Perhaps our poet in bis exile got 
some false version, or, again, it may be that the horse 
that dragged Corso to his death was the populace, 
thus metamorphosed for the sake of a lively allegory. 
Forese speaks : — 

' Now go,' he said, ' for him most guilty of it 
At a beast's tail behold I dragged along 
Towards the valley where is no repentance. 
Faster at every step the beast is going. 
Increasing evermore until it smites him 
And leaves the body vilely mutilated.' ' 

— Longfellow. 

If Corso Donati was dragged to death by a horse, a 
still stranger episode is brought to light by Dante — a 
ghastly episode, wherein humour, ingenuity, and shame- 
less greed are all united in the uncouth scene that con- 
tributed to the damnation of one Gianni or Vanni 

Simon Donati, being dissatisfied with his father Buo- 
so's will, resorted to Gianni Schicchi, who knew how to 
counterfeit the voice or acts of any one. Schicchi got 
into Buoso's bed, put on Buoso's nightcap, and, when 
the notary had arrived, proceeded to make Buoso's 

' I leave,' said he, ' twenty pence to the building fund 
of Santa Reparata, and five pounds to the Lesser Friars 

' Cron. Ill, 21, dted by Toynbee. » Purg. XXIV, 82-«7. 



and five to the Preachers ' — Simon was delighted — 
'and I leave,' he went on, ' I leave five hundred florins 
to Gianni Schicchi.' 

Says Simon to Messer Buoso : — 

' No need of putting this in the will, I'll give it to 
him as you bequeathe.' 

' Simon, let me have my way. I leave you so well off, 
yen ought to be contented.' 

For fear Simon kept still. Schicchi went on: — 

'And I leave to Gianni Schicchi my she-mule;' for 
Messer Buoso owned the finest in all Tuscany, 

This is the version of the Anonymous Florentine.^ 
But Jacopo della Lana and Benvenuto both declare it 
was a mare, and Benvenuto says she was the dearest in 
all Tuscany, for she was worth a thousand florins. 
Another nameless commentator records that she was the 
finest mare that had been in Buoso's herd, and that her 
name was Madonna Tonina. 

Had Gianni Schicchi shown himself a rascal in no 
other way, his device to get the lady of the herd would 
have won him Dante's vicarious damnation. The poet 
feigns to have seen Gianni Schicchi in Hell, — a mad 
sprite rending his fellow-sinners : — 

'Who is yon other ? Ere it vanish, say.' 
And he to me : ' Thou scest the ancient sliade 
Of sinfiil Myrrha, one that, overwarm 
With love not filial for her father, made 
Wanton with him, in counterfeited form j 
Even as yon other, that he might obtain 
The lady of the herd, with wicked skill 

I Ed. of Lord Vernon, Florence, 1848. 



Buoso Donati's person dared to feign^ 
Fixing a forged seal to a forged will.' 

-- Parsons. 
Questa a peccar con esso cost venne 

Falsificando sc in altrui forma 
Come r altro che Id sen va, sostentie 
Per guadagnar la donna delia torma} 
Falsificare in sh Buoso Donati, 
TestandOy e dando al testamento norma} 

^ Gregorio di Siena, < La piu vistosa cavalla deir arroento 
buono a propagar la 120.22^? Cf. Horace (jOd. I, 17) : — 

' Impune tutum per nemus arbutos 
Qtiserent latentes et th3maa deviac 
Olentis uxores mariti. . . .' 

But! also says ' cavalla.* The Anonimo Florentine, fallible like all 
copyists, seems in this case to have blundered. 
« /»/. XXX, 40-45. 

In a hell pit assi] 
sees a man, whom a 
burn to ashes and 
time than it takes U 
who he was, and ge 

ite to thieves our poet ■ 
just bitten, kindle and 
previous shape in less 
[. Virgil asks the man 

J'tM) tempo i, 
Vila bestial n 

' lo pim'vi di Toseana, 
in questa gola/era. 
npiacgue, e non umana^ 
Si come a mul ch' iofut; son Vanni Fucci 
Sestia, e Pistoia mi fu degna tana' 

' I rained from Tuscany 
A short time since into this cruel gorge. 
A bestial life and not a human pleased me, 
Even as the mule I was ; I'm Vanni Fucci, 
Beast, and Pistoia was my worthy den.' 

— Longfellow. 

Being urged to say more, Fucci goes on ; — 

' What thou demandest I cannot deny ; 
So low am I put down because I robbed 
The sacristy of the fair ornaments.' * 


»/«/. XXIV. III-126. 

* See ctiapler on ' The Lower Auinuds,' p. 8i . 

•/»/. XXIV, 136-138. 




Vanni Fucci now foretells disaster to the Whites, lifts 
his fingers in an infamous gesture, and cries : — 
' Take that, God, for at thee I aim them.' ' 

What led Dante to call Vanni Fucci a mule ? Though 
the question is answered vaguely by Dante's own lines, 
for further understanding we must go to the chroniclers. 

Benvenuto da Imola records that Vanni Fucci was 
the bastard son of Messer Fucci de' Lazzari of Pistoia, 
that he was a great scoundrel, most bold for every crime, 
and though often banished for enormous offences, never- 
theless he often was in the city by night with most base 

A contemporary document^ describes Vanni Fucci 
as one of three unspeakable [nephaniW) citizens, but 
an abusive generality is not characterisation. Landino 
characterises the deed rather than the man. Dante had 
seen this Fucci alive,^ and must have known the fellow's 
reputation in Pistoia, but why the poet calls him a mule 
— a word not elsewhere used by Dante — must remain 
obscure unless we are willing to accept the explanation 
of Benvenuto da Imoia, who lived a century after Vanni, 
and may have got his ideas not only from older records, 
but from the words of Dante. 

' Inf. XXV, 3. 

' Cf. CiAMPi, ^ Notixie intdite delta Sagrestia pistoiese d£ belli 
arredi,' cited by To)Tibee in Dante Dictionary, p. : 

'/w/. XXIV, 129, 'Ch' io 11 vidi 
(For him I saw a man of blood and w 
shows a general human tendency (hi 
Dante) to look upon the ugly traits of 
ous 'lower' animals. For further v'\\h 

loroo di sangue e di crucci* 
alh). The phrase 'a mulo' 
re manifested by chance in 
men as characteristic of vari- 
nies laid at Vanni's door, see 

Vexkom, Readings on Inf. vol. II, 291-291 ; also 295-297- 


BenveDuto says : ' Note that he (Vanni) was truly a 
mule, naturally and morally, because he was a bastard 
bom of a bastard {spurius nattis dr spurio). For the 
mule is bom of a cursed coition ; to wit, of a mare and 
of an ass, and rather he follows the ass than the mare, 
though he called hii indson of the horse in 

the presence of the s a hard animal, fit for 

toil and for blows, i 1 stubborn. And such 

was that obstinate i e is sterile ; so was he 

baleful to all. A i jut reason and beyond 

correction ; wherefo the Psalms, Nolitefim 

sicut eguus et mtiltts^ m tst ttttelUclHS.' 


The Ass 

'Things should be named/ writes Dante,^ 'from the 
ultimate nobility of their character; as a man from 
reason and not from feeling, nor from anything less 
noble. Wherefore when it is said man lives, it should 
be understood man uses reason, which is his special life, 
and the act of his noblest part. And therefore whoever 
abandons reason and uses only the senses, lives not as a 
man, but as a beast, as says that most excellent Boethius, 
An ass he lives {Asino vivey Boethius asks, Segnis ac 
stupidus torpet f and answers, Asinum vivit? One need 
speculate very little to understand Dante's not altogether 
original estimate.^ But how came he to depict his slug- 
gards in so dreadful an attitude } 

Questi sciaurati^ che mat nonfur vivi^ 
Erano ignudi e stimolati molto 
Da moscani e da vespe ch* erano ruu 
Elk rigavan lor di scmgue il volto, 
Che mischiato di lagrime^ at lor piedi^ 
Dafastidiosi vermi era ricolto} 

These miscreants, who never were alive, 
Were naked, and were stung exceedingly 

* Conv, II, viii, 15-27. See, also, Conv. IV, xv, 58-63. 
« De ConsoL Phil IV, Pros. iu. 

* In the Bible, asses cut no such sorry figure as in the literature 
and daily talk of Europe. ^ Inf. Ill, 64-69. 


Dante and the animal klngdom 

By gadflies and by hornets that were there. 
These did their faces irrigate with blood, 
Which with their tears coromingled at their feet 
fiy the disgusting worms was gathered up. 

— Longfellow, 

len really undergoing 
but beasts of burden 
ay be that some dull, 
■ fodder, and stung to 
iome Italian highway, 
novel torture for the 

Surely the poet 
such a torment for 
he certainly had se 
toiling ass, blear-ey< 
bleeding by the hoi 
suggested to Dante 

So dull an animal could surely not speak, and, indeed, 
Dante declares that if any one make objection as to the 
she-ass of Balaam, he will respond that the speaker was 
really an angel ; • and once more he says : " ' O Fathers, 
deem me not a phccnix in the world. For what I cry 
out is murmured or thought or dreamt by all. And 
wherefore bear they not witness to their discoveries.' 
Some hang in astonishment. Are they, too, ever to be 
silent and never speak out for their Maker ? The Lord 
liveth ! and He who set going the tongue of Balaam's 
ass is Lord even of the brutes of to-day.' 

'Cf. Numbers xiii, 21-33, "'th De V. E. \, ii, 43-53: 'Et si 
obicialur de serpente loquente ad primam mulierem, vet de asina 
Balaam, quod Itxruti sint ; ad hoc respondemus, quod aogelus in 
ilia, et diabolus in iUo taliter opeiati sunt, quod ipsa animalia move- 
rent organa sua, sic et vox resultavit inde distincta, tanquam vera 
locutio; non quod aliud esset asinx Ulud quam nidere, nee quam 
sibillare setpenti.' For further treatment of Balaam's ass, see para- 
graph on language, pp. 23-35. 

' Epiit. VIII, viji, 122-131. 



The ass, then, in Dante's philosophy is not merely a 
sluggard without brains. It is also an automaton, an 
animated toy moved to speech, in one case by an angel 
(acting as a transmitting operator), and in the other by 
the Creator. 


Of some fifteen r :attle in Dante four are 

Biblical and six ^ ar Latin literature. All 

but one are singula) ife ; for they are either 

bookish or moral, Oi ; an illusion. 

Ezekiel saw the four Uving creatures. 

'As for the likeness ces, they four had the 

face of a man, and the face of a Uon, on the right side : 
and they four had the face of an ox on the left side ; 
they four also had the face of an eagle.' ' Again, the 
writer of the Apocalypse beheld four beasts, 'And 
the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast Uke 
a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the 
fourth beast was Uke a flying eagle.' ' 

By Dante's time Christian allegory had fixed upon 
four symbols for the Evangelists. St. Luke was the 
ox, and thus appears in countless manuscripts and 
sculptures or stained glass windows throughout medieval 
Christendom. Hence, in a letter to Henry the Emperor, 
Dante (after St Luke ii, r), declares that Augustus de- 
creed all the world should be taxed ' as our evangelising 

' Vs. 1 8 of Dante's 6Tst Eclogue, '. . . dum lenta boves per 
giamina ludunt,' has a conventiDiH] Viisilian ring, and is at all events 
classic in manner. 

' Eiekiel i, lo. • Revelation iv, 7. 


ox bellows, being kindled with the flame of an eternal 
fire.' ' 

In Purgatory he saw a sculpture of the oxen drawing 
the ark. 

There sculptured la the sel&ame marble were 
The cart and oxen, drawing the holy ark.' 

— LoNcreiiow. 

St. John in his vision saw a beast rise up out of the 
sea, having seven heads and ten horns. ^ Dante beheld 
an equally fantastic monster. He says that the allegori- 
cal car seen by him in Purgatory 

Thrust forward heads upon the parts of it 
Three on the pole and one at either corner. 
The first were homed like oxen ; but the four 
Had but a single horn upon the forehead.* 

— Longfellow. 

Purely classic and lifeless, both in Ovid ' and in 
Dante, is the Sicilian bull, a brazen device made by 
Perillus for Phalaris, tyrant of Agrigentum, to burn the 
tyrant's victims, Perillus was the first to get into that 
oven. Among the fraudulent counsellors in Hell whom 
the poet saw wrapped, each in a flame, was one from 
whom issued a confused sound : — 

^ Epist. VII, iii, 64-67, 'El quum universaliter orbem describi 
edixisset Augustus (ut bos Doster evangelizans, accensus ignis Klenii 
flamma, remugit),' etc. 

* Purg. X, ss-56. ■ Revelation xiii, i. 
«/^ry. XXXII, 143-146. 

* Ars Amal. I, 653-656. Paget Toynbee thinks Dante may have 
got the slory from Orosius (1, 20), or Itoid Valerius Maximus (IX, s). 
See Danie Dictionary, s.v. ' Perillo.' 


Come it but CUilian ehe muggkH pn\ 
Col pianto di telui (e cib fu drilta) 
Che r uvea lemperato eon sua Uma, 
JHugghiara eon la voee deW afflitto. 
Si (he, con tutto eh' ei fosse di rame, 
J^re e' fiareva dai dolor Iraffitto} 

As the Sicilia 
With the lanr 
Who with hia 
Bellowed so ' 
That, notwiit 
Still it appea] 

;Uowed first 
id that was tight, 
ilated it) 
of the afflicted 
s made of brass, 

— LoNGmxov. 

Our poet also mentions the ouil of Pasiphae, known to 
him both from Ovid and Virgil." Though the Latin 
descriptions usually call the bull 'taunts,' Virgil once 
speaks of the young bull {iuvertcus).^ Hence 'torello' 
rather than ' loro ' in Dante's description. Whilst one 
group of rueful sinners in Purgatoiy cries ' Soddotna e 
Gomorra ! ' the other cries : — 

Nella vaeca intra Pasi/e, 
Ptrche it torello a sua iussuria corra* 

Into the cow enters Pasiphae, 
That the little bull unto her lust may run. 

»/«/ XXVII, 7-13. 

* Eel. VI, 45-60 ; ^n. VI, 24-26, 447. OviD, Met. VIII, 131- 
137; Ars Amat. I, 289 ff. See Dante Dtclitmary, s.v.'?asiiK.^ 

* 'Pasiphaen nivei solatur aniore iuvenci' (fi:/. VI, 46). Jacopo 
della Lana devotes much space to this unsavoury theme, emphasis- 
ing the youth of the bull. 

* Purg. XXVI, 41-42. The sua of vs. 42 may refer to PaMfc or 
to the torello, both grammatically and in conformity with the I^end. 


To Dante the Minotaur, the infamy of Crete, was 
conceived in the false cow — la falsa vae:cn(lnf. XII, 
13)^ and Pasiphae is she 'who made herself a beast in 
beastly wood,' cAe f' imbestib neW imbestiate schegge 
(Purg. XXVI, 87). 

It is from an epigram of Horace ^ that Dante gets his 
'ox in housings,' by which he means something as 
ugly and uncouth as a 'belted swine.' From Virgil's 
comparison of the cries of Laocoon to the bellowings of 
a wounded bull,^ Dante takes his comparison of the 
enraged and staggering Minotaur: — 

Qual e quel toro che si slacda in qutlla 
Che ha rictvulo giA 'I colpo mortale, 
Che gir non sa, ma qua e Id salfella, 
Vid 'io lo Minotauro far cotaU? 

As is that bull who breaks loose at the moment 
In which he has received the mortal blow. 
Who cannot walk but staggers here and there, 
The Minotaur beheld I do the like. 

— Longfellow, 

Virgil's description, as reworded and bettered by 
Dante, would no doubt be true of many an ox put to 
death in the heartlessly clumsy style of those times ; but 
the cruelty is still plainer when our poet foretells the 

Efist. I, xiv, 43-44, dted by Moore (see De V. E. II, i, So- 

' Oplal ephlppia boi plgcr, opiat aiare cabai! 

Quam scjt ulerque, libens censebo, t 
*jEh. 11,223-334: — 

' Qualii mugilus, fugil cum laudus aram 

Taunis et incertam excuiiil cervice secur 
• /«/. XII, 22-35. 


fate of many Whites and Ghibellines at the hands of 
Messer Fiilcieri da Calboli. 

Vende !a canu loro, asendo viva ; 
Posciagli anode eome aniica btlvay 

He sells their flesh, it b 
Thereafter • " 

g yet alive ; 

1 like ancient beeves. 


recn this Fulcieri, who 
of Charles of Valois, 
er, vending bis beef! 
fas the style. The ox 
sn, no longer useful to 
ghtered, — his last op- 

How perfect the 
sold his human meal 
and of the unsentii 
Each kills after sell 
toils until worn with 
drag the plougli. is ruthlessly si; 
portunity to be useful to man. 

Dante, in his journey round and up the Mountain of 
Purgatory, walked with one laden soul 

Di pari, eome buoi die vanno a giogo? 

At the same gait, as yoked oxen go. 

Thus Homer (whom Dante scarcely knew), describes 
at greater length yoked oxen at the plough : — 

But as on fallow land, with one accord, 

Two dark-red oxen drag the well-wrought plough, 

• Furg. XIV, 61-62. On belva, two commentators have this to say : 
Benv. da Imola, ' Idesl bestia, sicut bos inDoceos in senectute 
securi percutitur'; Anon. Fior., 'Belva h propriamente ogni ani- 
niale che vive in acqua et in terra. Come U bufola, che quando ella 
si viene a ucddere, acd6 che la came sia piu trita, come si £1 dd 
verro, gli si da molle mauate et ucddesi,' etc. But the world does 
move ! * Furg. XII, i . Cf. the proverb in Pitrad. XVI, 70. 


Streaming with sweat that gathers round their homs ; 
They, by the polished yoke together held, 
The stiff soil cleaving, down the furrow strain; 
So closely side by side these two advanced.' 

Again, in a letter addressed to all Italians, Dante 
draws image after image from husbandry, and finally, 
as if by a vague recollection of Cincinnatus, he bids his 
fellow-men 'conceive like a fertile valley and put forth 
green, — the green that is fruitful of true peace ; and, 
in truth, in this new verdure will the new husbandman 
of the Romans [Henry, Divine, Augustus, and Caesar] 
yoke the oxen of his counsel more kindly and more 
trustfully to the plough.'* 

In a letter to the Italian cardinals Dante finds warrant 
for giving advice because, unlike Uzzah, who sinfully 
laid his hand on the ark, he is heeding the oxen who are 
kicking and straggling off the road.^ By the ark Dante 
means the Church, and by the oxen, her priests. 

Once only does Dante draw an original and homely 
image from the habits of cattle. A sinner twisted his 
mouth awry, then stuck out his tongue like an ox that 
licks its nose. 

Qui dislorse hi bocca, e difuor trasse 
La lingua, come ''I hue che U naso lecchi.* 

' Hiad, Xin, 704 fr., the Earl of Derby's translation, cited by 
W. W. Vernon. 

' Epist. V, especially So-84, ' Qua quideni viridilate veslra terra 
vemacle, novus agricola Romanorum consilii sui boves ad aralrum 
affectuosius et confidentius coniugabii.' C. S. Latham's translation. 

■ Efist. VIII, V, 85-89. Cf. 2 Samuel vi, 3-7. and 12-17. 

*/»/ XVII, 74-75- 



The Swine 

It is said of Ri icrovigni, a usurer of 

Padua, that he died me the key of ray box 

that no one may find ' Dante put this man 

among the usurers ir pparently, did not turn 

to account Rinaldo's eeming sow azure on a 

field argent.' From E each usurer hung a 

pouch on which his eyes seemea il> feed. Dante says : — 

That ftora the neck of each there hung a pouch 
Which certain colour had and certain blazon ; 
And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding. 
And as I, gazing round me, come among them, 
Upon a yellow pouch I azure saw 
That had the face and posture of a lion. 
Proceeding then the current of my sight, 
Another of them saw I, red as blood. 
Display a goose more white than butter is. 
And one who with an azure sow and gravid 
Emblazoned had his little pouch of white. 
Said unto me : 'What dost thou in this moat?' 

— Longfellow. 

' See Salvatico, Dante £ Padova, Padua, 1865, pp. 107 ff, died 
by Scartazzini on Inf. XVII, 64. 

* BenvenutodaImola, ' Scrovigai autetn portant porcain azurram. 
Id campo albo, et inde denominati sunt, sicul quidam nobilis romanos 
cogDominatus est Scroffa ul refert Macrobius libra primo Satuma- 
lium' (I, 6). Orossa {Inf. XVII, 64) is a detail of the Scrovigni 
anns added (probably with heraldic authority) by Dante. 


Che dal eoUo a ciascun pendea una tasca, 
Che avea cer/o colore e eerto segno, 
E quindi par che il loro ocekio si pasca. 
E earn' to riguardando tra lor vegno. 
In una bona gialia vidi azzurro, 
Che d' un leone avea faccta e conlegno. 
Poi procedendo di mio sguarde ilcurro, 
Vidine un' altra come sangue rossa 
Mostrare un' oca btarna piU ehe burro, 
Ed un, che d' una scrofa azsurra e grossa ' 
Segnato avea lo sue saechetto bianco. 
Mi diise : ' Ckefai tu in questa fossa t ' ' 

Unless Dante added without heraldic authority the 
word grossa (teeming), he obviously means here not 
to symbolise, but to identify. Nevertheless Dante 
loathes swine. Carrying a little farther the epigrana 
of Horace:^ — 

Optat epkippia bos piger, optat arare caballus. 
Quam scit uterque, libens, censebo, exerceat artem, — 

Dante writes, ' Neither an ox in housings nor a belted 
swine shall we call beautified, but rather the gain of 
ugliness will excite us to mockery,' * And again, in com- 
mending a canzone to Dame Philosophy, he refers to 
Christ's behest not to cast pearls before swine.' 

' Not registered in any accessible book on heraldry. 
»/»/. XVII, 55-66, 

• Epist. 1, xiv, 43-44, ' The dull ox chooses caparisons ; the 
horse chooses to plough. I'll say, "Let each ply gladly the art he 

' De V. E. II. i, 80-83, ' Sed nee bovem ephippialum, nee balte- 
atum suem dicemus ornatuTn. immo potius ridemus ilium.' 

* Matthew vii, 6. Conv. IV, xxx, 36-40. 

{-■? p\n;t-: \s:' i hi: .animal kingdom 

It ii iruin \"iri;ii ; Uu^cripcion of the witch Circe ^ that 
Dante gets his epithet for the people of Caseatino on 
the Amo. Before flowing by the curs of Arezzo, the 
wolves of Florence, and the Pisan foxes, the river passes 
ugly swine. 

Tra brutti pores, piU degiU di galle 

Che d' allro .ili,i/atto in uman uso, 

Dirizia prima il sua povero catie} 

Mid ugly swine, of acorns worthier 
Than other food for human use created, 
It first directeth its impoverished way. 

— Longfellow. 

With more of anthropocentric rage than of philo- 
sophical insight the poet conceives acorns to be a base 
food ; for men the Creator invented nobler foods. But 
why are these people of Casentino ' swine ' ? 

Benvenuto da Imola, whose capacity as a historian 
is notable, affirms that these swine are the Counts 
Guido, whom Dante rightly calls swine, for their foul 
lust Once these counts held sway over the city of 
Ravenna, but in the people's rage were almost all 
slaughtered on account of their uncurbed lechery.' 

'Virgil i^^ntid VII, 15, 17-20) describes how the euchan- 
tress turned her victims into lions, swine, bears, and wolves. Vir- 
gil's scetigeriqiu sues (bristly swine) are Daiite''s brtiili porci: — 
■ Hinc tiaudiri gemilus irffique IcDDum, , , , 
Sxligciique sues, atque in pissepibiu nrsi 
Sxvire, ac foimse nutgnorum ululare luporum, 
Quos hominum ei bcie dea sxn. potentiblB berUl 
Induent Circe in voltus &c letfa ferarnm.' 

' */Wy. XIV, 43-45- 

* ' Didt quod Amus primo transit per porcos, idest comites Gui- 


The wrathful Filippo Argent! strives to climb out of 
a dead pool of Inferno into the bark of Phlegyas, but is 
thrust off by Virgil, who cries, ' Back with the other 
dogs 1 ' then says to Dante : — 

Queifu al mondo persona orgegKosa ; 
Bonta Ron e che sua memoria /rep : 
Cosl i /' ombra sua quifuriosa} 
Quanli si tengon or lassu gran regi, 
Che qui sfaranno come porei in drago, 
Di si lasciando orribili iiispregi .' ' 

dones, quos appellat porcos propter foedani luxuriam ; et merito. 
Ubi nota, quod isti comites olim habuentat dominium in civiute 
Ravennx ; sed fuerunt fere omnes tniddati propter eflrxnatam libidi- 
nem.' Cf. Vincent of Beauvais {Speculum morale, lib. Ill, dis. 
Ill, pars IX. col. 1383), 'Luxuriosi sunt sicut sus, qui libentius 
habet nares in stercoribus quant in floribus.' Boccaccio, ' La lussu- 
na per la sua brutezza i somigliata al porco.' Horace (Epist. I, ii, 

Quee ii cum sociis stutlus cupidusque biblsset, 
Sab domlna merelrice fuisset lurpis el eicors, 
Vuiisset cunis immundux vel unica lulo sus.' 

• Le Roy Modus Ihus moralises on the Wild Boar (/eutllet 
LXIV), 'The third properly of Ihe wild boar is that he is proud 
{prgueilleux) \ for through his pride he gelleth death, since he will 
not flee before the dogs but awaits them, wherefore he is slain {pccis 
et tui"). And thus it is with those who arc now so proud that they 
wait for the devils, who, niaaing upon them, lead them and drive 
them so from sin to sin that they are sLiin and die of the spiritual 
death because of their pride. The fourth property is that he is a 
wrangler and nisheth furiously upon people, upon dogs, and upon 
horses, when he is hot with anger ; wherefore he getlcth death ( par 
quoi il chace la mart). Thus it is with many who are now in this 
norld ; for they are so full of wrath and empty of reason that they run 
alone another, truly for small cause, wherefore death doih often follow." 

*/«/. VIII, 46-51. 




That was an arrogant person in the world ; 

Goodness is none, that decks his memory 

So likewise heie his shade is furious. 

How many are esteemed great kings up there, 

Who here shall be like 

Leaving behind them horrible dispraises ! 


With what terrific imagery Dante enforces Christ's 
promise that the first shall be last ! 

Not only is the swinish element in men's souls, but, 
when these men have become demons, swine's tusks are 
added to make the monster more horrible, and we have 
a Ciriatto whose name itself suggests that the demon — 
this Ciriatto sannuto ^ — is part wild boar, who uses his 
tusks to rip the damned.* Most curious of all is Dante's 
allusion to the pigs of St. Anthony — Tantony pigs. In 
the very Crystalline Heaven Beatrice bursts out fiercely 
against the chattering priests who talk so idly that the 
flocks go home fed merely on wind. 

Ora si va con molti e eon iscede 
A predicate, e pur eke ben si rida, 
Gonfia il cappuccio, e piit non si richiede? 

Now men go forth with jests and drolleries 
To preach, and if but well the people laugh, 
The hood pu& out and nothing more is asked. 

— Longfellow. 

'/«/. XXI. 113. 

» ' E Cirialio. a cui dl bocda uscia 

D' of^i parte una sanm come a porco. 
CU fc' scnlir 

^Parad. XXI.X, 115- 



Without proof of any testimony the people would 
f!ock to any indulgence. They are all credulity. 

By this St. Anthony his pigs doth fatten 
And many others who are worse than pigs. 
Paying in money without mark of coinage. 

— Longfellow. 
Di questo ingrassa il por(o Sanf Antonio 
Ed altri ancor, cfie son assat piU porci 
Pagani/o di moneta sensa conio} 

In Dante's time St. Anthony's monks were privileged. 
Their pigs wandered at will, eating with impunity what- 
ever they found, and sometimes attacking, not only 
children in the streets, but grown men. In England,' 
in Venice,* in Florence, these Tantony pigs roamed and 

■ Parad. XXIX, 124-126. 

'Halliwell, Did. of Areh. and Prov. HWds, defines, 'An- 
thony-Pig, the favourite or smallest pig of the litter.' A Kentish 
expression, according to Grose, ' to follow like a Tantony pig,' i.e. 
to follow close al one's heels. 'Some derive this saying from a privi- 
lege enjoyed by the friars of certain convents in England and France, 
sons of SI. Anthony, whose swine were permitted to feed in the 
streets. These swine would follow anyone having greens or other 
provisions till they obtained some of Ihem, and it was, in those days, 
considered an act of charity and religion to feed Ihem. St. Anthony 
was invoked for the pig.' Cited by Longfellow. 

■ 'Among other privileges of the Church, abolished in Venice long 
ago, was that ancient right of the monks of SL Anthony Abbot, by 
which their herds of swine were made free of the whole city. These 
animals, enveloped in an odour of sanctity, wandered here and there, 
and were piously fed by devout people until the year 1409. when, 
being found dangerous to children and inconvenient to everybody, 
they were made the subject of a special decree, which deprived them 
of the freedom of movement. The Republic was always opposing 
and limiting the privileges of the Church ! ' — W. D. Howells, I'etu- 
tian Life, dted by longfellow. 


fattened, at the cost of every one but their owners. The 
luxury of the pigs and the annoyance of the citizens are 
humorously portrayed in a novella by Francesco 
Sacchetti,' whose narrative resurrects at least one 
Florentine household of the fourteenth century. 

A neighbour of Francesco, a gouty, bedridden glutton, 
was much bothered by St. Anthony's pigs, which had a 
way of strolling into his bedroom, where, with various 
canonical friends, he passed his time allaying hunger 
and thirst. Now, one day, two pigs of St. Anthony 
came in ; whereupon the glutton cried to his slow-witted 
serving-boy : ' A plague upon the pigs ! Let's kill 
them ! ' 'Do not jest with St. Anthony,' said one who 
■was there. ' What ! ' said the gouty one, 'are you one 
of the simpletons who think St. Anthony has to salt his 
meat? For whom? His family? There is no eating 
and no drinking up there, but these gobbling knaves 
with a T on their breasts would have us believe idle 
tales. Fetch me an axe." It was done, and the next 
day when the pigs came in the boy assailed them. The 
pigs jumped on to the bed and trampled on the gouty 
man. They were screaming like mad ; one pig was 
spurting a shower of blood, both were grunting and 
squealing, while they viciously faced the hoy, who had 
climbed on to a box. The glutton began to cry: 
' Help ! help ! I'm dead \ ' Presently in came a gentle- 
man who attacked the pigs, which fell squealing behind 
the bed. So tightly were the pigs squeezed in that they 
could not be got out until the bedstead had been undone 
and carried into another room. Thus ended the hunt. 
' Nov. I lo, referred to by Scartoziioi. 


The boy had been bitten, and the glutton so mauled that 
he was nearly dead. St. Anthony did this miracle, 
whence comes the saying, ' Jest with the boys and leave 
the saints alone.' 

In Dante's grim estimate of St, Anthony's monks and 
their Tantony pigs there is a slight gleam of humour, 
unmeant by the poet, but perceptible to those who can 
imagine his scorn for the fat monks and their impudent 
pigs — an everyday sight in Dante's Florence. But 
Dante has limned the swine in a fiercer mood, rushing 
half-wild and starved from its sty, and biting madly. 
Many cruelties had been known to Dante; 

Ma ni di Tehe furie ni Troiane 
Si vider mat in alcvn tanio crude, 
Ncn pungfr b^itie, non che membra umane. 
Quant io vidi due ombre smorte e nude, 
Che mordendo correvan di quel mode 
Che il porco quando del porcil si schiude, 
L' una giunse a Capocchio, ed in sul nodo 
Del collo r assannb si che, tirando 
Grattar gli feee il ventre alfondo sodo. 
E r Aretin, che rimase tremando. 
Mi disse ; Quel foUetto i Gianni Schiechi, 
E va rabbioso altrui cost conciando} 
But furies, Theban or of Troy, not then 
Nor were ever seen in so fell a kind, 
Goading even beasts, much less the limbs of men, 
As in two ghosts that I saw rushing by. 
Naked and pate, and snapping as they sprang. 
Mad as a boar pig let loose from the sly.* 

!/«/. XXX, 21-34. 

' Parsons translates 'shut o 
' let loose,' because that Is \ 

I have corrected liLs translation 
'si schiude' means. 


One in Capocchio's neck-joint stuck his fang. 

Dragging him down, until his belly grated 

The solid bottom, while the Aretine 

Exclaimed to me, as trembling he awaited, 

'Yon sprite's Gian Schicchi ; with such frenzied mien 

He ranges round, assaulting this poor pack.' 

— Parsons, 

This is neither a wild boar, nor a demoniacal swine, 
but rather a wild domestic hog, half-starved and rushing, 
when once liberated from the torture of the sty, out 
upon anything that may stop its hunger. This hog runs 
madly biting. Gianni Schicchi, the sprite, has the fury 
of a wild boar. 

Boar-hunting, like falconry, was a pastime (then more 
than now) of lords and kings.' Philip the Fair of France, 
the counterfeiting king, fell from his horse which had 
been scared by a wild boar, and shortly thereafter he' 
died. In the great book of Doom's Day, says Dante, — 

Shall be seen the woe that on the Seine 
He brings by falsifying of the coin ; 
Who by the blow of a wild boar shall die. 


Li si vedrH lo duol elie sopra Senna 
/niiuce falseggianilo la monela, 
Quei che morri di colpo ditoUnna? 

In the region of Hell assigned to the Suicides, whose 
spirits are scattered there in trunks and saplings at the 

" Cf. the book ot King Modus and Qiutn Racio {fenHMs XXXI- 

* Par ad. XIX, iiS-izo. The word' ttrfirwwfl' properly roeaDsnot 
the bog, but hia hide. 


whim of Fortune, the poet witnessed a wild hunt like 
that of the boar, but it was fleeing spirits pursued by 
demoniacal hounds. ' We were still attentive to the 
trunk, believing that it might wish to say more to us, 
when we were surprised by an uproar, as one who 
perceives the wild boar and the chase coming toward 
his stand, and hears the beasts and the branches crash- 
ing.'' — Norton. 

Thus the expected attributes of the swine appear. He 
is still the 'abomination.' No downfall could be worse 
than, like him, to wallov,- in the mire. He typifies, 
though vaguely, wild anger and gluttony,' is a symbol of 
boundless lust, and lends his tusks to a demon. 

'/«/, XIII, 109-114. Cf. Virgil, vffw. X, I07ff.; — 

'Ac velui Hie canum, marsu dc moDtlbus altii 
Aelus aper. miiltos Vesulus qiiem pinifer uinot 
Uefendit multosie palus Laurealia. silv> 
Pastus bamndinea," elc, 

Cf. also Ovid, ^fel. V'lII, 284 IT., for description of a demoniacal 
boar. Dante's swine (except the swinish element of Ciriatto) are in 
no case demoniacal, as Da Prato seems to maintain. Cf. Da Pkato. 
/I caratlere demoniaco del Porco e del CinghiaU ticW Inferno Dan- 
Usco, neW Egizia a tielta Tradhiam Popola're, Castelvetro, 1898. 
There are no hogs and no wild boars in Dante''s Inferno. Dante 
merely refers to ihem. Dante's wild boar hunt vaguely recalls 
another line or two in Virgil ; — 

' SiCpe volulabris pulsos silvrslribus iproi 
Laltalu mrlubii agcns.' 

-C«ri-. Ill.^ti. 

' Aul ipumaatis apri cunam clamore premenlem.' 

' Ciacco, whom Dante puts among the gluttons in Circle III, Inf. 
VI. may have been so nicknamed because he was a ' hog.' Buli 
(1324-1406) says, 'Ciacco dicono alquanti che h oome dl porco.' 
Buti was a Pisao, and therefore may not have known all the popular 


f Florence- According to Buonarroti, La FUra 
(H, 3), 'Ciacco vale porco dal far col gnigno dacche, dacche, in 
mangiando e schiacdando la ghianda. . . .' Dante may have called 
this glutton 'Ciacco' vaguely to suggest the swine. The poet 
might have done this, and yet respect the man for his good attributes, 
i Bninetto Latini. yet puts hiro in a lower place in 

Hell for a 
hand, the expression » 
oldest commentator 
the word ' Ciacco ' st 
a colourless nicknai 
lei. 5, vol. 1, p. 38; 
maste Ciacco ; la qu 
che non feccia distin 
chiamano ^incor qu; 
To my thinking, Da. 

e detestable tban gluttony. On the other 
s scarcely to have caught the eye 0/ the 
lly have noted the fact had 
e 'hog,' Perhaps Ciacco is 
GeIJi, io the year t5s4(?), 
i, ' Voi, dttadini, mi chia- 
e uno sia sporco, ingordo, C 
Dgiare; per la qual cosa si 
gua nostra dacchi i porci.' 
to suggest ' hog.' 

The Sheep 

In the sacred books of the Hebrews, who were mostly 
herdsmen during antiquity, allusions to sheep abound. 
From the flocks and the shepherds their poets and mor- 
alising chroniclers drew many a beautiful thought. 
Nevertheless, the ancient Hebrews have not manifested 
in their surviving literature any heartfelt affection for 
sheep or any other animal, and it is therefore curious 
that Christ should in the New Testament have been 
symbolised as the Lamb of God.^ Yet he was so sym- 
bolised, and the symbol, more favoured than that of the 
panther and the griffin, ^ has survived in literature, paint- 
ing, plastic art, and popular tradition, for eighteen hun- 
dred years. 

Dante of course accepts the tradition of the Lamb,* 

* John i, 29, 36. 

' Sec chapters on * Panther,' p. 132 ff., and * Griffin,' p. 224 ff. 

*Purg,XVly 16-21: — 

' lo sentii voci, e ciascuna pareva 
Pregar, per pace e per misericordia, 
L' Agnel di Dio che le peccata leva, 
Pure Agnus Dei eran le loro esordia : 
Una parola in tutte era ed un modo, 
S) che parea tra esse ogni concordia.' 

Buti says, ^They sang the three Agnus Dei that are sung at 
mass ; that is, " Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis ; 
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; Agnus Dei, 



but his genuine attitude toward sheep is to dislike 
them, for the sheep embody precisely those traits which 
aroused Dante's anger. Save in his softer moods, he 
hates them as if there were a feud between his ever con- 
scious intelligence and their never ceasing stupidity. It 
is the poet, the seer of nature, who draws from their 
lowly existence several charming scenes, — charming 
because they are in every detail true to life. 

Come U peconlU escon dil tkiuso 
Ad una, a due, a Ire, e i' altre stanno 
Timidette atierrando f ouhio e il must} ; 
E cio ehefa la prima, e P altre fann^, 
Addossandosi a Ui s' ella s' arresta, 
Semplici e qtiete, e h 'mperfhe non sanno : 
Si vid' io movere a venir la testa 
Di guella mandria fortunata allotta, 
PudUa in fascia, e nelf andare onesta} 

Like ahccp that issue from their fold, one, two, 
Then three at once ; the rest all standing shy. 
With eye and nostril to the ground, that do 
Then what the foremobt doth, unknowing why, 
And crowd upon her back if she but stand 
(Quiet and simple creatures !), thus the head 
I saw move toward us of the happy band. 
Modest in face and of a comely tread. 

— Parsons. 

qui tollis peccala mundi, dona nobis paccm."' Farad. XXIV, 

O •odalino cleno alia gran cena 
Del benedelto AgiiclJa. il qunl vl ciba 
SI die la vosira vogllai sempre plena.' 

Cf. Apoc. vii, i6. 17; Parad. XVII, 31-33; Episl. VII, ii. 43-46. 
With the above passages cf. John i, 39. 
' Purg. Ill, 79-87. 


Elsewhere the dismay of Virgil reminds Dante of a 
poor swain who, looking out upon the land, white with 
hoar frost, 

Smites on his thigh, returning to his cot, 

And wanders here and there complaining round, 

Poor wretch ! unknowing how lo mend his lot, 

Then, sallying out again, his hope revives 

To see how soon the world has changed its face, 

And catching up his crook, his flock he drives 

To their old pasture with a cheerful pace.' 

— Parsons. 

Again, in the Heaven of the Moon, Beatrice (who re- 
members not only the classics and the Scriptures, but 
also Dante's observations) gives a pretty warning : — 

Nortfate come agtul (hi lauia il latte 
Delia sua madrt, e semplke e lascivo 
Seco medesmo a sue piacer combatie} 

Be not as the lamb that doth abandon 

Its mother's milk, and frolicsome and simple, 

Combats at its own pleasure with itself. 

— Longfellow. 

It is in a slightly different mood that Dante refers to 
his childhood in Florence : — 

Se mat continga che il poema sacro, 
Al quale ha posto mano e cklo e terra, 
St che «' hafatto per pik anni macro, 
Vt'ftca la crudeltA, che fuor mi serra 
Dd belle ovileov' to dormii agnello 

1/-/-XXIV, 7-is. 
» Parad. V, 82-84. Cf- ScarUzzini on vs. 83. 


Nimko at lupi eke gH danno guerra ; ' 
Con altra voce ontai, con altro vello 
Ritomerb poeia, ed in sulfonle 

Del mio battesmo prenderb U capelh^ 

If e'er it happeu that the Poem sacred, 

To which both heaven and earth have set their hand, 

So that it many a year hath made me lean, 

O'ercome the cruelty that bars me out 

From the fair sheepfold, where a lamb I slumbered, 

An eoemy to the wolves that war upon it. 

With other voice forthwith, with other fleece 

Poet will I return, and at my font 

Baptismal will I take the hurel crown. 

— Longfellow. 

And in the Heaven of Mars Dante asks his forebear 
Cacciaguida to tell him of the sbeepfold of St. John, 
meaning Florence,* 

Though Dante refers to himself as the ' least among 
the sheep of Christ,' * and though he accepts the lamb as 
the symbol of Jesus Christ, he does so in obedience to 
an honoured conventionality, rather than to express an 

' Dante probably means, ' where I slept as a lamb and now I am 
a foe of the wolves,' etc. As a child he would scarcely have been 
■nimico ai lupi.' " farad. XXV, 1-9. 

•flM-arf. XVI, 25-27: — 

■ Dltemi dell' ovil di San Giovanni 
Quanlo era allora, e chi eran le fenti 
Tra CS50 piA degne di ^t alii scannL' 
Scartaizini cites G. Villani {IV, 10), 'II Ehiomo fii il primo ovik e 
Btazzo ddla rifatta Firenze.' 

*■ Epist. VIII, V, 70-74, 'Quippe de ovibus paseuis Jesu Chtisli 
minima una sum; quippe nulla pastorali auctoritate abutens, quia 


affection which he did not feel. The descriptions in his 
Latin eclogues hardly ring true, for there he is imitating 
Virgil as Virgil had already imitated Theokritos ; but 
Dante's pastorals are marred by excessive allegory.^ In 
two moods Dante is most himself : when he portrays 
what he has seen, and when he utters his loves and 
hatreds with all his heart. What could be more mag- 
nificently scornful than his comparison of the silly 
people, who listen to the idle tales of the priests, to 
sheep that come home fed on wind ? 

' Ed. I, 58-64 (Mopsus = Giovanni del Virgilio) : — 
' Est mecum, quani noicis, ovis graiijsinia. dixi. 
UbcTB vix qua: fenE polesi, tarn lactix abundaD), 
(Rup« sub ingenli corpus modo rutniaal herbas) 
Nulll iuDCta grcEi- tlullii uiuetaque caulii, 
Spontc venire solet, numquam vi poscere mulctram. 
Hanc ego prxslolor manibm mulgeie paralis ; 
Hue implcbo decern missunis vascula Mopso.' 

' I have, said I, a pet ewe (you know her), that can scarce carry her 
milk-laden udders (and now she is chewing wisps of grass under a 
huge rock). Being put with no flock, unused lo any fold, she is 
wont lo come of her own will, and is never driven to the pail. I ani 
waiting to milk her with ready hands, and shall have ten bowlfiils lo 
send to Mopisus.' (This 'ewe' may be Dante's inspiration for the 
Divine Comedy, and the ten bowls full may be ten cantos of the 
Paradise. The ewe comes willingly because the inspiration is genu- 
ine and in the Italian tongue.) Eel. II, lo-ii ; — 

' Et dun silvestri peoudes misJseque capellse 
Insidunl heibse, dum naribus aera captani,' elc 

'And while the sheep and goats lie mingled on the wood gras;:, 
while they sniff in the airs,' etc. Cf. Eel. II, 72, and 91 : — 
' Virgiferi silvis gelida cum valle reliclis, 
Poll pecudes rcdiero suas : hinccque capeil^.' elc. 

' The herdsmen with their rods having lefi the woods and the chilly 
vale, followed their sheep and the hairy goats,' etc 


Non ha Fiorensa tanti Lapi e Binifi, 
Quante s\ faitt favoU per anno 
In pfrganto si gridan quinci e quindi; ' 
■S? che U pecoreUe, che non sanno. 
Toman dal pasco pasciuU di vento 
E mn k scusa non veder lor danno} 

Florence has not so many Lapi and Bindi 
As fables such as these, that every year 
Are shouted from ihe pulpit back and forth, 
In such wise that the lambs, who do not know. 
Come back from pasture fed upon the wind. 
And not to see the harm doth not excuse them. 


Here the axe is double-edged ; elsewhere the poet 
strikes without irony. Of those who follow thought- 
lessly Dante declares : ' These are to be called sheep, 
not men; for, if one sheep threw itself from a bank a 
thousand feet downward, all the others would go after 
it. And, if a sheep for any reason jumps, on its way, 
all the others jump, even though they see nothing to 
jump over. Yes, once I saw many jump into a well, 
because of one that jumped in, taking, it may be, the 
well for a wall, even though the shepherd, weeping and 
shouting, tried to hold them back with arms and breast.' ^ 
The present writer vividly remembers seeing human 

' See T. F. Crane, The Exemfih of Jacqms dt Vitry, London, 
1890, especially p. Ixviii. The people fed on these tales, and were 
therefore like sheep that go lo pasture but get only 'wind.' 

'Farad. XXIX, 103-108. 

• Conv. I, x\, 58-70. This is one of the few cases in which Dante 
acknowledges his personal observation. Medievats are generally spar- 
ing ia this regard. Mandevilk can never be trusied ; Dante always. 


beings go to their death in a like manner on the East 
River Bridge. 

Elsewhere in his Banquet Dante says that to live 
means to think, and thinking belongs only to man, be- 
cause the beasts have no reason, and not only the lesser 
beasts but those that have 'a human demeanour and the 
spirit of a sheep or of some other abominable beast' ' 
And again he cries, ' Happy the few who sit at that 
table where the bread of the Angels is eaten, and wretched 
they who with the sheep have a common food.' ' 

One need hardly cite more to make Dante's attitude 
clear. He accepts the symbolism of the Lamb of 
God, and develops in a dozen ways the figure of speech 
that makes 'flocks'^ out of the congregations of the 
Church, once even calling the Emperor a Hectorean 

1 Cotiv. 11, vii, 30-33, '£ non dico pur delle minori bestie, ma di 
quelle che hanno apparenza umana, e spirito di pecora o d' sitra 

bestia abbo mine vole.' Cf. Ihe Biblical ' abominailon ' — the hog, 

^ Com'. 1, i, HS^ 'Oh bcati que' pochi che seggono a quella 
mensa ove il pane degti Angeii si mangia, e miseri quell! che colle 
pecore hanno comune cibo.' Cf. the legend of Nebuchadneizar. 

* Episi. VIII, iv, 46-49, 'El quorum sequentem gregem per 
saltus peregrinatiouis hulus iltustrare iniereral. ipsum una vobiscum ad 
pnedpitium traduxisiis.' Parad. IX, 127-132 (cf. Matthew vii, 15): — 

Che pria io\sk le spalle al auo (allore, 
E di cui £ la invidla lanio pinnta, 
Produce e spande il malcdeilo fiore 
C ha disvisie le pecore f gli agni. 
Perocchft fello ha lupo del paslore.' 
Parad. X, 94-96 : — 

' lo fill degU itgnf dclla sania giegeia 
Che Domcnlco mena per cammlno. 

ZJe^on. Ill, xv, 16-26; iWrf. Ill, iii, 116-118 ; /'ardrf. XI. 99 (Archi- 
maadriu) ; Dt Mon- III, ix, 123 (Archimandrila) ; Epht Villi vi 


Shepherd ; ^ but in his most natural moods Dante is 
either the artist who paints the sheep with a certain 
tenderness, or the great thinker, conscious always of his 
power and intolerant of stupidity in sheep* as in men. 

(uomine solo archimandritis, etc.); Pw^- XIX, to?; Episi. VII, 
157-162 (neighbouring flocks sickened by contagion); Epist. VII, 
144-146, 'hxc est languida pecus, gregem dotnini sui sua con- 
tagione commaculans.' Parad, XI, 124-132 (St. Francis describes 
the condition of the Dominicans in 1300 A.D.) : — 
' Ma il suo peculio di nuova vivanda 

Che pet dsveni salli non si spiuida; 
E quanlo le sue pecore remote 


in a1 ovil di 

Ben son di quelle chc lemono il daano, 
E stringonsi al pasloc ; ma sod sI poche, 
Che Je cappe furnisce poco paono,' 
Cf. Isaiah Uii, 6; also Psalm cxix, 176. 

Another reference to sheep is found in Epist. VII, v, 98-IOO, 
' . . .in Tumos ubique sicut Ico desxviet, el in Latinos velut 
agnus milescet." Cf. Parad. XVI, 1 17 (com' agnel si placa) ; Purg. 
XXXIII, SI. See H. F. Toier. 

^ Epist. V, V, 84-87, ' Parcite, parcite iam ex nunc, o carissimi, 
qui mecum iniuriam passi estis, ut Hectoreus pastor vos oves de 
ovtli suo cognoscat,' etc. 

'* Aristotle has also somelhing to say on the stupidity of sheep. 
See De Hist. Ammal. IX, 3 (De genere ovili amenle et stulto), and cf. 
also Albertus Magnus, De AHimal. lib. XXII, tract ii, cap. 1. 
Albertus Magnus is Dot only friendly lo the sheep, but gives a 
minute and relatively intelligent description, apparently from his 
own observation. Cf. Ptarad. V, 80, with Inf. XXVI, 1 nj. 


The Goat 

'Comedy,' explains Dante to Can Grande, 'differs 

materially from tragedy in this, that tragedy is at the 
beginning wondrous and quiet; at the end or outcome 
stinking and grisly ; and it is named, therefore, from 
tragus, which means he-goat, and oda ; as it were a 
goatish song, — that is to say, stinking, like a he-goat, 
as is plainly shown by Seneca's tragedies.'^ 

Being entirely ignorant of Greek, our author no doubt 
found this etymological lore in some Latin writer and 
made it bodily his own.^ As Heil, which is the culmi- 
nation of evil, sends forth a stench, so tragedy, which 
ends unhappily, smells ill. One thinks of Hamlet's 
saying as to Denmark. 

Not only is the he-goat rank; he is also a quarrel- 
some ' butter ' (to translate his Hebrew name ),' and in 

' Epist. X, Jf, 195-203, ' Differl ergo a tragcedia in materia per 
hoc, quod tragcedia in prindpio est adtnirabilis et quiela. in fine sive 
exilu est fcetida el horribitis. et dicilur propter hoc a tragus, quod 
est hircus, et oda, quasi cantus hircinus, id est fceddus ad modum 
hird, Ut patet per Senecam in suis Tragcediis.' 

' Horace (Ars. P. 220 ff.) is aol sufficiently precbe to be ihc 
authority of Uante. Horace says : — 

' Coimiae qui ttagico vilem certavii ob hircum, 
Mox eliam agresiei jalyros nudavil,' elc. 

Dante almost certainly borrowed the explaoation about as it stands. 
■ Tayishj' Proverbs xxx, 39, 31, and elsewhere- 



this capacity is like two brothers whom Dante saw in 
the ice heU : — 

' Clamp never girt board to board so strongly ; where- 
fore they like two he-goats butted together, such anger 
overcame them.' — Norton. 

Con legno legno mai spranga non cinse 
forte iosi, ond' ei, cotne due becchi, 
Cozsaro Insieme : tanV ira li vmse} 

The nature of the he-goat is to butt, and butt often ; 
that of all the breed is to climb along narrow ledges 
without ever falling, and stand on any point wide enough 
to hold their nimble, sharp-pointed hoofs. Since a mere 
chink or rift in an almost perpendicular wall is wide 
enough for goats, one can have but the greater admira- 
tion for the shade of Virgil, which set our poet down on 
a ledge that would have been to very goats no easy road. 
Che sarebbe aile caprf duro varco? 

This does well for a comparison, but in beauty is sur- 
passed by another scene. 

Dante, Master Virgil, and Statius stop to rest on the 
mountain of Purgatory to await the morning. 

Quali sifanno ruminando manse 
Le eapre, state rapide e pro/erve 
Sopra le cime, avanti che sieri pranse, 
Tacile all' ombra. mentre che il sol feme, 
Guardate dal pastor, (he in sulla verga 

"^ Inf. XXXn, 49-51. This simile seems to have been fore- 
shadowed by vss. 44-45. 

" Inf. XIX, 132. Compare with this the climbing of the moun- 
toin in Purg. XXV, 7-9. 


Foggiato s' i, e lorpoggiato serve; 
E quale il mandrian che/uori alberga, 
Lungo ilpeculio sua qtuto pemotta, 
Guardando perchh fiera non lo sperga ; 
Taii eravamo tutti e tre allotla. 
To come capra, ed ei come pas tori, 
Fasciati quitidi e guinci d' alta groita. 
Foco poUa parcr ft del di/uori; 
Ma per quel poco vedev' io k stelle, 
Dt lor solere e pm chiare e maggiori. 
Si ruminando, e si mirando in quelle. 
Mi prese il sonno ; il sotino che sovenie, 
Ami che Ufatto sia, sa le ftm'elle} 

Even as in ruminating passive grow 
The goats thai have been swift and venturesome 
Upon the mountain tops ere they were fed 
Hushed in the shadow, while the sun is hot, 
Watched by the herdsman, who upon his stalT 
Is leaning, and in leaning tendeth them ; 
And as the shepherd, lodging out of doors 
Passes the night beside his quiet flock, 
Watching that no wild beasts may scalier it ; 
Such at that hour were we, all three of us, 
I like the goat, and like (he herdsman they. 
Begirt on this side and on that by rocks, 
little could there be seen of things without ; 
But through that little I beheld the stars 
More luminous and larger than their wont. 
Thus ruminaling, and beholding these, 

' Purg. XXVII, 76-93. Cf. 80-^4 wiih Virgil, Gearg. IV, 433- 
436 (cited by Scanazani) : — 

' Ipse velu) slBbuUi:mK» in monlibui olini 
Vesper ubi c pastu viluloi ad tecia reducit. 
Auditisque lupos acuunt balalibuj agni, 
CoDiidit Keputo mediui nutnenimque rccensel.' 


Sleep seized upon me, — sleep that oftentimes 
Before a deed is done has tidings of it. 

— Longfellow. 

No ghost-haunted mountain of Purgatory is this, but 
some Italian hilltop where the goatherd is passing the 
summer with his flock. Bent mutely on his crook, he 
watches them all day alone, and at night he is their 
guardian against wolves. 

Once more, in a Latin eclogue,' Dante limns the goat- 
herd propped on his knotty staff; but his name is 
Tityrus, and the illusion fades. Still worse, the sus- 
picion of an underlying allegory, a possibility that these 
animals are only scholars after all, and that the herds- 
men are men of letters thus travestied, lessens the 
reality of the scene, and its beauty dwindles. 

Tityrus ' hae propter con/ugit el Alphesibxm ' 
Ad iitvam, peeudumque suique misertvs uterque 
Fraxineam, tih'is platanisque frequentem 
Et dum sihestri pecudes mistaque eapellm 
Insidunt herha, dum naribus aera captant, 
Tityrus heic annosus enim, de/ensus aeema 
Fronde, sopori/ero gravis incumbebal odore, 
Nedosoque piri irnlso de stirpe bacillo 
Stabat subnixus ut dicerel Alphesibxui* 

' So Tityrus and Alphesibceus, each thoughtful for 
his flock, have fled to an ash wood, grown with plane 
trees and lindens ; and whilst the mingled sheep and 
goats settle down on the sward in the woodland and 

' Addressed lo the pedant Giovanni del Virgilio. ' Dante. 

' 'AIphesilxEii.s, idest MagLiter Fiducius de MUottis de Certaldo 
Medicus, qui tunc morabalur Ravencx.' * Eel. 11, 7-15. 


sniff the breezes, here Tityrus, full of years, sheltered 
beneath the maple boughs, drowsy with the heavy 
odour, stood propped on a knotty rod that he had torn 
off a pear tree's stump, waiting for Alphesibceus to have 
his say.' 

In another Latin eclogue, sent as a response to the 
same pedantic poetaster, nature is smothered under the 
mantle of allegory : — 

Vidimus in nigris albo patitnte liluris 
Pierio demulsa sinu modulamina nobis. 
Forte recensenUs pastas df more capelias 

Tune ego sub quercu meus et Melibaus ' eramus} 

' We have beheld in black rubbings, on patient white 
leaves, ditties milked from the bosom of the Pierian 
muse. Counting, perchance, our goats, fed according 
to their wont, my Meliboeus and I were standing beneath 
an oak.' 

Tityrus, no doubt, is our own Dante, and Melibceus 
seems to hide one Dino Perini. Dante laughs at Meli- 
bceus's desire to learn the art of poesy : — 

Viehis amore sui, posito vix denique risu, 
Stulte, quid insanis f inguam; tua cura capella 
Te potius poseunt, guamquam mala ccenula furiet? 

' Out of pure liking for him, but having hardly ceased 
to laugh, I said, " What mad talk, my foolish one ! Look 
out for the goats, they need you, though there's little 
food." ' 

Now Meliboeus speaks: "O Tityrus,' says he, 'if 

•Dino Perini? * £el. 1, t-4- * Eel. I, 8-to. 



Mopsus ^ sings in unknown pastures, an thou show me 
them, I may, nevertheless, recite his unknown songs to 
my wandering goats.' 

Tityre, tunc, si Mopsus, ait, decantatin hcrbis 

Ignotis, ignota /amen sua carmina passim, 

Te monstrante, meis vagulis prodiscere* capris? 

Dante (or Tityrus) now tells MeUbo^us that he would 
rather wait for the laurel wreath on the bank of the 
Arno, whereat Meliboeus repUes : — 

IIU : Quis hoc dtibiUt f Propter quod respite tempus, 
Tityre, guam velox : nam iam senuere capella 
Quas concepturis dedimus nos matribus hircos.* 

' Who doubts it ? So look to the days, Tityrus ; how 
swift they are ! For already the she-kids, for whose 
begetting we ourselves gave over the he-goats to the 
mothers, have grown old.* 

The Latin text, like the allegory, has perhaps under- 
gone the injuries of time. Yet we seem to have lost a 

^ Giovanni del Virgilio. 

* Neither Forcellini nor other lexicographers register such a word- 
So skilled a Latinist as Dante would hardly have ventured to coin 
' prodiscere.' If the scribe who is responsible for 'prodrscere' was a 
Tuscan he might very naturally have put an s into prodictre. To 
pronounce ci much like sci {dicire like discere) is characteristic of 
modern Florentines, and perhaps was so of Dante's contemporaries. 
Frodiceii would fit here without violence to sense or to prosody. 
The suggestion of prodicere I owe to Professor M, L. Earle, of 
Columbia University. 

* Eci. I, 24-26. 

* Ed. I, 45^47- Witte and Kanncgiesscr loosely render thus : — 

■ El altera ichon die Ziegen, die dm BOcken 
Wii dbcilies&efi, diUi iic Miin<:r »Urden.' 



few details of our poet's life and thought rather than a 
picture of nature. 

Once more, what can Dante mean when he warns 
MeUboeus to look out for his wanton he-goals? — 
7*a tauten interdum eapros meditere petuUos} 

The phrase, if allegorical, seems hopelessly obscure. 
So, too, other verses in the second eclogue to Giovanni 
del Virgilio, wherein Dante says that, when the shadows 
had deepened, the staff-bearing swains came homeward 
behind their flocks, and the hairy goats, now making 
back to the soft meadows, went on before : — 

Sed quia tarn proni uindebant athra tugales, 
Ul rem quamque sua iam tnultum vinceret umbra, 
Virgifori sikns gelida cum iialle relictis, 
I\>st pecudes reditre suas : kirtaque capellce"^ 
Inde, velut reduces ad motlia prata praibant? 

The two eclogues containing these passages have not 
only, in all likehhood, been garbled by puzzled scribes, 
but they are further obscured by the excessive allegory, 
which no commentators have made clear. Yet an 
understanding of the allegory in every line (if the 
allegory is thorough) would serve only to destroy what 
semblance of illusion is afforded us by our inability to 
perceive precisely what human beings are intended by 
these goats in their various postures and moods. There 
is, then, a slight semblance of nature without illusion, 
but one may be forgiven the inability to admire. If, on 

1 Eel. I. 65. 

* Giovanni del Virgilio {Eel. II, vs. 23) first uses the words kir- 
taqut capella. * Eel. II, 90-95- 



the other hand, the poet moralises without any artistic 
aim, there is no artistic disappointment, 'He who 
knows anything in general ' (writes Dante), ' does not 
know it perfectly, for he who recognises an animal 
from afar does not know whether it is a dog, or a wolf, 
or a he-goat,' ^ The example is quaint and appeals. 

Again, the he-goat figures in a proverb Lutig-ijia dal 
becco V erba (far from the goat shall be the grass); ' in 
other words, 'he may crave, but he will go unfed.' 

What Dante beheves to be the doom of goats is 
obvious from his apostrophe to evil-doers at the bottom 
of HeU: — 

O sepra futte mal creata pkbe, 

Che slai nel loco onde 'I parlar k duro 

Me' feste state qui peeere e sebe .' * 

O rabble ill-begotten above all. 

Who 're in the place to speak of which is hard, 

Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats. 

— Longfellow, 

That death ends all for the beasts, but for man is 
only a door into the bliss or torture of eternity, such is 
the belief of Dante, — a belief unshaken by the doubt 
that harassed Ecclesiastes.* 

• Conv. I, Ti,4o-4;, 

*Ih/. XV, 71. H. F. Toier translates, •beico^ 'mouth,' lit. 
'beak.' See his commentary. 

' Inf. XXXII, 13-15. ^^^ (* r^e word, now ob$at«le) is from 
the German ZMe, Iamb. ZebtUare, ' to skip,' is probably from teba- 

* Ecdesiastes iii, 18-31. 


The Deer — La Dama 

Si si starehhe un caru intra due datne} 
Thus would a dog falter between two deer. 

However often or knowingly other medieval writers 
describe the deer in verse and prose, Dante mentions 
the creature only once, and then so indifferently that 
any other four-footed quarry would have done as well. 
The word dame is either a dubious Latinism or dubiously 
archaic Italian, and seems to have been used because 
the poet needed something to rime withy^w^ and brame. 
There is no question here of art or observation,^ and the 
only point of interest would be to learn why Dante took 
it upon himself to spell the word with a single m, an 
orthography contrary to the perhaps universal usage of 
Italian authors, both ancient and modern. 

Two texts, amongst others, may have led Dante to 
write this verse, 

Si si starebbe un cane intra due dame? 
Thus would a dog falter between two deer. 

» Parad. IV, 6. 

^ The only question involved is scholastic and is treated in the 
chapter on *The Dog,' p. 119. 

' Three explanations seem to offer themselves as to why Dante 
spelt dame with one m: First, there existed a form dama^ — 
the form preferred by Forcellini. (It is damns that gives the 







In Virgil's Georgics III, 539-540: ^^^^^H 

Timidi damma annque fitga(es ^^^^^^H 

Ntme inUrque eemes et eireum Ueta vagattlur, ^^| 

we have both dogs and deer. Again, in Ed. VIII, 38, ^H 

dogs and deer are both brought together : — ^^H 

Cum canii 

dpoeula dammtE. ^H 

French dain and da 

word written DAM, 

the bar over the M ; 1 

found the word writte 

one M. Since thb bt 

rather than to study 1 1 

another time. See, 1 

</ be that Dante found the ^H 
icnpt and failed to notice ^H 
ind, it may be that, having ^H 
right to use the form with ^| 
ante as 3. student of nature ^H 
jstion may well be left for ^H 
JBKE, Ein/Uhrung in das ^| 


The Beaver 

Une beste est tP autre nature ; 
Castor la nomme P escHpturey 
En roman Vapele V an beivre} 

In order Id describe how Geryon, the monstrous sym- 
bol of fraud, looked, as he lay with his goodly human 
face above a certain brink in Hell, but with his serpent's 
body hanging down into the abyss, Dante employs an 
image that makes the uncouth scene loom up like a 
vision of a real world. 

Come tal volta stanno a rtva i burchi^ 

Che parte sono in aqua e parte in terra^ 

E come la tra It Tedeschi lurchi 

Lo bevero s^assetta afar sua guerra; 

Cost la fiera pessima si stava 

SuW orlo che^ dipietra^ it sabbion serra} 

As sometimes wherries lie upon the shore. 
That part are in the water, part on land ; 
And as among the guzzling Germans there. 
The beaver plants himself to wage his war ; 
So that vile monster lay upon the border, 
Which is of stone and shutteth in the sand. 

— Longfellow. 

^ Gervaise, Bestiairey edited by Paul Meyer, Romania^ I, p. 
435 ^-t 'A beast there is of another kind, — castor he is named 
by Holy Writ; in the Romance tongue they call him beivre* (from 
the German Bibery « Inf. XVII, 19-24. 




In the Middle Ages the beaver was thought of chiefly 
as the animal that bore in a certain part of its body a 
medicine named castoriura. On this account, so the 
story goes, he was pursued by hunters ; but, knowing 
their purpose, he bit off the medicinal part and thus 
saved his life. This dubious tale was no doubt familiar 
to Dante, for it is related by Pliny,' by the widely 
diffused ' Physiologus," ^ by Brunetto Latini,^ and a host 
of others needless to mention here. Dante has escaped 
this legend, but he has adopted another quite as e.\traor- 
dinary. He believes that the beaver fishes with its tail. 

Though Dante does not explain what he means by the 
beaver's warfare, liis earliest commentators are quick to 
catch the allusion, and make the matter clear to such of 
their readers as were not versed in the beaver's outland- 
ish ways. Scarcely seven years after Dante's death 
, Jacopo della Lana enlightened other lovers of the poet 
in this wise: — 

' The beaver is an animal that lives on fish, and he is 
of small growth and abides mostly in the lowlands where 
there are fish. Now this animal, when he wishes to feed, 
is wont to come to the water's edge, and one half he 
stretches upon the earth, the other half into the water, 
and he has a very broad tail which is full of fat. He 
waggles the aforesaid tail in the water, the fat oozes out 
through the pores and greases all the water, quite as if 
oil had been thrown in. The fish, perceiving such a 
moisture, hastens thither ; the beaver stands ready, seizes 

1 Hut. Nat. VIII, 47. 

• For texts see Cahier et Martdj, Mllangti d' Arckialogie, II, 
pp. 338-333. • Truer, p. 333. 



him, and eats him. And this happens in those parts of 
Allemania above the river called Danube, which flows 
into the Tana sea."' 

Dante's own son, Pietro, tells a similar tale,^ to be read 
also in the ' Glosses' {CAiose, 1321 f or 1328?)^ and in the 
commentary of Benvenuto da Imola. Not only have we 
this contemporary testimony, but the evidence that this 
tail-fishing myth is a far-reaching bit of folklore is con- 
vincing ; for the feat which Dante attributes to the beaver 
is simply another version of a myth existing in Africa, 
Europe, and America to this day. Whether the fisher 
be a stag or a hyena, a bear, a wolf, or a rabbit, it is 
ever the same misunderstanding of nature, arising in a 
similar way.^ 

Dante's version indicates not that he had ever ob- 
served the beaver, ' there amidst the gluttonous Teutons,' 
but rather that he knew of it only by hearsay or through 
some other channel to us unknown. 

' See commentary of J. della Lana, and Witte, DanU-For- 
scfiungen, I, 372. 

' Super Dantu I'psiiis genitoris Camoidiam commtutarium, . . . 
Flortnliae, 1 846. 

* Edited by Fr. Selmi, Turin, 1865, 

* Cf. Tylor, Early Hist, of Mankind, pp. 364-367. The ability 
and the inclination to obseri'e nature have grown very slowly, 
and the experimental spirit had not really gained a solid footing till 
well into the last century. The Bible, Aristotle, and St. Thomas 
Aquinas (to name a typical theologian) and other like authorities, 
were once the world's eye and are the scientific advisers of many 
people stUl. 


W*H£N mediev; Mit for otter, they and 

their dogs sei out i to some fishy stream. 

Ha^-ing made ttu otcis hreakfisted, then 

armed tbemsctvet rk fitted to a shaft as 

long as a great si xe shots of a crossbow 

away from the pi tter had been started 

the dogs Vi-ere let to the otter's lair, and 

began scratching i be huntets meanwhile 

coming up, stood ready, and. immediately on seeing the 
otter swim away beneath the surface, cast their forked 
spears. Perhaps then the dogs retrieved, perhaps the 
otter was dragged out with the fork or trident on which 
he was impaled.' 

Dante makes use of such a scene, but his hunters are 
devils, and the otter is a politician smeared with pitch. 

/f pitii, ed onto il cor me n' accapriccta, 
Uno aspettar cosi, com' egli incontra 
Che una rana rimane, ed allra spicci'a. 
E Graffiacan, eke g/i era piii d' incontra 
Gli arronciglib U impegolate chiome, 
E Irassel su, die mi parve una lontra? 

■ Cf. The Bocik of King Modus and Queen RaciOy chapter entitled 
'Cy devise en quelle m.iniere on prent le loutrea force' ; also CiBRA- 
Vim,Ktnnomia Pol. net Med. /tw., Turin, 1892, vol. 11. chapter 5. 

' Inf. XXII, 31-36. For excellent intetpretation, see Benvenuto 
da Imola. 



I witnessed then what thrills me yet with fear ; 
One, lingering longer with his head uplift, 
As one frog stays while darts the next away, 
Whom Graffiacane,^ being nearest, hooked 
Forth by the tarry locks, a writhing prey ; 
Like a speared otter to my sight he looked. 

— Parsons. 

Whoever has seen an otter come, long, dark, and 
dripping, out of the water, can easily imagine this tarry 
sinner caught and hauled out, squirming on the devil 
'Dog-grabber's'^ hooked spear. Dante had kept his 
eyes wide open on his medieval world. 

^ Graffiacane might here be nicknamed ' Graffialontra * were it not 
that Dante calls his sinners, not otters, but ' dogs.* 


The Elephant 

The few elephants that were brought into Europe 
during the Middle Ages for king or emperor were not 
only so extraordinary a sight that people flocked to see 
them,' but they are even recorded solemnly in the 
chronicles. In 1228^ the Sultan gave to Emperor 
Frederick II of Swabia an elephant which was to be 
seen in 1235 in Lombardy,* and in 1235 or 1237 at 
Parma.* Ryccardus de S. Germano writes' that the 
Archbishop of Panormo, coming back as an ambassador 
from the Sultan to the Emperor, proffered to the latter 
on the Sultan's behalf an elephant, some mules, and 
sundry other precious gifts. ' In 1235,' says the chroni- 
cler Salimbcne. ' the Lord Emperor Frederick sent an 
elephant into Lombardy with many dromedaries and 
camels, and with many leopards and jerfalcons and 
goshawks. And they went through Parma, and I saw 
them with my own eyes, and they stopped in the city of 
Cremona.' There the elephant died in 1248, seventeen 
years before the birth of Dante.' 

* Matthew Paris, ad ann. lass- 

* Ryccardus ue S. Gekmano, ad ann. iai8. 

■ Salimbenb, cited by Alwdj Schultz, Dai Hofiicht Lebeit, 

* The confusion of dates arises from a possible discrepancy 
belween Salimbene and the record in the Annali of Parma for 
May, 1137. * Ad ann. 1228. 'Ann, Plactnt. Gtie^. 



In 1255, according to the chronicle of Matthew Paris,' 
Louis IX of France sent to Henry III the first ele- 
phant that ever entered England. ' This was a great 
gift,' declares the chronicler, 'nor do we believe that 
ever any other elephant was seen in England, nor even 
in Cisalpine regions, save him; wherefore various folk 
flocked to see such a novelty.' 

The mere silence of the chroniclers is strong evidence 
that no elephant was in Italy during Dante's time." 
Whether the poet's lore was limited to tradition, or went 
deeper, we shall never be likely to learn. Dante refers 
to the elephant as a land animal, mighty like the levia- 
than of the sea, and, like him, helpless through lack of 
intelligence to do harm to men. Since a close acquaint- 
ance with elephants would probably have sent at least a 
ray of scepticism as to their lack of intelligence into the 
most hardened medieval dogmatist, it is likely that 
Dante took the elephant to symbolise, with the whale, 
nothing more than great bulk, strength, and lack of that 
intelligence which gives malice to giants and men. ' 



^ A miniature in a MS. of Marco Polo's travels shows an elephant 
hum. The elephant is very like a mastodon. This MS., if I mis- 
take not, is in the BibliothSque Naiionale at Paris. 

' See paragraphs on the intelligence of lower animals, pp. 78-81. 


The Whale 


Anglo ^M 
n order ^H 
;o King ■ 

At least four hundred years before Dante, the 
Saxons, bold seafarers and hunters then as now, in 
to get the whalebone in which they dealt, sailed (so King 
Alfred tells us) to far northern seas.' To them, battling 
often in their little ships with the mightiest of living 
things, the whale must have been both actual and terri- 
ble.' No wonder they called the ocean his realm ! ' 

In the literature of Southern Europe the great mam- 
mal is seldom mentioned. Notwithstanding the medi- 
eval fondness for huge, mysterious things, he is not 
regularly a part of the fabulous lore of those times ; yet 
Brunetto Latini, whose Tresor Dante praises, tells a 
tale * which smacks so strongly of folklore that it can 
reasonably be thought to represent an opinion current in 
Dante's time. ' Cctcs,' he begins, ' est uns grans 
peissons que li plusor apelent balaine.' Brunetto goes 

' See King Alfred's Version of Oros., Voyages of Okfktrt and 
Wulfstan, ed. by H. Sweet, Early English Text Society, vol. 79. 
' See jElfrk's Colloquy, Thorpe, 24, 15-21. 

• HwaUs <8c/, Andreas. Kemble, 548. 

• Tresor, p. 186. Cf. Plinv, N. H. I, ix. Professor A. V. W. 
Jackson tells me that 2 somewhat similar story concerning a mon- 
ster serpent occurs in the Zend Airesia (Yasna 9, II). and from 
my friend Siindor L. Landeau I learn that he heard [he tale in his 
childhood from the lips of peasants in Hungary. 


on to say that this is a fish as big as an estate (si grana 
comme une terre), Often he is left high and dry be- 
cause he can only go where the sea is very deep. This 
is the fish that took Jonah into his belly, as the story in 
the Old Testament tells us, so that he thought he had 
got into hell for the greatness of the place wherein he 
was. This fish lifts his back on the high seas and 
lingers so long in one spot that the winds bring sand 
and lay it over him. Grass and bushes sprout upon 
him, and the seamen, deceived by this, oft think him 
to be an isle, whereon they alight and, setting up stakes, 
kindle a fire. Now, when the fish feels the heat he can- 

■ not endure it ; so he flees down into the sea and causes 
everything on him to be engulfed. 
There is no likelihood that Dante, either, ever saw a 
whale. He simply mentions the creature along with the 
elephant as something huge, without intelligence to 
^^ make it so terrible as the giants, of whom he says : — 

^H Natura (erto, quando lascio Parte 

^^1 Di SI falli animali, assai fe' bene 

^^H Per torre lali esecutori a Marte : 

^^J E s' ella if ele/anti e di balene 

^^H Nen si pente, chi guarda sottilmetite 

^^H IHii giusta e piU discrela la ne tiene : 

^^M Chi dove /' argomenio della menle 

^^H S' aggiunge al mal volere ed alia passa 

^^H Nesiun riparo xn pub far la gente} 

Sure, Nature, when her hand forbore the skill 
To make snch monsters, had a wise intent, 
Taking from Mars these ministers of ill ; 

■ /«/, XXXI, 49-57. 


And if she do not of her whales repent, 
And elephants, who closely thinks will find 
That she herein a just discretion shows : 
For were ill will and strength gified with mind, 
Vainly would men such argument oppose. 

— Parsons. 

Though a co 
mous Florentine 
were both a curi 
not the slightesi 
saw a whale, i 
Giants (in whom 
two other greati 
says of the elepn. 
heighten his description of 
points a moral. This moral 
the ' noxious beasts.' ^ 

passage by the Anony- 
X that stranded whales 
mce in his time, there i! 
nking that Dante evei 
it is probable that the 
iggested to his mind the 
nd and sea. What be 
hale serves not only to 
the human monsters, but 
man's relation to 

Fanfani ; 1375 i 
'See chaptei 

largely a compilation, was cdiled by Pietro 
the carliefit date to which it can be assigned, 
in 'The Giants,' p. 70. ' See pp. 21-23. 


The Dolphin 

'Among sea animals, too,' writes Aristotle,' 'many 
instances are related of the dolphin, and likewise of 
the love and attachment which it has shown to boys 
about Tarentum, Caria, and other places.' The Stagi- 
rite goes on to say that dolphins have been known to 
leap over the masts of high ships. 

Neither of these fables, oddly enough, is to be found 
in any accessible version of the ' Physiologus' ;* never- 
theless, both were known to the Middle Ages. Isidor 
of Seville avers that ' nothing in the ocean is swifter 
than the dolphins; for ofttimes, leaping in the seas, 
they fly over ships. When, moreover, they are rollick- 
ing in the billows and flinging themselves headlong 
in the masses of the waves, they seem to forebode 

Dante's so-called master, Brunetto Latini, knew and 
relished the stories of Isidor, but in adopting them 
usually added something from other stores. What Bru- 
netto says of the dolphin is of capital importance, for his 
very words bear a resemblance to those of Dante. 

'The dolphin," says he,* 'is a great sea fish that fol- 

' De Hist. Animal, lib. IX, cap. 48. 

" The Serra is probably a distortion of the flying fish, 

•Etymol. lib. XII, cap. vi, 11. • Truer, eP- 187-188, 



lows the voice of men, and is the swiftest thing in the 
sea, for he skips clear over it as if he were flying ; but 
he does not like to go alone ; nay, many go together, 
and through them sailors perceive the storm that is to 
come, when they see the dolphin fleeting amid the sea 
and tumbling as he fleets, as if the thunderbolt were 
driving him.' — Et par eiilx aperqoivent H marinier la 
tempeste qui doit venir, quant il voient le dolphin fiiir 
parmi la mer, et irehichier sot en fuiant, comme se la 
fcudre le cha^ast. 

'And, sooth,' he goes on, 'we find in the olden 
stories that a country lad fed a dolphin on bread for a 
long time, and made him so tame that he rode him, and 
so much that the dolphin bore him out to the deep sea, 
and there he was drowned, and at last the dolphin 
pined and died when he found out the death of the 
child. Another in lace {Jassy?J, by Babylon, so loved 
a child that after he had played with him, and the merry 
child had run away, he tried to follow him, and stayed 
upon the strand, where he was caught. These and 
many other marvels are seen in these beasts for the 
love they bear to men.' 

To prove that Dante ever watched the leaping dol- 
phin, we should first have to demonstrate that he had 
been at some time well off shore or on the sea. This 
has never been shown, and though Dante, to describe a 
certain band of demons, declares he never saw a ship 
thus steer by sign from land or stars,' his other vivid 

' ■ N* gi* con si divcraa wnnamplla 
Cavalier v]cll mover, n« pedoni, 
Ni nave a segno dl terra o Ji slello.' 

— /«/XXJI, ii>-i 



description of the sea is simply a line from Virgil, 
almost literally translated.^ 

To portray the jobbers whom he saw floundering in 
the boiling pitch, vainly trying to cool their torturing 
bums, Dante's mind reverts to the dolphins for an 
image of his sinners. 

Pure alia pegola era la mta intesa 
Per veder Jel/a bolgla ogni conlegno, 
E della gente, ch' entro v' era incesa. 
Come i delfini quando fanno segno 
At marinar eon J' artro dclla sehiena* 
Che s' argomentin di campar lor legno,- 
Talor cost ad alleggiar la pena 
Mostrava aUun dei pee ca tori it iosso, 
E nascondeva in men ehe non iaUna? 

Ever upon the pitch was my inteni, 

To see the whole condition of that Bolgia 

And of the people who therein were burned. 

Even as the dolphins, when they make a sign 

To mariners by arching of the back. 

That they should counsel take to save their vessel. 

Thus sometimes, to alleviate his pain, 

One of the sinners would display his back. 

And in less time conceal it than it lightens, 

— Longfellow. 

1 ' L' alba vincerR 1' Are tDBltutina 
Che fuggia innaiui. si che dl lontano 
Conobbi il tre molar dclla marina.' 

— P<.rg.l.i\S-lVj. 

Cf. Virgil, Aen. VI, 9, * Splendel tremulo sub lutnine poutua.' 
' Ct Ovid, Met. II, 265-266: — 

' Nee se super nequora curri 
Tollere couuclu audeni delphlaes in auru.' 
'/B/.XXU, 16-24. 


Barring the vivid phrase con I' arco dcUa sckiena, 
there is nothing in Dante's description (but its beauty) 
that is not also in Brunetto Latini. Here, as so often 
elsewhere, Dante has known how to give to a mere liter- 
ary reminiscence an energy that few writers can impart 
from the observation of actual life. This vitalising of 
monsters, or of other creatures he had probably never 
seen,^ is a psychic phenomenon :o be reckoned with by 
those who study Dante- 

> Even as a sculptural adommeat of churches, dolphins are exceed- 
in^y rare. A pair of ihem may be seen on a column of the church 
of Agliate in Lombardy. Cf. M. F. DE Dartei.v, V Arthiltcturt 
lombarde, etc., for illustration. It is barely possible that Dante had 
seen dolphins or porpoises frolicking, as he stood on sonie high shore 
or headland. To my knowledge they rarely corae so dose to land 
that one could make out the arco detta sckiena. An ardde on 
Dante's dolphins in the Alfi del Real /stUuto yeiteio, 1895-1896, 
serie 7, disp. 10, shows that the author had not undentood the 
subjunctive j' arffimaUiit, and b otherwise of dubious value. 


The Frog 

To conceive of the damned as frogs ' was not new with 

Dante; for the writer of the Apocalypse, whose nightmare 
seems to have been fraught with a great many uncouth 
or loathsome beasts, saw ' three unclean spirits like frogs 
come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth 
of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.' ' 
So, in the Book of Exodus (viii), demoniacal frogs plague 
Pharaoh. Rabanus Maurus affirms that the frogs are 
heretics, who, dwelling in the filth of the basest senses, 
never cease to croak with a vain garrulity.^ 

It is in the marsh of heretics that Dante sees more 
than a thousand destroyed souls flee before the rescuing 

Come le rane innansi alia nimica 
Biscia per V aequa si dikguan tittle 
Fin eke alia terra ciascuna j' abbka* 

Jusl as the frogs before the hostile serpent 
Scatter through the water, every one. 
Till each is huddled on the ground. 

' Dante uses, without differentiation, rana and ranocclao (which 

comes from 'ranuciilus, as the French grenoiiille comes from 

'raniKula). ' Rev. itvi, 13. ■ De Univ. lib. VIII, cap. 3. 

• Inf. IX. 76-78. Virgil thus alludes to the nimica bi^aa :— 

' Hie piicibus arram 

Imprabiu Ingluviem. raDisque loquacibus eiplet' 


The word dile^an renders by its very sound the 
liquidl^ of their flight. Could the poet ever have ob- 
served such an unusual sight in Maremma or elsewhere ? 
Perhaps not, but there is not a jot of exaggeration in 
the imagery. 

Again, precisely as the poet has described the beaver 
'there amongst the 'eutons' with its nose 

above the bank, so h iie frogs, or rather the 

sinners, in the ice b< tors. Only these frogs 

are croaking, where; is still. 

E come a \ la rana ' 

Colmus0_ I la, ft$ando sogna 

Di spigot sovtnte la villana : 
Ltvide iiiiin /d dove appar vergogna, 
£ran I ' ombre doieiUi ueUa gAtauw* 

And as to croalc the frog doth place himself 
With muzzle out of water, — when is dreaming 
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant-girl, 
Livjd, as far down as where shame appears. 
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice. 

— LoncfeujOw. 

' That this piping of the frogs occuis in breediog time is admi- 
rably shown hj the words : — 

< quando logiui 
Di iiN(olar soTcnle ]x nDana,' 
Rabanus Maurus says : ' Raoac a gamilitate vocatz eo quod drca 
genitales strepunt paludes et sonuin vocis iropoTtunis cUroonbus 
redduDt. Ranx dxtnooes. In Apocalypsi: Vidi de ore dragonis 
spiritus tres immundos in modum ranarum; sunt autcm s[»ritiis 
. dxmoniorum. Ransc hxretid, qui in c(bdo vilissirooniro sensuum 
commomites, vana garrulitate latrare non desinunt, ut in Esodo 
legitur.' Cf. note 3. Cf also VntciL, Ceorg. 1, 378, ' £t veterem in 
limo ranae cednere querelaro.' 
»/«/. XXXII, 31-35. 


Again the poet is reminded of frogs by the sinners 
in the boiling pitch. Just as the frogs plunge under at 
the approach of a man, so the sinners rest with their 
faces out, and sink at the approach of Barbariccia, a 

The swimming jobbers are likened, first, to plunging 
dolphins, then, more artfully, to frogs. 

E come all' orlo deW atqua if un/osso 
Stanno i ranocchi pur (ol muso fuori^ 
St ehe celano i piedi e I ' altro grosso ; 
Si stavan ei' ogni parte ipeccatori: 
Ma come s' appressava Barbariccia, 
Cost it ritraean sotto i bolori. 
lo vidi, ed anco il cor me «' accapriccia, 
Uno aspettar con, com' egli incontra 
Che una rana rimarte, <d altra spiccia. 
E Graffiacan, chc gli era pOi d ' incontra, 
Gli arronciglib U intfiegolaie ckiome, 
£ trassel su, eke miparve una hntra? 

And just as frogs that stand, with noses out 
Oq a pool's margin, but beneath it hide 
Their feet and all their bodies but the snout. 
So stood the sinners there on every side. 
But soon as Barbariccia drew more near. 
Under the bubbles ducked they down full swift, 
I witnessed then what thrills me yet with fear ; 
One, lingering longer with his head uplift, 
As one frog stays, while darts the next away, 

' Cf. 'Stanno i ranocchi pur col muso fuori,' with Inf. XXXJI, 

31-32: — 

Col muBO fuor dell' acqua,' etc 
'/«/. XXII. 35-36. 


Whom Graffiacan, being nearest, hooked 
Forth by the taity locks, a writhing prey, 
like a speared otter to my sight he looked. 

— Fassoks. 

Whatever may be said against Dante's fashion of com- 
paring his sinners to dolphins, frogs, and a speared otter, 
so swiftly that the mind, full of one image, almost refuses 
to see another, or finally sees them pell-mell and rather 
dim, each image is in itself a gem. And in the frogs 
our poet has observed what most fitted his purpose — 
their amphibious attitude, their croaking, their abject fear 
and panic flight. No ransacking of the classics — and 
surely no search in Dante's contemporaries or in his im- 
mediate forerunners — is likely to bring forth so vivid 
a series of images from everyday nature. Each of 
these images serves to create an illusion, and gives real- 
ity to what would otherwise be mere words. Once only, 
but for a more didactic purpose, Dante borrows from lit- . 
erature rather than from lifa^ 

I Inf. XXIII, 4-9. See chapter on 'The Moose,' ^. 138-140. 

The Fish 

Albertus Magnus, in whom a tendency to experi- 
ment in natural science is felt at times, observed, or 
quotes some one who had observed, signs of intelligence 
in fish.^ Dante, however, denies them intelligence in 
unmistakable terms.^ It is mostly their picturesque 
qualities that arouse his interest. Even to a sign in the 
Zodiac ^ he contrives to give life. The sun is about to 
dawn on Easter, and is entering Aries, the Ram, when 
Master Virgil thus bids Dante hurry on : — 

Ma seguimi oramai^ cJu il gir mipiace ; 
Chh i Pesci guizzan su per V orizzonta} 

But follow, now, as I would fain go on, 
For quivering are the Fishes on the horizon. 

— Longfellow. 

The sparkling of stars is deftly converted into terms 
of life ; for guizzare, like our English ' whisk,* suggests 

^ De Animal, lib. XXI, tract, i, cap. i : ' Videmus etiam pisces 
domesticari, ita quod ad sonum campanae conveniunt et annonam 
acdpiunt; quod sine disciplina videtur non posse fieri. Constat 
ergo quod etiam ista animalia earn habent perfectionem quae ex 
parti cipatione est virium mod varum quae sunt sensus, imaginatio, 
memoria, aestimatio, et providentia et sagacitas cuiusdam coniectu- 
rationis.* * Conv, III, ii, 105-112. 

* Purg, 1, 21, is, of course, of no relevance ; nor Purg, XXXII, 54* 

*/«/. XI, 112-113. 



the flittiiig of fishes here and there, and the quivering 
of their tails and fins. 

The sudden vanishing of a spirit into fiames Dante 
likens to a fish's plunge : — 

J'oiforseper dar loco altrui suondo 

Che prtsso ''' ~ ~'e per lo/oo}, 

Cotne per I andando alfondo} 

Then, to give ice to one behind, 

Whom he hai. Ished in the fire 

As fish in wat e bottom. 

— Longfellow. 

And, again, the angels is compared to 

fish rising for their lood in a fish-pond : — 

Come in peschiera, ch' i traiiqttiffa epura, 
TVaggomi ipesci a cS> ehe vien difuori. 
Per modo che lo stimtn lor pastura ; ' 
.S3 vid' io benpiU di mille splendori 
Trarsi ver not, ed in ciascun s' udia : 
Ecco chi erescerA It nostri amort? 

As, in a fish-pond, which is puie and tranquil, 
The fishes draw to that which from without 
Comes in such fashion that their food they deem it; 
So I beheld more than a thousand splendours 
Drawing towards us, and in each was heard : 
' Lo, this is she who sliall increase our love.' 

— LoNGFKUxnr. 

Hungry fishes, rising wistfully in their artificial pool 
at the chance of a meal, are a sight which Dante may 

> Piirg. XXVI, 133-135- 

*Cf. p. 315, note I, and paragraphs on intelligence i 
1^. 79-81. ' Farad. V, 100-IO5. 


have seen ; for in his day men of wealth or nobles kept 
fish-ponds, not only to please the eye, but also to assure 
themselves of food in peace and war. One Frenchman 
at least had a fish-pond on the tower of his castle, and 
the pond was right full of fish.' The picture given by 
our poet is graceful, but the artist's unwitting dismissal 
of his dogma as to the fishes' intelligence must delight 
all who have a mind. Dante the Poet and Dante the 
Dogmatist are two different men. 

In the treatise De Vulgari Eloquential poet and 
scientist are one ; for there Dante speaks of himself as 
one to whom the world is his country, as to the fishes 
the sea {^Nos autem cut mundiis est patria, velut piscibus 
aqnor). The image is grandiose and beautiful, but, nar- 
rowly scrutinized, seems a half-truth, or an error even ; 
for if (squor means the sea, fishes do not swim every- 
where, but, as an Eskimo sickens in a hot climate, or as 

' Cf. p. 215, note 1 and the following: 'Apud Lutram domum 
rcgalem ex rubris lapidibus fa.bricaUm non minori munilicenlia accu- 
ravit. Etenim ex una parte muro fortissimo earn amplex\is est, aliam 
partem piscina ad instar laciis drcumduit, piscium et altilium in se 
canlinens omne deleclamentuni ad pascendum tajn visum quam 
gustum." — Otto Frislng, Gesta Friderki, IV, 76, cited by Alw. 
ScHULTZ, DiU hoftsche Leb^H, I, 49. L. Gavtieb. La Ckevaltru, 
pp. 501-503. cites Doon de Mateuce, vs. 1 1058 ff., ' Seur la tor ot un 
lac et tin moult grant vivier Trestout plein de poissons.' Cf. also 
Ogier, vs. 6071, and Tai'o/a RiKnda, cited by Manuzii, 'E' n 
questa valle era una peschiera nella quale era. d'ogni maniera di 
pesci, che si polesse menionare.'' 

Dante's own verse might be used to show the existence of fish- 
ponds in Italy. It would be strange had a custom so common in 
andent Italy survived only in other European countries during the 
Middle Ages. 

* I, vi, 17-18. 



an ape would die if taken to Labrador, so the fishes are 
divided into races, few of which are able to go un- 
harmed from warm to chilly water. They, too, have 
their Icelands and their Italies, Yet Dante's image 
is not ob'v'iously untrue. 

If the poet in an allegorical eclogue writes,* ' I won- 
der not that sea fish come together, because all things 
like what befits their way of Iiv*ing,' the words have a 
hollow, conventional ring. Dante thinks always more 
powerfully in his mother tongue- We like best also 
what he had seen. No matter if the touch is slight, 
provided it be true. At some moment Dante had 
watched the scraping off of a bream's scales, and noticed 
the size of those scales. 

E si traevan gii /' unghie la scabbia, 

Conu colUi di scardova U scaglie, 

O d'aitro fesce ehe piit largke I' abbia? 

And wrenched the scales from off bis lettered pel^ 
As a knife scrapeth from a bream the scales. 
Or other fish with scales of larger make. 

— Parsons. 

Was Dante ever given to angling ? Whatever the 
poet has to say in favour of the ' contemplative ' life, 
there is no testimony in Dante's own works (or in any 
known authority) that he ever spent an hour at angling 

» ^fiiga, II, 20,24 : — 

' Quod piiocs coEuit pelagi, . . . 
Non miior; dud cuique pbuent conionni* nla*,' etc; 
*/«/. XXIX, 82-84. Bekvenuto da Imola, *Sicot fiwte est 
alius pisds valliaus nuior przdicto, qui vocatur regina sqwd quosdam, 
apiid alios vocatur soupa.' 


— an art not highly esteemed in his time.' Dante 
speaks of fishing for the truth (no doubt the Christian 
truth) in nobly mistaken lines : — 

Vie piU e/u inJarno da riva si parte, 
Perche tion loma ial gual « it muove, 
Chipesca per lo vera e not ha /' arte : 

E di do som al mondo apertt prove 
Parmenide, Metisso, Brisso e nwlli 
I quali andavano, e non sapean dove? 

Far more than uselessly he leaves the shore 
(Since he retumeth not the same he went), 
Who fishes for the tmth and has no skill ; 
And in the world proofs manifest thereof 
Parraenides, Melissus, Brissus are, 
And many who went on and knew not whither. 

— Longfellow. 

In the more didactic Convivio the poet says, with 
drier precision, that many things belong not to art, 
though they seem to be akin, as fishing seems to have 
kinship with boating, though it is really in the art of 
venery and in venery's command.* 

The oddest of Dante's allusions to fish concern Simon 
de Brie, or Brion, a Frenchman, who so relished the 
eels of Lake Bolsena near Viterbo, that, according to 

) find almost r 

1 medieval works on 

' Angling seems t< 
venery. Cf. note 3. 

* Farad. Y-IW, 131-126. 

* Conv. IV, ii. 133-135, 139-140, 143-145, 'Altre cose sono, che 
non aono dell' arte, e paiono avere con quellaaJcuna parentela; . . . 
siccome pescare pare avere parentela col navicare \ . . . conciossia- 
cosach^ ii pescare sia sotlo 1' arte della venagione, e sotto suo co- 
mandare.' C£. note i. 


Fippino,^ he used to keep them in milk, then stew them 
in wine. Buti avers that Simon had eels hrought him 
from Lake Bolsena, ' the finest eels to be eaten, so fat 
are they and of such flavour, and he put them to death 
in Vernaccia wine ; then had them mashed and mixed 
with cheese and eggs and certaii. Dther things. And he 
had viands made of them of several kinds, which are so 
fattening that the said Pope, keeping on, grew so fat 
that he died.' Villani, being a Guelf, or for some other 
reason unknown, has nothing to say about these eels of 
Bolsena ; but the evidence is adequate that this Pope was 
inordinately fond of eels. 

Pope Martin's affection is thus recorded in an 
epitaph :' — 

Gaudent anguiHa, guta mortuus hie jacel ilk 

Qui quasi mprU reas exeoriahat eas. 

Here lies he dead. 
Each eel much gladness wins. 
As if they'd been mere criminals. 
He scraped off their poor skins. 

Dante thus enriches the fame of Martin IV, once 
Pope, whom he found amongst the gluttons in Porga- 
tory : — 

Questi {e mostrb tel dtto) e Bonagiunta, 
SoHagiunta da Lucca, e queUafetccia 
Di a da bit, ^ii chi I' altre trapunta, 
Ehbe la Santa Chiesa in le sut braccia : 

* A coDtemporary of DantC) died by Philalethes. 

' POSTILLATOR Cassd^ensis, ' ■ . . Fadcbat coqui aoganias 
lacus Bolsenx in vemacda . . . unde super ejus sepnlcnt fertnr 
quod sunt bti duo versus.' See Sculazzini on Pur^g- XXIV, 24. 


Dal Torso fu, e purgaper digiuno 
Le anguilk di Bolsena e la vemaccia} 

His finger showed me : Bonagiunta, lo ! 
Bonagiunta of Lucca ; and that face 
Beyond him there, more sharpened than his own. 
The holy Church once held in his embrace : 
He was of Tours, and fasting doth atone 
Here for Bolsena's eels, Vemaccia's wine. 

— Parsons. 

Pope Martin, then, is sure of immortality ; thanks to 
Dante and Bolsena's eels. It was the eels, too, that 
suggested to Dante the swimming of Geryon, a demon 
of whose departiwe he says : — 

Ui ov* era il petto ^ la coda rivolse^ 
E quella tesa^ come anguilla mosse} 

There, where the breast was, the tail he turned, 
And straight behind him moved it, like an eel. 

1 Purg. XXIV, 19-24. 

* /«/. XVII, 103-104. See chapter on * Geryon,' p. 64. 


The Sponge — It Fungo Marino 

The medieval theory as to the development of the 
human soul found its way into the encyclopedic Divine 
Camtdy. Having explained how the body is begim, 
Dante tells us how life begins : — 

■a fatta la vtrluU atliva. 
Qua! J' una piania, in tanto i!iffer€nle, 
Chi ^lusf i in via, c quslla e gia a rJva ; 
Tanta cprapoi eke gia si move e sente, 
Come/ungo marino ,-* ed inde imprende 
Ad organar le fosse and' i semenU? 

The active virtue having become a soul, like that of a plant 
(in so far different that this is on the way and that already 
arrived), so worketh then, that now it moves and feels as a sea- 
fiingus doth ; and then it proceeds to oigaoise the powers of 
which it is the germ. — Nokton. 

Dante's sea-fungus may be some other zoophyte, but 
is probably the sponge ; for both Aristotle and Albert of 
Bollstadt lay stress on the capacity of the sponge to 
feel Here is the doctrine of Aristotle ; ' The sponge, 
also, as they say, is sensitive, of which this is an indica- 
tion, that it contracts itself at the approach of the per- 

* Though fungus, according to ForceUtni, never means ' sponge' 
in classic Latin, the word is aldn both in form and 
trwirfftK. * Purg. XXV, sa-S7- 



son who plucks it, so that the divulsion of it is difficult. 
It likewise does the same thing when there is much 
wind, and the weather is tempestuous, in order that it 
may not be removed from its situation. . . . There is, 
also, another genus of sponges which they call aplysia, 
because it is incapable of being washed. These sponges 
have large canals, but all the rest of their body is 
dense, and when they are dissected they are found to be 
more dense and viscous than other sponges, and the 
whole of their substance resembles the lungs. It is, 
however, universally acknowledged that this genus of 
sponges is sensitive and lives for a long time.' ' 

Albert of EoUstadt (whose opinion is purely that of a 
medieval encyclopedist) says that the sponge moves 
from place to place and is nearer the nature of the plant 
than is the stinais, and again he affirms that eels and 
certain other creatures are of a higher order than various 
sponges, which possess nothing but a very vague sense 
of touch, and have no motion save of shrinking and of 
dilation, and through this movement they never get 
from place to place except in water or by accident.'' 

1 De ffist. Animal. V, 16 (De vertids, et spongiamm genere, 
quove Riodo gignunlur). 

^ De Animal, lib. 21, tract. I, cap. 6 and 9, '.Spongia tamen 
[in opposition to the slincuil qui movelur de loco ad locum, vicinlor 
est plants naturx quam stincus: et spongia immobilis secundum 
locum adhuc vicinior, ila quod videtur planta quxdam esse aliquid 
participans animalitatis.' /bid. cap. 9, ' Imperfectiora vero his 
[anguillis, etc.] sunt spongiarum genera, qua; de omnibus sensibus 
non nisi conliisum valde tactum acceperunt, nee motum habent oisi 
coniracCionis et dilatationis, et hoc motu de loco ad locum non ferun- 
tur nisi in aqua et per acddens.' 

The Griffin 

On the other bank of the river Lethe in Purgatory 
Dante beheld a mystic procession, heralded by a brill- 
iant light and music. First came four and twen^ 
elders, crowned with flower-de-luce, and singing, then 
four animals crowned with green leaves and Argus- 
eyed in each of their hundred and forty-four wings. 

The interval between these four contained 
A chariot triumphal on two wheels, 
Which by a griffin's neck came drawn along ; 
And upward he extended both his wings 
Between the middle list and three and three. 
So that be injured none by cleaving it 
So high they rose that they were lost to dght ; 
His limbs were gold, so far as he was bird, 
And white the otheis with vermilion mingled. 
Not only Rome with no such splendid car 



E'er gladdened Africanus or Augustus, 
But poor to it that of the Sun would be, — 
That of the Sun, which severing was bumt up 
At the importunate orison of Earth, 
When Jove was so mysteriously just,' 

— Longfellow. 


■ Bu 

H Th 


■ Wl 

I Seven ladies were dancing by this car, and with 

B them came the four and twenty elders. Presently the 
righteous people that had come between the Septentrion 
and the Griffin halted, then turned toward the car as to 
the token of celestial peace, and one of them, as if sent 
from Heaven, singing l^eni, sponsa de Libano (Come, 
bride from Lebanon),^ cried out thrice and all the others 
after.* A little while later Dante saw Beatrice gazing 
upon the beast that is but one person in two natures.* 
Then Dante, led to the breast of the Griffin, where 
Beatrice was standing, looked steadily into her eyes, 
which were still bent upon the Griffin. 

As in a glass the Sun, not otherwise 
Within them was the twofold monster shining, 
Now with the one, now with the other nature. 
Think, reader, if within myself I marvelled, 
When I beheld the thing itself stand still. 
And in its image it transformed itself." 

— Longfellow. 

Having moved somewhat away from the stream, the 
procession halts at the foot of a lofty tree, to the trunk 
of which the Griffin fastens the pole of the car. 

>A«fy. XXIX. I0&-1I0. 

* In the Vulgate (Canlic. iv, 8), ' Veni de Ubaao. sponsa mea, 
vcDi de Libano, veni ! ' * P»rg. XXXI, 79-8:, 

*PMrg. XXX, *Purg. XXXI. 121-136. 


Then to the wheels the maidens turned themselves, 
And the Griffin moved his burden beoedight. 
But so that not a feathci of him fluttered.' 

' Blessed art thou, O Griffin, who doat not 
Pluck with thy beak these branches sweet to taste. 
Since appetite by this was turned to evil,' 
After this fashion round the tree robust 
The others shouted ; and the twofold creature : 
' Thus is preserved the seed of all the just.' ' 
And turning to the pole which he had dragged. 
He drew it close beneath the widowed bough, 
And what was of it unto it left bound." 


Not long after this, whilst Dante sleeps, the Griffin 

Dante's own reference to Africanus and Augustus 
renders it most probable that he drew mainly from 
Roman triumphs for his own triumphal car. The 
dancing maidens, however, and the Griffin suggest the 
dancing Monads of Bacchus, and the panthers fabled 
to have drawn that deity's car.* And in this procedure 
there would be nothing wonderful ; for it is precisely 
such adoption of pagan rites that one finds everywhere 

' Purg. XXXII, 15-37. 

* Scartazzini cites Christ's words to John the Baptist (Matthew iii, 
15), ' Sic decel nos implere omnem iustiiiam.' 

'/^r^. XXXII, 43-51. 

* Rather late there came from the East the legend which pictured 
striped or spotted beasts drawing Bacchus. Most common is the 
panther. Sometimes the god rides this ardent, bounding creature ; 
more often he draws the car. Cf. D'Arembert ET Saglio. Dk- 
tionnaire da Anliquilis, s.v. ' Bacchus,' vol. I, p. 621. 


in the ceremonies of the Christian Church. The cast- 
off finery of heathendom is refashioned ; orgies are 
moralised. Humanity, unable to invent anything 
wholly new, and incapable of passing more than a few 
centuries in artistic penury, unlocks the chests that the 
ascetics had been unable to destroy, and takes from 
them, little by little, the beloved ancient splendours. 
Thus the Satumalian revelries are merged in Christ- 
mas, and the panthers of Bacchus become the Griffin 
— Christ-symbol oE Dante — and draw a triumphal car.^ 
Although the griffin in the books and art of Christen- 
dom ^ passed almost uruversally as a demon that de- 
stroyed horses and men, he became in Dante the symbol 
of Christ' — a splendid application of allegory; for, as 

' In £/ Roman d'Alexattdri. cd. Michelanl, p. 385, the giiffin is 
conceived of as carrying Alexander. See Cahier, CurtosUh Myst. 
{Sas-reliefi myslMenx itudih dam plusUurs ^glija d'AUema^nt, 
de France et d'/talie, p. 165 ff.). 

' See SoLiNUs, Polyhist. XV, 22 ; Hugo OP St. Victor, De Bestiis 
el aliis rebus, lib. Ill, cap. 4: 'Grj'phs, seu ul Isidonjs scribit, gryphes 
est animal pennalum et quadnipes quod in hyperboreis nasdtur 
montibus, omni [}arle corporis, leoni, alis c( facie aqujlis simile, equis 
vehementer infestum. Nam et homines vivos discerplt et Inlegros 
in nidum asporiat.' A demoniacal griffin is seen on a hisloriaied 
sculpture of ihe cathedral of Freiburg-im-Breisgau. Opposed to him 
is a man with a shield. Other sculptures show the man as a con- 
queror. See illustration of my text, and cf. CAHIER, Milanges, 1, 
pi. XXIV. According to Cahier, the typical griffin of the Middle 
Ages was the foe of the coll, which he carried off. See Milangci, 
II, 236-J17. The foct that in all the works edited by Migne, Christ 
almost never figures as a griffin, indicates that such symbolisation 
was very uncommon. See, Index de nondnibHS Ckrulu 

* Danle's source is probably IslDOK of Seville, Etymnl. lib. XII, 
cap, ii, 17: 'Gryphes vocantur, quod sit animal pennatum et quad- 
nipes. Hoc genua feraium in Hyperboreis montibus n: " 


Christ was both God and man, so this double monster is 
half lion, half eagle. His wings disappear in heaven, 
like the nature of Christ. His colours are those of the 

The Griffin Fok of Man 
From a medieval sculpture. Aflei Cahier 

Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon.' ' My beloved is 
white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His 
head is as the most fine gold. . . .' Thus a detail of a 

parte corporis leones sunt, alis et fade aquilis similes, et equis vehe- 
menler infesli. Nam et homines vivos discerpunl." Scartarani 
cites another passage in the same chapter : ' Sed el Christus est leo 
pro regno et fortitudine. . . . Aquila propter quod post resurrec- 
tionem ad astra remeaiit.' Three griffins on the portal of the cathe- 
dral at Ruvo seem to symbolise good rather than evil. Cf. H. W. 
SCHULTZ, Denkmaler dcr KiiHst des MUMallcrs in UnieritaluH, 
Dresden, iS6o, pi. XVI. In the baptistry of Calisto at Clvidale in 
Friuli may be seen two sculptured griffins, probably holy symbols. 
See F. DE Darteik, ^mU snr VarchiUaure hiHbarde. A grifliD, 
perhaps demoniacal, occurs on the eastern portal of St. Fjdelis at 



purely poetical description is taken by Dante to hide 
an allegory ; for theology has long affirmed the Bride- 
groom of Solomon's Song to be Christ. No feather of 
the griffin flutters when he moves the car because 
Christ changes in no wise himself when he moves the 
Church. It is only in the eyes of Beatrice that the 
monster seemed to move. Thus with extraordinary 
subtlety Dante sets forth one of the great truths of psy- 
chology and philosophy : matter is the same though the 
conception of it vary in the minds of different men. 

Although the fall of allegory and the ever greater 
invasions of science into art have lessened the relish for 
speaking griffins and for similar freaks of the naive ' 
ages, there is yet something grandiose in this monster 
of Dante's. To an empty nothing the poet gives a local 
habitation and a name. The griffin had been known 
before Dante as a fierce winged creature that dwelt 
somewhere in Asiatic Scythia or the Hyperborean 
Mountains' — two medieval fairy -lands. Dante puts 
the monster into his Purgatory, where it draws a car in 
the midst of old men and dancing maidens, quotes the 
Bible, and magically vanishes, having given for only 
a moment a slight illusion of being alive. 

' AlbertuS Magnus (^De Animal, lib. XX1I1, tract, unicus) is 
sceptical as to the existence of the griffin. So is the Anonimo Fioren- 
lino. See his comment on /«/. IV, 123. E. P. Evans [Animal 
Symbolism, p. 106) says that griffins' claws are now preserved as 
relics in churches at Hildesheim, Weimar, Cologne, and Gran, and 
as curiosities in the museums of Dresden, Vienna, and other £uro- 

* See p. 137, notes 2 and 3, which partly explain and e.\emplify 
the absence of true science in the Middle Ages. 

Bird-life, and Birds Unnamed 

Besides giving many descriptions of birds that he 
names, — and these are a score, — Dante draws from 
bird-life various images ' or illustrations,^ some of them 
conventional, others original and not without their inter- 
est or charm. Children of Dante's time, or at least the- 
oretical children, seem, after attaining to an apple, and 
just before rising to the wish for fine apparel, to have 
longed for a little bird.' This birdling is not the kind 
that nestles in the cowl of a garrulous monk, for that 
bird is the Evil One.' Indeed, Dante calls one of his 
demons a wicked bird,^ and does so, no doubt, because 
many devils in those days had wings. So have the 
angels, of whom one is called the 'bird of God.'" 
Even Cato's beard is composed of ' honourable plumes," ' 
Wicked Florence beats her wings for braggart joy over 

' Dante speaks of a poet who will perhaps drive both Guidos 
from their nests. See Purg. XI, 97-99- 

' A very quaint one is used to indicate how a certain spirit grew 
in splendour {/'ararf. XXVIl, 13-15) : — 

Qual i)ivetrebt>e Giove. 5' cgli e Mule 
Fossf ro angtlU e cambiaisersi peone.' 

* CoHv. IV, xii. 161-167. 

* Farad. Xy.\%, I18-120. «/«/. XX 11, 96. 

* Purg. IV, 129, 'L'uccel di Dio che siede in suUa porta.' Cf. 
Parad. VI, 4- ' Pifg- I. 42. 




land and sea ; ' and lack of right ambition, care speot on 
law or medicine's aphorisms, or fleshly delight, or ease, 
cause mortals to beat their wings too low, making a great 
ado over mere fleeting things.^ Flying souls speed 
away so swiftly that their legs seem wings,' and as Dante 
mounts to Heaven, nearer and nearer to ' Highest Jove," 
he feels as if wings were bearing him, and he is lifted on 
the wings of desire, and seems to hhnself to become 
more and more fledged as his eagerness grows to be in 

Though Dante's attitude toward birds in general is 
friendly, he speaks of a woman who cooked her own son 
as ■ putting her beak to him,'^ and in the image one may 
note again the inability of this great mind to describe 
the horrid, yet perfectly human traits of mankind with* 
out going to some other creature than man for a vitu- 
peration. Dante denies that birds can speak,* but he 
feels the beauty of their song ; he denies them an im- 
mortal soul,^ yet puts them into his Terrestrial Paradise, 
where they sing in a marvellous breezy forest. 

Uh^ aura dolee, urna mutamenta 
Avtri in si, miferia per lafronte, 
Non dipiit coipo, ehe soave venio ; 
Per cui k fronde, tremolando pronte, 
Tutte e quanie piegavano alia parte 

» Inf. XXVI, 1-3. « Parad. XI. I-12. ' Inf. XVI. 87. 

* /"wjy. IV. 28 ; XXVIl, 123. /■nrrtrf, XV. 54, 72, 81. 

^ Purg. XXIIl, 30. Flavius Josephus (Dame's probable source) 
apparently says nothing lo warrant Dante in borrowing his image 
from a bird of prey. See Scaitazzini on Purg. XXIII, 30. 

• De y. E. I, ii, 56-57. Conv. Ill, vii, 104-107. 

' Conv. Ill, ii, 105-113. 


U' la prim' ombra gtUa i! santo monte ; 
Non perb dal lor esser dritto sparte 
Tanto, che gli augelklti per le ante 
Lasdasser d' operare ogni lor arte ; 
Ma con plena Utisia P Sre prime, 
Cantando, recevieno intra le/oglie, 
Che tenevan bordone alle sue rime, 
Tal, qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie 
Perlapineta, in sul lito di Chiassi, 
Quand' Eolo Sciroccofiior disciegHe} 

A sofily breathing air, that no mutation 

Had in itself, upon the forehead smote me 

No heavier blow than of a gentle wind. 

Whereat the branches, lightly tremulous, 

Did all of them bow downwards toward that side 

Where its first shadow casts the Holy Mountain ; 

Yet not from their upright direction swayed. 

So that the little birds upon their tops 

Should leave the practice of each art of their? ; 

But with full ravishment the hours of prime,' 

Singing, received they in the midst of leaves. 

That ever bore a burden to their rhymes. 

Such as from branch to branch goes gathering on 

Through the pine forest on the shore of Chiassi, 

When Eolus unlooses the Sirocco. 

— Longfellow. 

Happy birds to have passed from the first into the 
second life, stiil privileged to minister to the 'animals 
that Nature holds most dear ' ! And how hard it is 
even for a Dante to imagine another existence without 
making its most beautiful features almost the same as 

^Purg XXVlll, 7-21. 

^ Better translated, ' the early breezes.' Ore = aure^ 



those that redeem our poor earth, and seem to suggest 
something infinitely more lovely in a life to come ! But, 
alas ! these birds are not real. One feels only too 
plainly that they are mechanisms in unreal trees, and 
that they are singing all too violently. 

The monk St. Brandan, in his mysterious voyage, 
came to a fabulous isle where he beheld in a tree that 
rose above the clouds a multitude of birds — all white; 
' never saw man birds so beautiful.' On inquiry the 
monk learned that they were angels who had fallen 
because of rebellious pride.' Dante's birds were never 
angels, but are marvellous, none the less, like those in 
Tundal's Vision, which is earlier than Dante's. Tun- 
dal's Vision relates how to the Soul, delighting in these 
sights and wishing to tarry there, the Angel said, 
■ Look 1 ' and, looking, the Soul beheld a great, wide- 
spreading tree, full of every kind of fruit, and in the 
foliage dwelt a multitude of birds, of many hues, singing 
and warbling in different voices a most sweet melody,'* 
After all, these birds are the same as those in Dante's 
poem. They are the well-known songsters of minne- 
singer and troubadour. They are melodious, but only in 
the verses in which they sing. These are the same birds 
as Dante describes in a sonnet,^ only the birds of the 
sonnet cannot be blithe and songful the whole year 
round. ' Now,' sings the poet, ' now that the world is 

' Lts Voya^s MerveilUux de St. Brandan, ed. by Franciaquc 
Michel, Paris, 1878. 

* See Scelta di Curios. iMt., vol. 128, p. 102. 

» Sonnelto XLII (' Ora che 1 mondo s' adoma e si veste,' etc.). 
Cf. Ballau IV ('FtescarosanovelU'). BaUata IV nuy be spurious. 

2}^ 1,0>TE iNT ZKL .OCIVJ. 

^rowi:!^ r-r - : fiowere. and every 

r=«£i:w 5- _re out of the sky, 

a=d tze £r_ , e is isoniig every 

crearure. i- . _ J sounds aod woful 

shrieiiS. ~^-i^ —icij ii.Tvca imuugii oMMtntams, lea, and 
fores: : since tbc briirliL sveet. ioyoox time of spring is 

comiag with its and renew my hope.' 

So evea Dsntx le roost conventional 

snJe. Subtly tl spring appears again 
in some verses 







Cfi /w mfh'.le. (hi iii(>ntjni' in Ir^f 

Ordini lii UthuT. i 


The second Triad, which is germin.iting 
In such wise as this sempiternal spring, 
That no nocturnal Aries despoils, 
Perjietually Hosanna warbles forth 
With threefold melody, that sounds in three 
Orders of joy, with which it is intrined. 

— Longfellow. 

The note is conventional, yet birds do sing more lus- 
tily in spring, and the conventional note may have the 
merit of bcinK true. 

Dante tiills in a Canzone^ of the birds' migrations, 

which he describes so finely in the case of the starlings 

and of the cranes. ' Fled," he cries, 'is every bird that 

follows the heat, from the land of Europe, which never 

' I'ar,ui. XXVIll, IIS-I20. « Cani. XV, 27-39. 




loses the seven chilly stars.' Gracefully, too, he pictures 
the figures made by birds as they rise gladly from the 
river bank where they have been feeding ; and the touch 
is true, but it is blended in Dante's mind with a legend of 
the alphabet-making cranes.^ The source is more obvi- 
ous in three verses whose bearing is didactic, as in the 
Proverbs of Solomon.' 

Nturvo augelletio due o tre asfietta ; 

Ma dinanzi dagU occhi dei pennuti, 

Rete si spiega indanw o si saetta? 

The callow birdlet waits for two or three. 
But to the eyes of those already fledged 
In vain the net is spread or shaft is shot. 

— Longfellow. 
Since both nets and arrows were employed till a long 
while after Dante, his verses were as 'contemporary' 
then as in the time of Solomon, and are not without a 
tender grace. Yet Dante's capacity for the gentlest 
sympathy comes out more plainly still in a passage that 
describes the loves of the lower animals. There is hardly 
another so sympathetic a tribute to maternity in Dante.* 
Come V augello, intra V amate froiide, 
Posato al nido dei suoi dolci nati. 
La notte, che k cose ci nasconde, 
Che, per %>eder gU aspetti disiati, 
M per trovar lo dbo onde H pasca. 
In the i gravi labor gli sono aggrali, 

' Farad. XVIII, 73-78. See chapter on -The Crane,' p. 284. 

'Proverbs i, 17, 'Fnistra autem iacitur rete ante oculos penna- 
torum.' *P«rg- XXXI. 61-63. 

* Cf. SesUna, IV, 23-34, and !he traditional description of the 
mother stork and her young in chapter on 'The Stork,' p. 19a. 


Previeiie il tempo in lull' aperta /rosea, 
E eon ardenU affetlo il sole aspetta, 
Fiso guardando, pur che V alba nasca ; 
Cos' la Donna mia si stava eretta 
Ed atlenta, rivolla inver la plaga 
Sotto la quale il sol mostra men/retta} 

Even as a bird, 'raid the beloved leaves. 
Quiet upon the nest of her sweet brood, 
Throughout the night that hideih all things from us, 
Who, that she may behold their longed-for k^oka 
And find the food wherewith to nourish ihem, 
In which to her grave labours grateful are. 
Anticipates the time on open spray 
And with an ardent longing waits the sun. 
Gazing intent as soon as breaks the dawn ; 
Even thus my Lady standing was, erect 
And vigilant, turned round towards the zone 
Under which the sun displays least haste. 

— Longfellow, 

The mind halts when Beatrice is introduced and won- 
ders what resemblance there can be between nesting 
birds and angels. Indeed, this is why the imagery of the 
Divine Comedy is so intense in the Inferno and even in 
the Purgatorio, but so often weakened in the Paradiso by 
comparisons to situations such as no imagination can 
conceive. This passage wavers between the two ex- 
tremes, — the accuracy of the Inferno's analogies and 
the vague similitudes of the Paradiso, whose value and 
beauty depend almost wholly on the descriptive power 
of Dante. 

• Farad. XXIII, i-ia. Kuhns (p. 43> cites a parallel in Middle 
High German. Cf. also Scartaiiiai's ci 


No medieval noble who could afford the luxury was 
likely to be without falcons, hawks, and hounds ; but 
fowling was ' the amusement of the poor ' ! According 
to King Modus, whose kingdom borders on that of 
Old King Cole, everybody may go a-fowling, and 
not only enjoy the sport, but make a living.' Though 
the nobles held aloof, preferring falconry, the art of 
snaring or shooting birds was ardently enjoyed by 
the majority throughout the Middle Ages and the 
Renaissance. In a book compiled by Eugenio Rai- 
mondi about 1620, one may see fowlers driving birds 
into nets, decoy-birds in barbed trees luring other birds 
to death by impalement, a fowler behind his net waving 
his lure (a pair of wings on a pole), a screech-owl 
perched amid sticky twigs, — in fine, every variety of 
net, snare, trap, lure, or gin that human ingenuity, 
voracity, and the desire to kill could inspire." 

Dante exalts the aristocratic falcon, but shows his 
disdain of fowling by telling how he gazed through 
green leaves, as they are wont who waste their lives 

' Cited by P. Lacrolx, Le Moyen /Igr il la RtHoissanee, vol. 1, 
cap- 3 (Oisellerie). Lacroix fails to give tlie page. 

' DtlU Caccie di Eugenia Raimondi, Brtsciatw. libri qualtro (5th 
— supplementarj' — boolt), pp. 211. 243i 26B, 284. 




following some little bird.' In an old French poem, 
Ganelon, the traitor, cries out that to catch two plovers 
Roland would pass a whole day.^ 

Solomon says that a net is vainly cast before the eyes 
of full-fledged birds.^ Dante borrows the 6gure and 
adds an arrow.* Again, a sinner says to him : ' With 
words so sweet dost thou entice me, that I cannot be 
Btill ! And may it not aggrieve thee that I lime myself 
to talk with thee a little while.'* Some of Dante's 
sinners were passing eternity in boiling bird-hme.' The 
idea is curious. But from fowling Dante drew one fine 
image which has without much warrant been assigned 
to falconry. The throngs of souls on the bank of Ache- 
ron drift helplessly into the craft of Charon like autumn 

' As in autumn the leaves drop one after the other 
until the branch sees all its spoils upon the ground, so 
the evil seed of Adam cast themselves from that bank 
one by one, at becks, as birds go to their lure.' 


Come d' 

a appre. 

■van lefoglU 
deli' altra, infin che il n 

>fl*7y. xxm, 1-3. 

*Jehan de Lanson, cited by Gautier, La Chevalerie, pp. 174-175- 

• Proverbs i, 17. 

* Purg. XXXI. 61-63. Quoted in chapters on ' Bird-life, and Birds 
Unnamed,' p. 235 ; ibid., note 2. 

• Inf. XIH, 55-57. Cf. hamUt, iii. 3, 68 : — 

' O limed soul, ihai. slruggling lo be fret. 
Art more engaged ! ' 
Cf. Farad. XVII, 31-33, and next note. 

* Inf. XXI, 124-126. The expression must not be takeD loo 



Vede atta terra tutte le sue spoglie^ 
Sitniletnente il mal seme d^ Adamo : 
Gittansi di quel lito ad una ad una, 
Per cenm, come augelper sua ^ richiamo^ 

^ Both augel and suo in vs. 117 may be plural, augd as a 
clipped form and suo for loro. It is almost impossible to believe 
that Dante could have imagined ^cons returning to their lure so 
helplessly and in such numbers. In his Art of Hawking, lib. I, cap. 
I, Frederick says, 'Amplius aves rapaces per hanc artem docentur 
venari simul eandem praedam/ but he does not mean £&lcons by the 
score. *• Richiamo * (in English, < redayme ^ may mean a * lure.* It 
can also mean a decoy, a paretato, as the Italians say. In the main 
I agree with Lubin, who takes richiamo to mean a cage with a decoy 
in it hidden in the bushes or twigs. * Inf. Ill, 112-117. 



Falconry entered Europe early in the Dark Ages, and 
ha\ing thriven as the lordliest of sports for some twelve 
hundred years, gave way at last to fowling-pieces, and 
to the growth of a population whose ever increasing 
farms and gardens could no longer be trodden down by 
the scurrying falconers and the horses of their noble 
employers. To the art of falconry is devoted the one, 
the only remarkable work on ornithology of the Middle 

Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen, who wrote most 
of this book (which was completed by Manfred) affirms 
in the first chapter that venery with birds is worthier 
than other kinds of venery, for birds of prey are more 
difficult to train. Falconry does not rely on dogs, fer- 




rets, or leopards, which are easier to teach tbaD birds 
of prey, since the latter are more timid with men.' 

When Frederick was in the Holy Land he received 
from kings of Arabia falconers more skilful than those 
of the West, and many kinds of falcons. 'Besides,' he 
writes, ' we neglected not to call to us experts in fal- 
conry, not only from Araby, but from everywhere, from 
the time, that is to say, when we first proposed to set 
down in a book what belongs to this art. And we 
leamt from them whatever they knew better, as we have 
said at the beginning." * 

So high a place did falconry hold in aristocratic life 
that the Florentine painter, Andrea Cione, called Or- 
cagna, translating into colours Petrarca's 'Triumph of 
Death,' set in the foreground of his fresco two lords, 
each holding on his gloved hand a falcon, one a pere- 
grine, the other a goshawk or gerfalcon — stately, un- 
mistakable emblems of elegance and lordly rank.* In 
the Mews of Charing Cross the falcons of Richard II 
were kept in 1377,* and it is likely that the Pisan Muda,^ 
called after Ugolino's dreadful death the Tower of 
Hunger, had been the mews of some baron before it 
fell into the hands of the Commune of Pisa. 

The Emperor's work on falconry was illuminated in the 
thirteenth century, so crudely, however, that falconers at 

' De Arte Venandi cum Ainbus, 1, cap, 1, 
' Op. cit. II, cap. 77, 

* For reproduction in colour, see Les Arts au Afoyen Age, par 
P. Lacroh, Paris, 1869, p. 282. Cf. CoHv. IV, itiv, 83-84. 

* Strutt, Sports and Pastimes^ p. 96. 

■ See /»/. XXXIII, and the frontiapiece of the 'Ottimo Com- 


sea appear to be flying their birds at quarry almost as 
large as their ships. In all there are thirty-six min- 
iatures, covering various scenes in falconry,' To fal- 
conry were devoted many other works' during tha 
Middle Ages, not only treatises on the training of 
various kinds of falcons and hawks, but on their 
maladies and humours. These birds held equal rank 
in their owner's affection with his pet horses, his bird- 
dogs, and hounds. Lord Aucassin, hero of the well- 
known chatttcfable of the twelfth century, having been 
deceitfully wronged by his father, is ready to let their 
enemy. Count Bougart of Valence, go free, if the count 
will do all possible harm to Aucassin's father. 'Sir,' 
said Aucassin's captive, ' in Heaven's name mock me 
not, but set me a ransom ! You can ask of me neither 
gold nor silver, nor steeds, nor palfreys, nor vair, nor 
gray, nor hounds, nor hawks, that I will not give you ! '• 
Dante Alighieri makes a saviour of Italy out of an 
allegorical boar hound,* and to hawks and falcons he 
devotes verses worthy of so splendid a feature of every- 
day life in his time. The poet must often have seen 
lords and ladies riding out to the fields with hooded 
falcons perched on their heavily gloved hands, and 
must at some time have gone with them, for his de- 
scriptions of hawking arc too vivid to be second-hand. 
Though Dante looked down upon fowling, falconry stood 

• D'Agincourt, Hist, de VArt far Us Monumeitli, vol. V, pi, 73. 
'For bibliography, see James Edmi>nd Hartinc, Bibliothica 

Accipitrarin, Quariich, London, 1891. 

» See editions of H. Suchier and of F. W. Bourdillon, ad iniS. 

* The veUro. See chapter on ' The Dog,' p. 1 18. 



SO high in his esteem that he calls God's bidding a 
' lure * ; ^ and two angels that drive a satanic reptile out 
of a valley in Purgatory are 'heavenly goshawks'! 
The name has a queer sound now, but in those days 
it rang with chivalry. 

Two angels with flaming swords, clad in green, with 
green wings, stand for a moment at each side of Sor- 
dello and Dante, then fly at the serpent. 

lo non vidi, e perb dicer nonposso^ 
Come mosser gli as tor celestially 
Ma vidi bene V una e V altro mosso, 
Sentendo fender I * cure alle verdi ally 
P^gg^ ^l serpentCy e gli angeli dier volta 
Suso alle poste rivolando eguali? 

I was not looking, so must leave unsaid , 

When first they darted, but full well I saw 

Both heavenly goshawks had their plumage spread. 

Soon as the serpent felt the withering flaw 

Of those green wings, it vanished : and they sped 

Up to their posts again with even flight. 

— After Parsons. 

Perhaps a goshawk could be flown at so uncouth a 
quarry ; but why does Dante compare his angels to gos- 
hawks rather than to the noble peregrine } Had Dante 
chosen the wrong bird, his contemporaries would have 
halted in unpleasant wonder, as we should, were some 
contemporary of our own to speak of a * pointing grey- 
hound.' Dante compares the pursuit to that of gos- 
hawks because they fly low, pursuing their quarry in a 

1 Purg. XIX, 61-63. « Purg. VIII, 103-108. 


line, or ' raking ' after it, as a falconer would say ; and 
the quarry must make haste if it would get off alive.' 
These heavenly goshawks rake well, but their return to 
their posts is unlike the goshawks' return to glove or lure. 
To describe the descending demon Geryon, Dante 
employs an image wherein the falcon's character is por- 
trayed with such vigour as to make the outward bearing 
perfectly reveal the bird's inward state, her disappoint- 
ment and slighted pride, for no quarry has been started 
and the falconer has failed to show the lure. 

Come il falcon ch' i slato assai suir ali, 

C/u sema veder logoro o uccello. 

Fa dire alfalconUre : 'Oimi tu call' : 

Discende lasso, onde si move snello. 

Per cento rote, e da lungi ii pone 

Dal suo maestro, disdegnoso efe/lo; 

Cost ne pose al fondo Gerione 

A pa a pa della stagHata rocrn, 

E, discareate le noslre persone. 

Si dilegud, come da corda cocca} 

'As a falcon that has been long upon the wing, who, 
without seeing lure or bird, makes the falconer say, 
"Alas! thou'rt coming down!" descends wearily in a 
hundred circles to the spot whence she rose swiftly, and 
aloof from her master settles down, scornful and sul- 
len,' so Geryon set us at the bottom by the base of a 
rough-hewn rock, and, being unburdened of us, was off 
like an arrow from the bow ' ! 

' Albertus Magnus, De Animal, lib. XXIII, tract, unicus, 
' Didtur astur . . . quia . . . iuxta terram volat contra morem &]- 
Conuin.' */«/. XVII, 137-136. 'To 'block,' in blconry. 


How well Dante understands the bad humour of this 
gerfalcon or queenly peregrine ! No wonder she is 
peevish, after hours, it may be, of sailing with her keen 
eyes fixed on meadow and stream for a bird or hare ! 
Meanwhile the falconer has been following her' from 
below, ready to dash forward the second she happens to 
' stoop ' for her prey. 

By winter the hawk's eye has changed from a deep 
yellow to a fiery orange.^ What then does Dante mean 
when he speaks of having seen armed Caesar, with eyes 
of a sparrowhawk ? 

Cesare armato con gli occhi grifagni? 

Suetonius records that Caesar had black and lively eyes 
— nigrU vegetisque ocuHsS Since the eyes of no full- 
grown sparrowhawk are really black, and since no man's 
eyes are ever orange, Dante must have got his idea from 
some tradition, or have meant simply that Caesar's eyes 
flamed like a hawk's, or were black as a falcon's,* In 
an eleventh-century poem on Alexander the Great, by 

' Parad. XVIII, 45, ' Com' occhio segue suo &lcon volando.' 
Cf. jEh. VI, 200, 'Quantum acie possenl oculi servare sequentum.' 

' Cf. E. B. MiCHELL, The Arl and Practice of Ha-wking, 
Methuen, Londou, 1900, pp. 33 and 35- Cf., also, Tresor, p. 202, 
' Grifuns est uns oisiaus que on prent a I'eiitree d'yver, et a les 
oils rouges et vermaus corame feu.' 

» Inf. IV, 123. * I'ita Casaris, % 45. 

' De Arte Venandi cum Avibus, \, cap. 24, ■ Quiedam sunt nigro- 
rum oculorum penitus, ut modi falconuro, sed nigredo pupillx in 
talibus intensior est tygredine albuginei humoris el qu^dam sunt 
oculorum glaucorum in circuitu puplllx, qux nigra est ut genera 
accipitnim, et nisonim, quxdara sunt aliorum colonira et aliae 
mutant colorem in ocutis secundum mutationem seUlis.' 


Alberic de Besan^on, Alexander is declared to have had 
one eye bluish like a dragon's, the other black as a fal- 
con's (/'«« uyl ab glauc cum de I'altrcneyrcum 
de falcon)?- Could Dante have meant that Csesar's eyes 
were simply keen as a hawk's, or did he intend to make 
Cfesar orange-eyed like Charon the demon, whose eyes 
were like hot coaJs?' 

There is obscurity, also, in Dante's comparison of 
himself to a falcon. At the turning of God's lure he 
became ' like the falcon that first gazes at her feet, then 
turns at the cry and stretches forward with eagerness 
for the meal that draws her thither.' 

Quale il falcon, che prima ai pii simira, 
Tttdi si volge al grido, e si protende 
Ikr lo disio del pas to che Id U Hra, 

Various explanations seem possible. A falcon, re- 
lieved of her hood, would look down at her jesses before 
attempting to fly from her perch to the falconer's lure, 
her attention being called to him by his cry ; or, again, 
she may be imagined in repose with her eyes cast down 
toward her feet, then, starting at the shout of the fal- 
coner, who, lure in hand, comes to feed her, and stretch- 
ing greedily toward him for her meal.* On the other 

• Bartsch, Chreslomalhie^ 7th ed., col. 19. vss. 41-42. 

' Pope Gregory, cited by Camerini, is reported to have said that 
certain men have in their eyes kites and hawks. 
*Piirg. XIX. 64-67. 

* Uber de Curis Avium, in Scelia di Curios. Lelt.,vo\. 140, pp. aS- 
30: ' Thus one should keep the Peregrine Falcon. At firsl, when 
she b wild, make her forthwith the leathern hood. Furthermare, 


hand, perhaps she has been drooping, until of a sudden 
the falconers' shouts, as they beat the bushes for game, 
awake her, and she is ready to be cast at the quarry. 
Or, again, one may imagine a falcon in course of training. 
According to Colonel Delm^-Radcliffe^ the falconer 
was and is still accustomed, in training a falcon, to stroke 
her on the legs with a feather, brushing, meanwhile, a bit 
of meat over her feet, and, as she gulps, he whistles, or 
makes with lips or tongue some sound which he wishes 
her to connect with the idea of food. Very soon she 
will tighten her grip at the sound, and bend down to feel 
for food. After a while the falconer begins to lure, call- 
ing as he sets his decoy, first near, then far. She will 
answer his call. Finally, the cry may be that of the 
quarry, frightened from its lair. 

The falcon's relief at being unhooded, expressed by 
lifting, then clapping her wings against her sides, — her 
' warbling,' as the falconers say, — is delightfully por- 
trayed by Dante, though no effort of imagination suf- 

awake her often by night, and always kindle the night-lamp unlit she 
ia tamed, and arise always with her at dawn. Furthermore, keep 
her a month )>efbre thou lure her. and, when the month is gone, 
begin to test her in this way ; Have some one opposite thee, and 
do thou take off her hood, and let the one opposite thee have a glove 
in hand, and therewith lei him slap his thigh and call out lustily. 
And ihou, who holdest the felcon in hand, shalt see whether she 
begins to look, or whether she notices anything ; and, if she look or 
heed, do thus some days till 'she become accustomed. And always, 
when ihou fcedesl her, in some way thou must cry out in order that 
she may get the habit. And when she hath begun to notice and to 
gaie. straightway begin to take her food away so that she may gel 
right lean.' 

' Encychpadia Brilanniea, s.v. ' Falconry.' 


fices to see in her joy any resemblance to so vague a 
contrivance as the Heavenly Eagle. 

Quail f ale one ch' esce del cappelio, 

Move la testa, e coW ali si plaude, 

Voglia mostrando e/aeendosi hello, 

Vid' iofarsi quel segno, ehe di laude, 

Delia divina gratia era contesto, 

Con canti, quai si sa chi lassti gaude? 

' Almost as a falcon, that issues from the hood, moves 
her head and beats her wings, showing her desire and 
making herself fine, I saw that standard become, which 
with praises was interwoven of grace divine, with such 
songs as he knows who there rejoices.' 

The hood was hardly a novelty when Dante wrote, 
for it had been brought by Frederick II from the Orient 
some eighty or ninety years earlier. Hooding was not 
only of great practical value, but it did away after a 
while with a cruel custom which Dante may actually 
have seen. 

In his book on falconry the Emperor describes mi- 
nutely how falcons' eyes were seeled.^ ' Now,' says he, 
' after they have been caught, before you perch them on 
the hand, they must be seeled, and their claws must be 
blunted and jesses put on their feet, and a bell is to be 
tied to one foot and a var\'el, if needs be, and a leash. 
Then, lest they see a man, their eyes should be closed, 
and this operation is called seeling ; for, were their eyes 
not closed for them, the sight of a man or other un- 

1 Farad. XIX, 34-39- 

* De Arte Venandi cum Avibus, lib. II, cap. 37. 



wonted things would make them wilder. . , . Now to 
seel is to keep the bird's eyes shut, with the lower lid 
pulled up to the brow. ... If it be said that eyases 
[nestlings] need no seeling, since they are already almost 
accustomed to men and will keep pretty still, one may 
answer that eyases though they are, nevertheless they 
must be seeled ; for by seeling they are more quickly 
and better tamed, kept healthier in hmbs and feathers, 
and will more readily allow whatever must be done with 
them at the beginning.' 

Frederick proceeds to explain how a thread was put 
through one lid from within, carefully, lest the needle 
pierce that film between lid and eye. He tells, also, how 
the needle should go through the lid halfway of its 
length, and how the thread was then drawn over the 
falcon's head and put through the lid of the other eye, 
whereupon both lids could be drawn up and the eyes 
closed, after which both ends of the thread were knotted 
together over the falcon's head, and her head feathers 
gently laid over the knot with a blunt needle so as to 
keep her from tearing herself with her claws. ' Seeling,' 
writes the Emperor, 'is helpful in many ways,' — and 
one of them is that the falcon does not thrash or ' bate,' 
as they say in falconry. These facts as to seeling make 
clear the nature and origin of an extraordinary penitence 
meted out to the envious by Dante, and are another evi- 
dence that man must attribute many of his own habits 
to God in imagining an after-world. What those habits 
are depends upon the environment, the epoch, and the 
race. Dante beheld the spirits that had envied, clad in 
sackcloth, and Heaven was stinting them of its light. 


E eome agli orbi non approda il sole, 
Cosi aW ombre, la v' io parlav' era. 
Luce del del di si largir non vuo/e ; 
Chi a ttttte unfil dijerro il eiglio fora, 
E cuce si, came a sparvier seh/aggia 
Si/a, pero eke queto non dimora} 

And as unto the blind the sun comes not, 
So to the shades, of whom just now I spake, 
Heaven's hght will not be bounteous of itself; 
For all their lids an iron wire transpierces. 
And sews ihem up, as to a sparhawk wild 
Is done, because it will not quiet stay. 

— Longfellow. 

Dante's most vigorous touches show the hawk in 
action, stooping to the quarry or grabbing another 
hawk. Certain devils have their clutches on a sinner, 
who of a sudden trickily slips away and dives into a 
pool of hot pitch. Alichino, a devil, dashes after him, 
and missing, grapples his fellow-devil Calcabrina. 

Quegli andb sotlo, 
E quel dritzo, volando, suso il petto : 
Non altrimenti P atiitra di botlo, 
Quando il faleon s' appressa, giit s' attuffa. 
Ed ei ritoma su eruceiate e rotto. 
Irato Cakabrina della buffa, 
Volando dietro gli tenne, invaghito 
Che quel campasse, per aver la zuffa. 
E come il barattier fu disparito, 

' Purg. Xni, 67-72. Cf. De Arte I'enandi, lib. II, cap. 45, 
where Frederick describes the hawk's bating, ' Est aulem iuvativa 
dliatura (seeling) ad multa, per ipsam enim laJco non se inquietat,' 




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W-^!^ ''"- 

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Cost volse gli artigli a! sua compagno, 
E fu eon lui sopra it fosso gkermito. 
Ma r altro fu bene sparvier gri/agno 
Ad artigliar ben lui, ed ambo e due 
Cadiier nel mezto del bogUente stagno} 

' The sinner went below ; the other, flying, steered 
upward. Not otherwise the duck, of a sudden, when 
the falcon nears, dives down, and she returns angry 
and ruffled. Calcabrina, wroth at the jest, flying, kept 
behind him, bent that the sinner should get away for 
the scuffle's sake. And, when the jobber was lost to 
sight, upon his companion he turned his claws and 
grappled him above the ditch. But the other, like a full- 
fledged sparrowhawk, clawed him well, and together 
they fell into the midst of the seething pool' 

Though a hungry falcon might stoop for a swimming 
duck, her action would be a misdemeanour, for it was a 
rule of falconry not to fly the falcon until her quarry 
was running or on the wing.' The situation in this 
instance is plainly that the duck makes for the water 

■/«/. XXII, 1J8-141. 

' Albertus Magnus, De Falconibus, cap. 6, ' Furthermore, 
this falcon is, above all, to be laught not to clutch the quarry in 
water, because there she is out of the falconer's reach, and might be 
hurt. Therefore she must not be flown at the prey lengthwise of 
the water, but is to be held till the birds appear beyond the river 
bank aloft, and then the gerfalcon is to be flown from the waterside 
because through the gerfalcon's flight they dare not return 10 the 
water. If. now, the gerfalcon is flown from the field then the birds 
make for the water or escape, and. if they be struck, lall into the 
water, and then the falcon following her prey is hurt or drowned, 
and if she gets olf is made timid on account of her injury ' (propter 
tasiontin venationii). 



pursued by the falcon, which fails to give the duck a 
deadly clutch. In the tussle the falcon rumples her plu- 
mage ; ' then, unable to pursue her quarry into the water, 
she sweeps up wrathfully. One devil claws the other, 
as so often happens in falconry, when two hawks, stoop- 
ing for the same prey, and both missing, turn in anger, 
clutch, and one hawk trusses the other with her long, 
dagger-like claws. Her ferocity is accurately described 
by Dante, 

If any phase of animal existence is portrayed by 
Dante in a masterly way, it is to be found in his pic- 
tures of hawks; for he understood them well, and 
painted their portraits in a few entirely natural atti- 
tudes. In his treatment of this purely medieval theme 
Dante is distinctly modern. One will scarcely find more 
accurate observation in the superb poems of Leconte 
de Lisle. 

Wh/.XXU. 132, 'Edei ritorna su crucciato e roHo.' 'RoUoMs 
a technical term, and is, therefore, often mistranslated. Cf. Liber dt 
Cyris Avium, in Stella di Curios. Lett., vol. 140, p. 56, 'E senpre 
quando a lo sparviere sono piegate 1e penne, si dca soccorrere 
coir acqua calda e colla banbagia, e meaarla dolcemente sopra esse, 
e regenerannosi ; inpercio che sozza cosa eoe a colui che tene lo 
sparviere se 1' uccello ene rolto.' 




The Kite 

Angered at Charles II, Count of Anjou, Frederick 

of Aragon, and other princes and tyrants whose politics 
displeased him, Dante cries out that it would be better 
for tliem to fly low like a swallow, than like a kite to 
make lofty circles over things most vile.^ It is not 
clear whether Dante transfers his loathing of human 
baseness to the kite. The tendency to detest such ani- 
mals as vary most from human standards was com- 
moner in Dante's time than now. In the kite Dante 
sees a confusion of things ; it flies far up toward 
Heaven, but is simply making ready to swoop down on 

Hugo of St. Victor berates the scavenger and robber 
of hen-roosts with all the ferocity of which his dubious 
similitudes and unconvincing allegory arc capable,' and 
a French design of the thirteenth (?) century represents 
Gluttony by a youth seated on a wolf with a kite (' mul- 
vus'). Gluttony's emblem, perched on his left hand, 
'Gluttony,' reads the legend, 'is like to a youth astride 
a wolf bearing in his hand a kite.' ' Dante has caught 

' Coitv. IV, vi, 187-190, 'Meglio sarebbe a voi come rondine 
volare basso, che come nibbio altissime rote fare sopra cose vilUsJme.' 

' De Beiliis, lib. I, cap. 40. 

• Chdsse de St. Taurin d'Evreux. See Cahier, Afilanges, vol. 
11, p. a6. 



the two main traits of the kite, namely, that he makes 
very iof ty circles and makes them over things moat vile. 
Probably the image-loving poet had watched this 
phenomenon long before he got a chance to use it 
against tyrants and disappointing kings.^ 

not Iiave failed to 
probably due la a ' 
and nebula, iot the ] 

Italy then as now, and could 
-y one. The word libbio U 
popular etymology of milvut 

From a medieval deiign. Afier Cabier 

The Eagle 

The eagle's lofty flight and lightning-like plunge, its 
keen, far-reaching vision, and its function as an heraldic, 
imperial, or mystic emblem, are treated by Dante mostly 
in a medieval fashion, and he adds to these qualities 
certain magical elements such as may have entered bis 
mind from folklore or from dreams. 

The superstition that the eagle can look unbUnded 
into the sun is as old as Aristotle,' may be found in 
scores of medieval writers,* and is perpetuated by 

• Hist. Animal. IX, 45. Aristotle tells how the sea eagle forces 
his eaglets lo gwe at Ihe sun, and goes on to say that if one of Ihem 
b unwilling he beats him, makes him turn despite himself, and kills 
the one whose eyes weep first. 

* See Laucmert, Gesth. des Physiol, pp. 19, 171. Cahier, Mi- 
langts, II, 94-97. 168. Pope Cregorv, AUburgundiscMe Ueber- 
setfMng dtr Prtdigten Gregors uber Etichitl, ed. by K. Hofmana, 
p. 19, ' Car qiiant i1 mist son entente en la suslancc de la diviniieil, 
si fichet il assi cum aeionc la costume daisle ses oiU d soloil.' 
On the bronze doors of the cathedral at Pisa may be seen an eagle 
mounting to the sun. 



Dante. In the sphere of iire he saw Beatrice gazing 
into the sun. 

' Almost such a passage had made morning there and 
evening here ; and there all that hemisphere was white, 
and the other part black, when I saw Beatrice turned 
upon the left side, and looking into the sun ; never did 
eagle so iix himself upon it. And even as a second ray 
is wont to issue from the first and mount upward again, 
like a pilgrim who wishes to return ; thus of her action, 
infused through the eyes into my imagination, mine was 
made, and I fixed my eyes upon the sun beyond our 
use.' ^— Norton. 

Thus Dante gains a fresh strength of vision, greater 
than would come to a man from the mere renewal of 
youth, although he seems to have been influenced both 
by the legend of the eagle's rejuvenation and of its 
supernatural ability to stare into the sun. The'Physi- 
ologus ' declares that man, when the eyes of his heart are 
darkened, should rise to Christ, the sun of righteousness, 
and renew his youth in the fount of everlasting life, in 
the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost' 
Dante recurs to this legend of the magic sight in an 
apostrophe to Hyperion: — 

The aspect of thy son, Hyperion, 

Here I sustained, and saw how move themselves 

Around and near him Maia and Dione.' 

The wonderful vision of mortal eagles is mentioned 
also by the Heavenly Eagle, who says : — 

• Parad. 1, 43-54. ■ Cf. Lauchbrt. op. cil. p. 173. 

* Farad. XXII, 141-144. 


'The part in me which sees and bears the sun 

In mort^ eagles,' it began to me, 

' Now fixediy must needs be looked upon.' ' 

— Longfellow. 

As the eagle of Aristotle and later authors tests its 
young, casting away those that cannot endure the glare 
of the sun ; so Beatrice or ' Theology," leading Dante up 
to God, like the mother eagle, looks unflinchingly into 
its rays, and Dante is able also to bear the glow of the 
sun, which to him so often means God. 

Though the eagle's strength of vision is unwittingly 
exaggerated by Dante, he is evidently only rhetorical in 
advising fools who are geese by nature to desist from 
emulating the star-sweeping eagle.^ This fling at poet- 
asters becomes a sublime compliment when Dante re- 
cords his meeting in the nether world with Homer, 
sovereign poet, Horace, Ovid, Lucan, and VirgiL 

Cost vidi adunar In beUa sawla 
Di quei signor delP alihsimo canto, 
Che sopra gli altri com' aquila ' sw/a.* 

Thus saw I gathered the fair school 

Of those lords of loftiest song. 

That o'er the others like an eagle flies. 

A conventional image i 
diosely beautiful. 

^ Farad. XX, 31-33. 

^ De y. E. II. iv, 80-82, '. , . a tanta prjcsunluositate desisCant, 
et si anseres natuiali desldia sunt, nolioC asCripetam aquilam imitari.' 

» Cf. the Virginal (559). where an embassy says to a hero. ' Ir 
vamt den ritem obe als obe dem faJkea luot dcr adelar.' Cited by 
LUaing, p. 181. * Inf. IV, 94-96. 

i perhaps never more gran- 


Nature and heraldry are powerfully mingled in 
Dante's words on Guido da Polenta, whose family had 
been lords of Ravenna since 1270, and were hovering in 
1300 over Cervia. The arms of the Polenta family, 
according to Benvenuto da Imola,^ were an eagle, half 
argent on a field azure, half gules on a field or, where- 
fore Dante can utter these words to the soul of Guido da 
Montef eltro : — 

Ravenna sta come staia h molH antd; 

V aquila da Polenta Id si cova^ 

Si che Cervia ricopre ctf suoi vanm? 

Ravenna stands as it long years has stood ; 
The eagle of Polenta there is brooding, 
So that she covers Cervia with her vans.* 

— Longfellow. 

Here the outlying domain is covered with the flight- 
feathers, but elsewhere the princely eagle is like to 

^ Benvenuto da Im ola, ' . . . illi de Polenta portant pro insignio 
aquilam, cuius medietas est alba in campo azurro, et alia medietas est 
rubea, in campo aureo/ J. Woodward, Heraldry, British and 
Foreign, I, p. 268, gives the Polenta arms thus, * Per pale or and 
azure, an eagle per pale gules and aigent^ See Litta, Famigiie 
CeUbri /taliane. Litta apparently gets his authority from Mar- 
CANTONHO GiNANNi, V Arte del Blasone. 

« /If/. XXVII, 40-42. 

*Jacopo della Lana, 'Sono le penne dcUe ali presso alle 
piume ed estreme, che sono appellate coltelli/ Frederick II, 
De Arte Venandi, I, cap. 50, defines the vanni or flight-feathers at 
length and scientifically, ' Numerus itaque pennarum in unaquaque 
ala est viginti sex, quatuor magis propinqux corpori, quse dicuntur 
vani, . . . demum versus extremitatem alse aliae sunt decern, quae 
forinsecae did possunt.^ Therefore the vans are not the extreme 
outer feathers. Dante, of course, uses the word Tuinni figuratively, 
— a part for the whole, as we say 'pinions.^ 

descend. And see how Dante threatens the infamous 
Florentines! 'In what,' he cries, 'will it profit you to 
have surrounded yourselves with a wall, to have fortified 
yourselves with ramparts and battlements, when the 
eagle, terrible in a field of gold, swoops down on you, — 
the eagle who, now sailing over the Pyrenees, now over 
the Caucasus, now over Atlas, the more strengthened by 
the opposition of the host of heaven, of old looked down 
upon the vast seas as no hindrance to his flight ? ' ^ It 
may be that this eagle, ' terrible in a field of gold,' was 
the heraldic imperial eagle, issuant and crowned, on a 
field or.» 

In another Ladn letter, written between September, 
1 310, and January, 131 1, Dante cries out, 'Lay aside, O 
Lombard race, thy accumulated barbarity ; and if any 
vestige of the seed of the Trojans and Latins still exists, 
give it place, lest when the sublime eagle, descending 
like a thunderbolt, falls from on high, he may see his 
eaglets cast out and the nest of his own young occupied 
by ravens.' ■ How could Dante better ennoble the 
eagle ? Yet, elsewhere, the imperial eagle is converted 
into a demon of such extraordinary force as to rock the 
very church by the ferocity of its onslaught. 

Never descended with so swift a motion 
Fire from a heavy cloud, when it is raining 
From out the region which is most remote. 
As I beheld the bird of Jove descend 
Down through the tree rending away the bark, 

' Epist. VI, iii, 79-85. Latham's translation. 

' Woodward, Heraldry. British and Foreign, II, 165. 

* Epist. V, iv, 50-56. Latham's translation. 



As well as blossom and the foliage new. 

And he with all his might the chariot smote 

Whereat it reeled, like vessel in a tempest 

Tossed by the waves, now starboard, and now larboard.' 

— LoNcreLLOw. 

Time flies in dreams; centuries are mere seconds; 
in a twinkling the might>' head of the Roman Empire 
has become a Christian, and the destroying eagle of 
Dante's vision swoops down to the Car of the Church 
once more, for thus the allegorising poet symbolises the 
donation of Constantine. 

Then by the way that it before had come. 
Into the chariot's chest I saw the eagle 
Descend, and leave it feathered with his phimes.' 

— Longfellow. 

' Purg. XXXIl, 109-117, Hugo of St. Victor. De Bestas, lib. 
II, cap. 56^' AquiU ab aoimine oculorum vocata. Tanti enim visus 
aut coDtuitus esse dtcitur, ut cum super maria immobiti perma ferator, 
ita ut humanis pateat obiutibus, de tanta sublimitate pisciculos natare 
videat, ac lurbiith msliir discendens raptam prsdara piennis ad littus 
pertrahat. Nam et contra radium soils fertur obtutum non flectere, 
unde et puUos suos ungue suspensos, radiis soils obiictt, et quos 
viderit immobilem tenereaciemct dignos genere, conservat; si quos 
vero perspexerit refleciere obtutum, quasi degeneres abiicil. Unde 
beatus Cregortus : Aquili vocabulo in Scriptura sacra aliquando 
maligae spirilus raptores animanim, aliquando pnsentis sxculi 
polestates, aliquando veio vel subtilissimx sanctorum intelligeotix, 
vel incamatus Dominus, ima celeriter transvolans, et 
repetens designalur.' Cf. Eiekid ivii, 3, 'Aquila grandis magnamm 
alarum, longo membronim ductJi, plena plumis et variet 
Libanum et tulit medullam cedri, et summitatem frondium eius 
evulsit.' Psalm cii, 5, 'Renovabitur ut aquili juventus tua.' Cf. 
also Laucheht, Gesckichte des Phyiiobgus. p. 171. 

* Purg. XXXII, 134-126. For other developments of ' Imperial 
Eagle,' cf. Farad. VI, 1-8, 68 ff., 95 ; Dt Afon. II, xi, 25. 



The black art could hardly surpass such magic 
dreams; but elsewhere Dante himself shares in an ad- 
venture rivalling that of Ganymede and the bird of 
Jove, or of Sinbad and the Rok. 

Dreaming, I seemed to sec in heaven suspended 
An eagle that with golden plumes did shine 
And with spread wings, as he to swoop intended : 
And in that place it seemed to be, methought 
Where Ganymede, abandoning his own, 
Was up to heaven's high consistory caughl. 
Then I considered : ' Haply here alone 
His wont to strike is, and he scorns elsewhere 
To bear up what he snatches in his feet.' 
Methought he next wheeled somewhat in the air, 
Then struck like lightning, terrible and fleet, 
And rapt me up to the empyrean, there 
We burned together in so fierce a heat 
And such of that imagined fire the smart, — 
My dream perforce was by the scorching broke.' 

— Parsons. 

Thus Dante is snatched up from a flowery dale of 
Purgatory to the Heaven of the Moon by Santa Lucia, 
whom his dramatically fantastic dream has transformed 
into a huge apocalyptic, half-heraldic eagle. But the 
influence of medieval heraldry is undeniably present 
when Dante sees the rigid gold eagles of the imperial 
Romans waving in Trajan's banners. 

Intomo a lui porta cakato e pieno 

Di cavalieri, e P aquile nelT ore 

Sepi' esse in vista al venio si movieno? 


About him seemed to be a throng of honemen 
And the eagles in the gold above him 
In fiill view were fluttering on the wind. 

No crowd of Romans are these, but a troop of medie- 
val knights with eagles on their banners in a field or. 
The medieval spirit is seen, however, at its extreme in 
the Heavenly Eagle which Dante designs with the 
souls of the blessed, and there can be little doubt that 
our poet got his hint for this symbolical configuration 
from a legend of the cranes. 

The spirits, imagined as lights or flames, formed in 
Dante's vision the letters D I L (DiLicrrE lusTmAM), 
and remained awhile in M (the last letter of Qui Iudi- 
CATis Terram) ; then thousands of sparks arose : — 

Even as the sun that lights them had allotted ; 
And, each one being quiet in its place, 
The head and neck beheld I of an eagle 
Delineated by that inlaid fire.^ 

* • • • • 

The other beatitude, that contented seemed 
At first to bloom a lily on the M, 
By a slight motion followed out the imprint, 
O gentle star ! what and how many gems 
Did demonstrate to me, that all our justice 
Effect is of the heaven which thou ingemmest 1 * 

• • • * • 

Appeared before me with its wings outspread 
The beautiful image that in sweet fruition 
Made jubilant the interwoven souls ; 
Appeared a little ruby each, wherein 
Ray of the sun was burning, so enkindled 

1 Parad. XVIII, 105-108. « ParoiL XVIII, 1 12-1 17. 


That each into mine eyes refracted it. 
And what it now behooves me to retrace 
Nor voice has e'er reported nor ink written, 
Nor was by fantasy e'er comprehended ; 
For speak I saw and likewise heard the beak 
And utter with its voice both I and My, 
When it was in conception We and Our.* 

— Longfellow. 

Though lovers of allegorical mechanisms may once 
have relished such a conception as this, the modem mind 
gprows weary, so weary as to be relieved by the incon- 
gruous actions of the Heavenly Eagle, whose internal 
performances, executed by the Spirits, Dante compares 
to a falcon beating its wings and making itself beauti- 
ful,' then to a tender stork-mother over her nestful of 
storklets,* and finally, to a lark that sweeps joyfully 
through the air and sings.* The Heavenly Eagle is a 
subject for scholarly diagrams * rather than a thing of 

1 Parad. XIX, 1-12. « Parad. XIX, 34-36. 

• Parad, XIX, 91-93. 

• Parad. XX, 73-75. Cf. also XX, 25, 31. 

• See TOYNBEE, Dante Diciumaryy s,v. * Aquila.* 

The Crow 

The crow, destroyer of carrion and crops, had a worse 
reputation in the Middle Ages than now. St Ambrose, 
for instance, devotes a whole chapter to the crow's im- 
piety in not returning to the Ark when he found nowhere 
any dry land. Besides, this bird has the diabolical hue. 
' If truly all shamelessness and sin is dark and gloomy, 
and feeds on the dead like the crow, yet virtue is close 
to the light, shining with the mind's purity and simplic- 
ity.' So speaks St Ambrose.^ 

When Dante declares that he excludes from his reckon- 
ing those who, decked in the feathers of crows, boast that 
they are white sheep in the Lord's flock,* he is virtually 
turning inside out the scriptural phrase as to the wolves in 
sheeps' clothing, or is curiously revamping the fable of 
a crow that donned the cast-oif feathers of a peacock.' 

There is another more puzzling phrase in Dante's let- 
ter to all Italians, for he bids those of Lombard blood to 
lay aside their savagery and yield to the Emperor, lest he, 
swooping down like an eagle, find his eaglets cast out 
and their place possessed by little crows.^ Such an oc- 

* De Not et Arca^ cap. i8. * De Mon. Ill, iii, 1 16-118. 

* See Warnke, Die Fabeln der Marie de France^ p. 217, *De 
corvo penaas pavonis inveniente.^ 

* Epist, V, iv, 50-56. 




currence would certainly make an epoch in the annals of 
the Animal Kingdom. The cuckoo's habit is well known, 
but how did Dante come to suspect such villany of 
crows ? In fables animals frequently abandon their nat- 
ural habits for the sake of man's morals ; yet no fable 
suggests itself as the basis of Dante's idea.^ It may be 
that our poet meant simply to imagine such a case, or 
that he knew some legend of the eagle and the crow 
which has failed to survive in literature. 

^ My opinion is confirmed by a letter from Dr. K. McKenzie. 

The Lark 

When the princely lovers of justice in the twentieth 
canto of Paradise have stopped singing, there rises 
through the neck of the Mystic Eagle a murmur like 
the sound of a cithern or a bagpipe. The Eagle speaks, 
praising Hezekiah, Constantine, WSliam, son of Robert 
Guiscard, and Rhipeus, 'the one justest man and heed- 
fullest among the Trojans'; but the poet Dante, dis- 
carding with sudden emotion the moralising, biographical 
tone, bursts into one of the most beautiful touches of life 
in literature. 

Quale allodetta ^ che in aere si spazia 
Prima caniando, e foi tace^ contenta 
Dell^ ultima dolcezza che la sazia^ 
Tal misemdio V imago della imprenta 

^ Albertus Magnus (i 193-1280) devoted a goodly volume to the 
animals, including man. In De AnimalibuSy lib. XXIIL tract, unicus, 
occurs a remarlcable description of the lark, containing some features 
noticed by Bemart de Ventadom and unmentioned by Dante, or 
mentioned by Dante and left untouched by Bemart de Ventadom : 
' Mas eius musicus est valde et multx modulationis, sestatem primo 
inter aves praenuntians, et diem in aurora promens laude cantus sui, 
plu\'ias et tempestates abhorret, accipitrem tantum timet, quod fiigit 
in hominum sinus et manus, vel in terra sedens permittit se capi : 
cantat ascendendo per circulum volans: et cum descendit, primo 
quidem paulatim descendit, et tandem alas ad se convertens in 
modum lapidis subito decidit et in illo casu cantum dimittit.^ 




Dell' elemo piaeere, ai cut dish 
Ciascuna cosa, quale ell' i, diventa^ 

Like the deai lark that in the air sweeps widely 
First singing, and then is silent with content 
Of the last sweetness that doth sate him ; 
Such seemed to me the image of the imprint 
Of the Everlasting Pleasure, by whose will 
Are fashioned all things that are. 

The lark's unusual flight, the moment of its song, its 
silence and joyful satiety, — all these are described with 
wonderful truth, brevity, and power. There is no con- 
ventional foisting on the lark of such human moods as 
medieval poets were wont to think into the nightingale. 
Yet these three exquisite lines scarcely betoken on 
Dante's part a special observation of nature, for they 
are almost certainly borrowed from a description by 
Bemart de Ventadorn.' 

Quant vey la lau%eia mover 
dejoi sas alas eontral ray, 
gue s'oblida e's layssa caier 
per la doussor qu'al cor U vat, 
ai! tan grans enveja m'en ve 
de cut qu'eu veya iaution! 
meravilhas ai, guar desse 
lo cor de destrier no'mfon} 

1 Parad. XX, 73-78. 

' For the first prinlet! reference lo Ihis passage, see MoORE, 
Studies in Dante, Sf cond Series, note 5, p. 363. 

" For ihe citation from Bernart de VentadorD, who flourished, 
according to Suchier, from about 1148 to 1195, see Rav^ouard, 
Choix, vol. in, p. 68. A belier lexl, however, and the one quoted, 
is to be found in Appel's Pravensalische Chrestomathie, No. 17. A 


' When I see the little lark move blithely his wings up 
toward the sun ; that in rapture he allows himself to fall, 
through the bliss that enters his heart, ah 1 such great 
envy comes upon me of whomever I see joyful! A 
wonder it is that straightway my heart for longing 
does not melt away.' 

The comparison of these two passages is interesting, 
not only because we must feel that Dante knew and 
relished the work of Bemart de Ventadom, who, appar- 
ently, is nowhere else directly or indirectly quoted by 
Dante, whom Dante does not even mention by name, 
but also because it throws light on the ethics of medie- 
val men of letters. As is generally acknowledged now, 
there can be no question of plagiarism. Any poet, 
and all the encyclopedists, practised openly and with- 
out reluctance the maxim long afterward attributed to 

The image, then, is almost certainly borrowed from 
Bemart de Ventadom ; yet Dante, as always, added 
something of his own. Imitando crcb. By greater ac- 
curacy in describing the lark*s flight, and by giving a 
reason for its happiness, he seems to widen the range of 
his psychological vision, penetrating for an instant into 
the heart of a creature farther beyond ourselves than 
are our fellow-men. 

Though often caught with falcons or snares, larks 
were plentiful in the gunless days of Dante and of 
Bemart de Ventadom ; but men who could dwell with 

good translation by the poet and philologist, Friedrich Diez, 
may be read on page 31 of his Leben und Werke der Traubadoursy 
2d edition. 



such loving comprehension on the facts of a nature ever 

visible and almost never seen merit for that alone our 


Chi suole a riguardar giovare altruu 

—Furg. IV, S4. 


The Nightingale 

That Dante follows the Greek rather than the Latin 
legend as to Philomela and Procne is obvious. The 
' early woes ' of the swallow of which our poet tells ^ are 
consistent with the story of Philomela. Again, to re- 
venge herself on her faithless husband Tereus, Procne 
slew her son Itys, and served up the boy's flesh to his 
father, for which impious wickedness she was changed 
into a nightingale.' Hence our poet means this bird 
and not the swallow when he says : — 

Deir empiezza di lei, chc muto forma 
Neir uccel che a cantar piu si diUtta, 
Neir imagine mia apparve P orma} 

Of her impiety who changed her form 
Into the bird that most delights in singing. 
In my imagining appeared the trace. 

— Longfellow. 

* Purg, IX. 15. See chapter on *The Swallow,' p. 312. 

* Ovid's Met. VI, 412 fT., 639-641 . Ovid leaves the identification 
to us, but the fury of Procne he mentions again and again : ' Procne 
fiiriis agitata doloris ' (vs. 595) ; ' Ardet, et iram Non capit ipsa suam 
Procne ' (609) ; * Triste parat facinus, tacita exsestuat ira' (623) ; * in- 
fracta constitit ira ' (627) ; < scelus est pietas in coniuge Tereo ' (635) ; 
'Dissimulare nequit crudelia gaudia Procne ' (653). For this and 
further proof see Moore, Studies in Dante, First Series, p. 210. 

^PurgXWW, 19-21. 




Thus, then, the nightingale (which, in Dante's time and 
before, had been warbling a rather stale tune to so many 
troubadours and minnesingers) is ' the bird that most 
delights in singing/ Though some bird lovers might 
charge Dante with partiality, all will own that he has in 
this case set forth gracefully one of the truths that link 
the higher orders of the animal kingdom. 


The Dove 

In the Song of Solomon the raptures of an Oriental 
poet are poured forth in bursts of passion, or uttered in 
the tone of a dreaming sensualist in whom a dim, an al- 
most indiscernible background of religion can be felt at 
times. But only the most intensely allegorical spirit, the 
most imwavering belief that the Bible conceals beneath 
all its legends and fancies an intentional moral or pro- 
phetic aim, could pervert the Song of Solomon into a 
truly religious poem or a theological rhapsody. This 
spirit, however, and this belief held in sway during the 
Middle Ages the minds of nearly all. If theologians still 
seek the * mutual love of Christ and His Church ' and 
other such undreamed-of themes in this pastoral lyric, 
no wonder that an age entirely in the hold of mysticism 
and allegory should have gone farther still in misreading 
the spirit of the East. * The empyrean heaven/ writes 
Dante, ' is through its peace like unto the divine Science, 
which is all peace. Of this Science, saith Solomon, 
" three-score are the queens and fourscore the fond con- 
cubines and of the grown handmaids there is no number ; 
one is my dove and my perfect one." All sciences he 
calls queens and concubines and handmaids; and this 
[the divine Science, — Theology] he calls dove, because 



it is without stain of strife ; and this he calls perfect, for 
perfectly it makes us see the Truth in which our soul 
has peace.'' 

So the one whom the writer of Solomon's Song calls 
'my dove, my undefiled,' has become to our Christian 
poet the symbol of Theology conceived with strange, 
yes, superhuman objectivity as a thing 'all peace,' 

It is needless to query how the dove became so un- 
natured. Our poet accepts the symbol that pleased his 

Once more the dove is to serve as an image of purity 
and affection, for in the Starry Heaven there appears to 
our poet and Beatrice a ' hght ' which is the angelic con- 
dition of St. James. When St. James meets St. Peter, 
whom Dante has described as 'a blessed fire,' ' light 
eternal,' 'love enkindled,' * there occur-s between these 
two disembodied worthies a greeting whose fervour leads 
our poet into the most one-sided simile in the world. 

' Conv. II, XV, 165-168, and 174-184: 'Ancora lo cielo empireo, 
per la sua p^e, slmiglia la divina Scienza [' divinity '] che piena k di 
lulta pace ; . . . Di coslei dice Salomone : '■ Sessanta sono le regine, 
e oUanta I'amiche concubine; e drude e ancelle; e questa chiama 
colomba perchS 6 sen^a macola di lile ; e quesla chiama perfella, 
perchi perfella mente ne ta il Vero vedere, nel quale si chela 1' anima 
nostra."' Cf. Ihis very early translation with the Vulgate: 'Seia- 
ginta sunt reginx, et ociaginta concublnae, et adolescenlularum non 
est Dutnerus. Una est columba mea, perfecta mea.' Cf. the Vulgate 
with its earliest entire translation into Tuscan: 'Sessanta sono le 
regine. e L.\XX le concubine; e delle giovinette vi sono sanza 
numero. Una h la colomba mia, una J laperfetta mia.' (From La 
Bibbia Volgare, according to the rare edition of 147'.) 

"Fuoco benedetto,' Parad. XXIV, 31; 'luce elema,' vs. 34; 
' amore acceso,' vs. 83. Cf. pp. 391 {adfiH.)-it)i {ad ihU.) . 


Si come guaniio U Colombo it pone 

Presso al compagno, e P una air allro pandf, 

Girando e mormorando, /' affetiotu, 

Cosi vid' io /' un dall 'altro grande 

Principe glorioso essere accolto, 

Laudando il cibo ehe lassk li prande} 

In the same way as when a dove alights 
Near his companion, both of them pour forth. 
Circling about and murmuring, their affection. 
So one beheld I by the other grand 
Prince glorified to be with welcome greeted, 
Lauding the food that there above is eaten. 


Though Dante uses the words si come {'just as'), 
there is no more similitude than between a yoke of 
oxen and a ray of sunlight ; but the description of the 
doves is lovely. It is one of those everyday sights 
which happen at last to be seen by a master accu- 
rately in every detail. The wheeling of enamoured 
doves, their gloating affection, the very softness of 
their cooing, are all both pictured and heard in these 
vivid, onoraatopoetic lines. 

> Parad. XXV, 19-24. HuGO Of St. Victor says, in his Dt 
Bettiii, lib. I, cap. 1 1 (' De diversis columbx proprietaiibus '), ' Instat 
osculisquia delectatur in multitudine pads.' And Ovid, An Amal. 
II, vi, 56: — 

' Oscula dat cupido blanda columba man.' 

According to the interpretation of Rabanus Maurus, the wild 
pigeon is chaste ; ' Palumbes avis casta ei moribus appellahir, quod 
comes sit castitatis' {Dt Universo, VIII. 6). 

Brunetto Latini says, ' E sachiez que la torterele est si aimable 
vers son compagnon que se il est perduz par aucune maniere, ele oe 
quiert jamais autre mari, et garde sa foi, ou par vertu de chaste^, ou 
porce que de cuide que sea matis viegne' {Tresor, p. 230). 



There is in our poet another equally pleasing and 
original portrayal o£ doves in a moment familiar to those 
who see nature, Casella has been singing to the more 
corporeal spirits in Purgatory Dante's 

Amtrr che nelia menu mi ragiona. 
All are absorbed in the song ; when, suddenly, Cato ap- 
pears, and, on his chiding them for dallying, the spirits 
move swiftly away. 

Come quando, eogliendo biado o loglio, 
Li colombi adunati alia fastura, 
Qtieti senia mostrar /' usaio orgoglio, 
Se coia appare ond tlli ahbian paura, 
Subilamente lasciano star F esea, 
Perchi assalifi da maggter cura : 
Cost vid iotjuella masnada fresco 
Lasdar lo canto, egire in verla costa, 
Come nam che va, ne sa c. 
Ni la nostra partita Ju men tosta} 

As doves (when busy gathering grains or lares. 

Clustered al pasture in a single flock, 

Quiet, nor shovring their accustomed airs). 

If aught approach the timid tribe to shock. 

Fly from their food, assailed by greater care, 

So quit their song, this new-come iroop, and started 

Hillward, like one who goes unknowing where ; 

And with no less a pace, we, too, departed. 

— Parsons. 

As Dante makes of the lion both demon and king, so 
in his doves are embodied two psychic types of popu- 
lar tradition. The one type, which is mainly Biblical, 
'ftffy. 11,124-133. 


accepts them as pure ; the other, which is mainly ' clas- 
sic,' represents them as the emblem of sensuality.^ 
The second type is suggested in the famous episode of 
Francesca da Rimini. 

In the second abyss of Hell, amongst the shades of the 
lustful, whose flight the poet has already compared to 
that of cranes and starlings, Dante sees the unresisting 
Francesca and her Paolo. Wishing to speak to them, he 
appeals to Virgil, who bids him beseech them by the love 
that carries them on, and they will come. 

Si tosto comeilvenioa noi li piega, 

Mossila voce : O anime affaniiate, 

Venite a noi parlar, s' altri nol mega. 

Quali eolombe dal disio chiamate, 

Con r ali abate ejernu, al doUe nido 

Volan per r aer dal voler portate : ' 

' A shrine of St. Taurin d'Evreuz represents Lust as 2 woman 
mounted on a goat, with a dove on her left hand. Over the design 
is the legend, ' Lechcrie ressemble une dame chivachant sur une 
chicvre portanl en samain une colombe.'' — QfMWAuSfihnges, 11,29. 

" In pulling a colon after porlale rather than after aer, I have 
followed Witte, whose punctuation is adopted in the Oxford 
Dante and by Tovnbee (ia Commedia di Dante AUghiert, Lon- 
don, 1900). Scartazziai's note on vs. 84 is not oniy without criti- 
cal value, but his reading mars the beauty of the whole passage. 
Now as to vaUr. Giovanni DurRE {Ricordi aulobiegrajici, Flor- 
ence, Le Monnier, 1879, cap. VIII, p. 140} reports that Giuseppe 
CiustI, on hearing these verses recited, interrupted with a decUra- 
lion that the punctuation was wrong, since it alMurdly attributed 
to the doves nol only the desire (i/«/'o), which was reasonable 
enough, but also the will {voler). The same observation had 
been made as early as 1835 by LuiGi Muzzi in his Eptstola 
eontttttnte la nueva esposieione lii uu liiaga del Pelrarca 1 di 
akuni di Dante. If these two Danlists (and Scartazzini) had fol- 
lowed the method of explaining Dante by Dante, they would not 




CotaH uscir deSa schiera ov' i Dido, 
A not venende perl' aer maligna, 
St forte fit r affettuoso grido} 

'As soon as the wind had swayed them toward us I 
spoke : " O wearied souls, come speak with us, if none 
forbid." As doves impelled by longing, with wings 
Ufted and still, fly through the air to their sweet nest, 
borne on by the will ; so they issued from the swarm 
wherein is Dido, to us coming through the baleful air, 
so strong was the affectionate cry.' 

There can be no question here of Dante's observation 
of the physical phenomenon, since this image is bor- 
rowed, in part at least, almost word for word from Vir- 
gil.' Virgil had accurately noted how birds hold their 
wings still before alighting after a long flight, but Virgil's 

have mishandled the t«t of the D. C. Dante does not deny to the 
animals will, but reason and free will. To be sure, Dante's own 
position is untenable, but that is another matter. That valer does 
not necessarily mean free will is obvious. See Inf. XXXII, 76; 
Purg. XXVII, 121. In Purg. XVI, 76, occurs libera voler, but voter 
without a qualifier can mean free will, Purg. XI, 10. Veglia has 
also both meanings. See Fav, Cotuordame. 

Foraclear statement of the conventional theological point of view, 
see Vernon, Readings, Inferno, vol. I, pp. 157-158. 

Since the MSS. are not punctuated, the place of the colon must be 
determined by the individual editor's opinion, or by a theory arrived 
at after study of all Dantesque passages referring to animals. To me 
the question seems not soluble. 
> /«/. V, 79-37. 
"^«. V, 213-217: — 

' Qualit spelunca subilo commola celumia, 
Cui domui et dulcti [atebroso in pumice lidi. 
Ftrba- in arra volant platuumquc nlecTilii pcnni) 
Dal lecto ingenlem, moi aere lapia quiela 
Rmdil Iter liquidum ciUrts ntqut ctmmotitt alat^ 


doves are likened to a ship which, having run upon a 
rock, is thrust off again and glides smoothly out upon the 
open sea. Not only, therefore, is his picture less vivid 
than Dante's, but it lacks the emotions imparted by 
the presence of two living things, the doves and the 
woful lovers, instead of one, the frightened doves of 
VirgiL In Virgil the comparison is pretty; in Dante 
it is beautiful Is what Dante adds true ? To answer 
that question involves a mystery which generaUy thwarts 
the most skilful experiments of psychology : How far 
have other animals emotions and purposes like our own ? 
Has Dante gone too far in giving his doves a will ? Is 
the poet belying his own dogmas? The last two 
questions deserve an unhesitating No, for in Dante the 
word voler (vs. 84) means will, not free will, and there- 
fore the poet has not even unwittingly sinned against a 
cherished formula. 

The birds of the Love goddess are thus described by 
Virgil (^«. VI, 190-192): — 

Vix eafatus erat, gemina cum forte columba 
Ipsi sub ora viri ccclo venere volantes 
Et viridi sedere solo. 

In this passage i£neas speaks and the doves come as 
if at his bidding. 

Again {/En, VI, 199-203) : — 

Pascentes iUae tantum prodire vohndo. 
Quantum acie possent ocuH servare sequentum. 
Inde ubi venere ad fauces grai^e olentis Avemi^ 
ToUunt se celeres Hquidumque per aera lapsa 
Sedibus optatis gemina super arbore sidunt 



Compare also the words in Isaiah (Ix, 8), 'Who are 
these that fly as a cloud and as the doves to their 
windows?* {Qui sunt isH, qui ut nubes volant^ et qua 
columba ad fenestras suasfy 

^ For further treatment of the Virgilian passages, see Edward 
MoORE, Studiesy First Series, pp. 184-185. 


To cast befo 
driven onward 
even as they h 
to the end of 
extraordiciary i 
the lustful damnt. 

i a vision of lost soula 
ing by the blast in Hell, 
ward in the upper life 
lante uses an image of 
:aten, whirling souls of 
;s, — scarcely to be dis- 
tinguished as individuals, made dusky by the gloom. 

La bujera infernal rke mat non resta, 
Mena gli spirit con la sua rapina, 
Vollando e percotendo li moUsla. 
Quantio giungon davanti alia ruiiia, 
Quivi le Urida, il compianlo e il lamento, 
Besiemmian quivi la virtu divina. 
JnUsi che a eos'i fatio lormenlo 
Enno dannati i peccator carnali, 
Che la ragion sommettoiw al tahnto. 
E tome gli stomei ' ne portan /' ali 

' Not diminutive in meaning. ' Storno ' is the simple form, but 
ViNCENZO Tanaro {Scelta di Curios. Lelt.^oX. 217, p. 191) speaks of 
•isionielligiovani,' and Frederick \H_De A. V. cum A.\,cap. 18) 
uses 'stumelli' (=Dante's s/criid) as equivalent lo 'sturni.' 
In Dante's time, starlings were very common. Tanabo (!oc. cil.) 
tells hoiv they appeared on the roofs of the dovecotes in spring, and 
left when the olives were ripe. Cf also, Frederick II, op. at., 



Nilfreddo tempo, a schiera kirga t plena. 

Cost quelfialo gli tpiriii mali. 

Di qua, di la, di giit, di su gli mena : 

NuUa speranza gli conforta mat, 

Nen che di posa ma di minor pena} 

The infernal blast, which never knoneth rest 

In furious wreck whirls on the shadowy forms. 

Driving and madly dashing them along ; 

And when destruction's very brink they reach, 

Then shriek, then scream and yel! the frantic throng, 

Yea, Heaven's High King blaspheme with horrid speech 1 

Such pangs, I found, those carnal sinners feel 

Who to low impulses their reason bowed. 

And, like as starlings in the winter wheel 

Their airy flight, a large wide-wavering crowd, 

So that fierce gust these erring spirits blows 

This way and that way, up and down the cope ; 

Nor can they find, I say not of repose. 

But of diminished pain, one moment's hope. 

— Parsons, 

Though Dante, without the shadow of a doubt, bor- 
rowed the plan of this simile from Virgil,' who likens 
the swept souls on the banks of Acheron to a swarm of 
birds driven in the chilly part of the year to sunny 
climates over sea, Dante has shown how to add the 
master touch. He deals not in generalities, but with a 
few swift strokes he throws before the eye a definite 

"^«. VI, 308-313: — 

' Quain mulia In sftvis autamnl IHgoK prime 
Lapaa cadunt folia, aul ad tertam gurgile ab alto 
Quam mullae glomeranlur avcs, ubi frigidus annus 
Traiu poaliuu Algal el lems imminit ^iilcii,' 


truth in nature.' For critic or commentator to spend 
more words clarifying such art would certainly be hold- 
ing a lantern to the sun. 

' Any observer of nature has noticed our American ' blackbirds,' 
which fly precisely like the two hundred odd species of European 
starlings. The varinus <itarliTnrB differ greatly in colouring, but in 
shape and size thi d. A note to letter XLVIII 

of White's Natt me is apposite : 'The star- 

lings also coogre, -. saw a flight of these birds 

in the autumn of nty, Ireland, which literally 

darkened the air slsted of at least a hundred 

thousand ; they ^ immense marshy plain i 

Banacher, through lows.' ' In the autumnal and 

hyemal months,' 3s gather in immense flocks, 

and are particulai, ny parts of Nottinghamshire 

and Lincolnshire, wn_. _ ^ long the reeds,'' Benvei 

da Imola comments thus, ' Starhngs are lustfiil as birds naturally 
are; starlings are light, and so are lovers; starlings cross over to 
warm parts whither the heal of lechery calls them, and flee cold 
regions where there are no pretty women,' etc. 


The Crane 

In the second circle of Hell Dante's ears were smitten 
by the wails, the shrieks and curses of the damned, who 
soon appeared to him through the darkness, driven on 
by the blast like a flock of starlings, and (writes Dante) 

As cranes that fly, and, singing still their lay, 
Stretch out their lengthened line against the sky, 
Thus did I see this shadowy array, 
Borne onward ever with a mournful cry. 

— Mrs. Ramsay. 

E come i gru van cantando lor iai, 
Facendo in aer di sh iunga riga ; 
Cost vid^ to vent'r, fraendoguai, 
Ombre portate dalla detta briga} 

Not only does Dante portray the cranes as flying in a 
long line — in Indian file — rather than in a wedge, but 
they go sing^g their * lay.' How strange a conception 
of the chattering pipe of the crane ! Yet such an attri- 
bution to birds of a human poetic formula may be con* 
ventional, and is certainly not new; for the Provencal 
poet, Deude de Pradas, tells how the nightingale blithely 
sings his ' lays ' beneath green leaves in spring : — 

El temps qu^el rossinhol s*es;au 
Efai SOS lais sotz lo vertfuelh? 

1 Inf. V, 46-49. * Raynouard, Lexique^ s,v, *laL' 



And Dante himself makes the swallow sing her ' sad 

The idea is probably conventional, and certainly very 
old; for Arbois de Jubainville quotes an Irish poem of 
the eighth or ninth century in which birds are described 
as singing two kinds of poetry, — one the trirech, the 
other the lay : — 

Do- m fa rcai fidbaidae fal 
Fo-m chain ISid luin I4ad, na 
Huas mo lebrdn iifdilitech 
Fo-m chain trirech inna In} 


' A wood-hedge surrounds me ; for me is sung the I6id 
of the swift blackbird, truly ; on my little interlineated 
book for me is sung the trirech of the birds.' 

That Dante's cranes sing a wofiil lay is obvious from 
the various sounds made by the damned.* The flight of 
our poet's cranes is even more curious than their song; 
for in Paradise he sees the flamelike angels flitting about 
in such a way as to make now D, now /, now L, and, 
though the poet compares these angels to ' birds,' he got 
his ideas from a tradition of the cranes. This tradition 
b old enough to appear vaguely in Lucan,^ then clearly 

^ See Romania, 1879, p. 422. 
■/"/■V, 34-36:- 

' Quando gluDgan davaati alia niina, 

Quivi le sirida. il compianlo b il lamento, 

BesletnmiBn quiW [b virtCt dlWna.' 

'/>Afl«.V, 711-713: — 

' Stiynona sic {clldum bruma pellenle rclinquuni 
PoluiTe ir. Nile, gnics primoque volalu 

'Thus, when the frost drives, the cranes leave icy Stryrooa to drink 



^B in Martial,^ and St. Jerome,^ who handed it down to 
^B the Middle Ages.^ Dante says : — 

!o vidi, in quella giovial facelia 
Lo sfavillar deW amor eke ft era, 
Segnare agli oechi niiei nostra favella.* 

E come augelU * surti di riviera, 

thee, Nile, acd, in 
cliance designs.' 


their first flight, they make v 

perdidcris si Palamedis a.veni.' 

ie, Dor will the whole letter fly if you los 

'You will mar the v 
bird of Palamedes.' 

• Cited by Vincenzo Tanaro. See note 3. VmcE.vzo TANAao, 
La Caccia degli Uccelli, Scelta di Curios. Lett., vol. 217, p. 14, 
■Palamede dal volar detle grue compose Ie lettere dalle quali ne 
venne la Grammatica, onde S. Girolamo disse: Gniea viam ordine 
lilerato.' Neckam (Wright's ed,, p. 97 ff'.), 'Grues in volatu lit- 
teram in aere depingere videntur, uadc ct ab ipsb congnii exortum 
esse dicitur. Unde Marlialis,' etc. ' Gruem autcm dicit avem 
Palamedis quia ipse figuras in Grxco idiomate adinvcnit et gram- 
maticam in multis adauxit.' 

• In the book De Bestiis, attributed to Hugo of St. Victor (lib. I, 
cap. XXXIX), occurs a thoroughly mystic interpretation, 'De 
gruibus ordine Htterato unam pr^valentem sequentibus. Grues dum 
pergunt, unam sequuntur ordine lilterato. . . . lllos autem signifi- 
cant, qui ad hoc student, ut ordinate vivant. Grues enim ordine 
lilterato volantes designanl ordinate viventes. Cum autem ordinate 
volando procedunt, ex se lltteras in volatu fingunt. lllos autem 
designant, qui In se prxcepta scripturx bene vlvendo formant.' — 
Dante's ' Diligile Jusliliam.' 

• Dante's mind seems to have worked in this way ; Knowing the 
legend of the letter-making cranes, he devised the action of the flame- 
like, flitting angels. Then, with the cranes still in his thoughts, he 
followed up hb description with the simile of the birds rising from a 

"Augelli' b well used insteadof'gru,' which would be too specific. 


Quasi congralulando a lor pasture 
Fanno di se or tonda or altra schiera} 
Si dentro at lumi sanie creature 
Volitando eanlavano, e/aciensi 
Or D, or I, or L, in sue figure* 

'I saw, within that torch of Jove, the sparkling of the 
love which was there shape out our speech to my eyes. 
And as birds, risen from the river bank, as if rejoicing 
together over their food, make of themselves a troop 
now round, now of some other shape, so within the 
lights holy' creatures were singing as they flew, and made 
themselves now D, now / , now L, in their proper 
shapes.'^ Norton. 

This angelic manner of whiling away eternity was, 
as has been shown, not an invention of Dante's ; but 
there is a pretty touch of truth in the birds' flight. 

Dante again refers to the flight of cranes when he 
sees a band of rueful souls in Purgatory move swiftly 
away : — 

Come gli augei* che veman lungo il Nilo 
Alcuna volta in aer fanno schiera, 
Poi votan piU in/retla e vanno injilo; 

Avibus, I, lo) makes this keen 
id fro from their feeding pUce 

1 Frederick II {De A. V 
observation of birds going 

( Daate's ' pasture ') : ' Their way of going away and coming back \% 
manifold ; for some gather with others of ihe same kind and go away 
in many scattered flocks ; then come back, some following the others 
successively, as il were, in a double order of lines, falling then into 
an angular form. Rarely, however, do they join the number of 
another kind, but remain mostly geese with geese, ducks with ducks, 
teal with teal (circellx cum circellis), cranes with cranes, and so 
forth as to the rest.' 

» Parad. XVIII. 70-78. D I L are the first letters of DiUGiTR 
lUSTiTiAit (vs. 91). » Au^ =gru. 


Cost iutta la genU ehe ft era, 
Volgendo il viso, raffreto suo fiasso, 
£ per magrezsa e per voUr leggiera} 

^B ' Even as the birds that winter along the Nile, now in 

the air form a squadron, then fly in greater haste and go 
in file, thus all the people there, turning their faces, hur- 
ried on, light both through leanness and through will.' 

Though the flight of these birds is here described so 
accurately as to seem like an observation of nature, 
the description shows its slightly bookish origin in the 
words: c}u vertian liingo U Nilo (that winter along 
the Nile). Why should Dante have supposed that 
thecranes(whichhecould see sooften in Italy ^) wintered 
along the Nile ? Obviously because the Nile is given as 
their winter quarters by Aristotle,^ Lucan,* Albert of BoU- 
stadt,' Neckam," and various other medieval authorities. 

'/^r^. XXIV, 64-69. 

* Cf. note r, pjige z86, and De Arte Venandi cum Avibui, passim. 

» De Hist. Atiimat. lib. VIII, cap. 12, 'Just as some men stay 
within doors In winter and others, lords of a greater damain, change 
their seat for a time in order to pass the summer in cool places, the 
winter in warm ; so do the lower animals that can move from place to 
place. Some find relief in their own haunts ; others go With 
the autumnal equinox from the Ponlus and cold regions Ihcy flee the 
coming winter. In summer, however, they go from warm to cool 
lands for fear of the coming heat. And some start from neighbour- 
ing places ; others Irom very far away. I almost had said as do the 
cranes, which from the Scythian fields come to the upper marshes in 
Egypt, whence flows the Nile, in which place they are said to fight 
with the pygmies.' ' Pkars. III. 199-200. 

' De Animal, lib. VII, tract, i, cap. 6, ' Grues autem prEedpue 

Btciunt hoc in quibusdam terris, sicut in GrKcia; volant enim a 
Grsecia versus meridiem ultra .i^yptum, ubi Suit Nilus,' etc. 

' Wright's ed., p. 97 if. 


The symbolical movement of the sodomites to the 
left and of the lechers to the right in the cleansing process 
of Purgatory, led our poet into one of the few unhappy 
figures in the Divina Ceptvtedia, — unhappy because 
summer and winter must be conceived to coincide; or 
because an hypothesis renders a simple natural truth so 
ambiguous as to mar irrevocably what might have been 
art. Here is the poet's unhumorous, if not grotesque, 
description of these once erring souls ; — 

Tes/a che parion P accoglienza arnica, 
Prima che U prima patso fi trascorra, 
Sopragridar ciaseuna s' affatica ; 
La nuova genb : ' Soddoma e Gomorra : ' 
E i' aitra : ' Nella vacca entra Pasife, 
Perche il torella a sua lussuria corra.' 
Pot come gru, ch' alU montagne Rife ' 
Volasser parte, e parte inver /' arene^ 
Quelle del pel, quelle del sole sehife, 
L' una gente sen va e I' altra sen viene? 

No sooner is the friendly greeting ended, 

Or ever the first footstep passes onward. 

Each one endeavours to outcry the other ; 

The new-come people : ' Sodom and Gomorrah ! ' 

The rest : ' Into the cow Pasiphae enters 

So that the bull unto her lust may run ! ' 

Then as the cranes, that to the Riphxan mountains 

Might fly in part and part towards the sand, 

' Benvenuto da Imola, 'That is to say, northward; for the 
Riphxan mountains are in the region of aquilo under our pole.' Tho 
Ottimo says these mounlains are in Scythia or at the end of Germany. 

* Africa ; cf. Inf. XXIV, 85, ' Piii non si vanti Libia con sua 
rena.' ■ Purg. XXVI, 37-46. 




These of the frost, those of the sun avoidanti 
One folk is going and the other coming. 

— Longfellow. 

There is no way out of the difficulty ; for the mere 
supposition that cranes might fly both north and south 
destroys the illusion ; nor is the blemish to be removed 
by the commentators' laborious apologies.^ 

^ See Scartazzini on Purg, XXVI, 44. 


The Stork 

If a man be held fast in ice up to the neck, and can- 
not die, — death being an impossibility in Hell, — what is 
above the ice must shiver not only for itself, but for all 
that is below. This is the plight of cold-blooded traitors. 

Their teeth, then, are bound to chatter extraordinarily, 
more than if they were clattering with a mere earthly or 
transient chill. How shall such a sound be rendered to 
those who have not yet been in Hell ? By a touch from 
living nature. Such is the never failing method of 
Dante, who thus describes this chattering : — 

Livid, as far down as where shame appears. 
Were the disconsolate shapes within the ice. 
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks. 

— Longfellow. 

Uvide insin Id dove appar vergogna^ 
Eran V ombre doUnti nella ghiaccia ; 
Mettendo i denti in nota di cicogna} 

One may easily believe that Dante had often heard 
live storks clapping their beaks on some Italian house- 
top, for storks were a familiar sight in Dante's time.* 
Brunetto Latini observes that the stork is a bird without 

1 Inf, XXXII, 34-36. 

* Cf. Albertus Magnus, De Animal, lib. XXIII, tract, anicus. 
TresoTj pp. 2 1 1 -2 1 2 . 




a tongue, ' wherefore they say he does not sing, but 
claps his beak and makes a great noise.' ^ 

Whoever has seen a pair of storks over their nest will 
have remarked the benignant and almost patriarchal air 
with which they gaze down upon their young. Long 
before Dante, the amiability of the stork and the 
creature's tenderness for its little ones had been noted 
piously.^ No wonder, then, that our poet chose the 
stork rather than some other bird to figure a motherly 
tenderness, shown to him by the mystic Eagle. Already 
the falcon has been made to picture the Eagle's expres- 
sion of eagerness and its self-embellishment;^ but 
now an amiable mother or father stork is exploited in 
order to describe another emotion of the mystic Eagle. 
To compare the action of this composite eagle to the 
manners of a stork gives rise to an incongruity greater 
than that of the two saints whom our author compares to 
wheeling, murmuring doves.* Yet Paradise is an utterly 

* Tresor, ibid. Cf. also Ovid'a line {Mti. VI, 97), ' Ipsa plaudet 
crepitante dconia rostro,' and the line by Juvenal (Sat. 1, 1 16), 
' Qusque salutato crepitat Concordia nido." But more interesting by 
fer is a statement by Hugo of St. Victor, which bears directly on 
the scene in Dante. 'The storks,' writes Hugo, 'for voice make 
a sound with clacking beaks. The storks signify those who with 
weeping and gnashing of teeth utter with their mouths what Ihey 
have done ill.' (Ciconia; sonum oris pro voce quaiiente rostro 
laciunt. Illos autem prxtendunt qtu cum ftetu et siridore dentlum 
quod male gesseruni ore promunl.) De BesHis, I. 41. 

* St. Ambrose, Hexameron, V, 16. Soliws, Palyhist. XL. 25. 
Hugo of St. Victor (who copies Isidor of Seville, XII, vii. 16), 
' Eximia illis circa tilios pietas,' etc. De Batiis, I, 42. 

' Farad. XIX. 34-39. See p. 248. 

* Peter and James, compared to amorous doves in Parad. XXV, 



impossible conception save when expressed with the 
imagery of this world, and almost any figure applied 
to shapes of light or mere abstractions must lose the 
value of similitude, keeping simply the quality of a more 
or less accurate description of actual life as we know it 
in this world. Nevertheless, it is such touches that keep 
Dante's Paradise from falling to the level of mere 
rimed theology. 

In this way he expresses the benignity of the imperial 
composite Eagle: — 

Qualt sopr' esso il nido si rigtra, 
Fill (he ha pasctuto la cicogna i figli, 
E come quei ch' i paste la rimira; 
Cotal si feet, e si levai li cigH, 
La btnedetta immagine che I' all 
Afovea, sospinta da lanti consigh} 

Even as above her nest goes circling round 
The stork when she has fed her little ones. 
And he who has been fed looks up at her, 
So hfted I my brow, and even such 
Became the bleesed image, which its wings 
Was moving, by so many counsds urged. 

— Longfellow. 

Stork nature is here observed correctly in every de- 
tail; and, though popular tradition may have led Dante 
to choose for this image the stork rather than other 
birds whose action is similar, the poet is nevertheless 
using an observation of his own, and not an image from 
some other poet's store, or from the bestiaries. 

Once more the stork appears, and in a most winsome 
' Farad. XIX, 91-96. 




image ; for, though the action described be true of per- 
haps any bird that is learning to fly, it is also true of 
the little stork, and one distinctly feels in this instance 
the larger capacity of man, the capacity to sympathise 
with less favoured members of the animal kingdom. 
To denote his own faltering mood, Dante compares 
himself to the little stork : — 

£ quale il cicognin che leva V ala 
Per voglia dt volar, e non s' attenta 
jy aiiandonar lo nida, e giu la cola ; 
Tal era io con voglia accesa e spenta 
Di domandar, venendo irtfin aW atta 
Che fa coluich' a dicer i' argomenta} 

And as the little stork that lifts its wing 
With a desire to fly and does not venture 
To leave the nest, and lets it downward droop. 
Even such was I, with ihe desire of asking 
Kindled and quenched, unto the motion coming 
He makes who doth address himself to speak. 

— Longfellow. 
> Ptirg. XXV, 10-15. 

The Pelicam 

Pit Pelieane, Jesu Domine, 
Mf immundum munda ttio sanguine 
Cuius una slilla salvum facere 
Totum quit ab omni mundum seelere .' ' 

Thus in a hymn St. Thomas Aquinas not only em- 
bodies a fable once believed by all, but offers an example 
of a fashion common in the devout literature of the 

' Ciled by Hippeal'. Bisliaire d' Amour, p. 128. Translation. 
* Pioias Pelican, Lord Jesus, undean as I am, cleanse me with thy 
blood, oDC drop of which can redeem me and wash away every sin.* 


Middle Ages. What, then, is the nature of this fable? 
The pelican, in order to regurgitate the food which it 
brings to its young, presses its beak against the food- 
carrying pouch, and the pouch against its breast. Thus 
the food is squeezed up and out for the clamouring little 
pelicans, which, in their hunger, might easily seem to a 
careless observer to be using their great clumsy beaks 
against the parent bird. On the basis of this natural 
occurrence arose a legend believed everywhere and by 
probably all for fully fifteen hundred years.' Alexander 
Neckam's version will serve as a type containing all 
that is essential to understand the lines in Dante. 

'Now th*e nature and the customs of that bird,' says 
Neckam, 'are wont to be referred to Christ Himself. 
This bird slays its young, and the transgression of 
the command given by our Lord to our first parents 
caused them to incur death. Verily all the posterity of 
Adam were slain ; for they were given over to pun- 
ishment and to death. Three days the pelican mourns 
for its young, and for three days of His passion, in a 
certain way, the Lord mourned for His own. This bird 
opened its side and sprinkled its young with blood. So, 
too, from the opened side of our Lord flowed out the 
sacrament of our redemption.' 

Vita aUrna, Drus, mortem gustavit ad horam, 
Ut miser aterttum vivere possit home? 

' In almost every version of the Pftysiologm both in Latin and in 
the vulgar tongues, by Brunetlo Latioi, p. 317 ff.. by St. Epiphanus, 
Isidor of Sevilk, Vincent of Geauvais, Hugo of St. Victor, and A 
thousand others, clerics and laymen, poets and encydopcdista. 

* Wright's ed., pp, 1 18-1 19. 


Beatrice says of St. John the Evangelist : — 

Questi i colui cfu giaeque sepra it petto 

Del nostra Peilicano, e questifue 

D' in sulia eroce a! grande offiiio eltilo} 

This is the one who lav upon the breast 

Of ] id this is he 

To t the cross elected. 


Is Dante I n when he takes the 

Pelican as a , Christ? The ; 

may be given orist,' writes Didron, ' 

symbolised by ti ill by the lamb; but He 

is only figured by w,^ , .. The pelican opening his 

heart to feed his young with his blood is the figure of 
Jesus who shed in death all the blood in His veins to 
redeem men. But never does the pelican bear a nimbus, 
much less a cruciferous nimbus. Never in the court of 
heaven does the pelican represent Jesus Christ, nor 
attend in that quality on the events which there come 
to pass.' 

^ Parad. XXV, 113-114. 

' Iconographie Chrilicnni, p. 350. The febulous pelican may be 
seen in hundreds of medieval illiimin.itions and was often carved 
on churches. A lectern composed chiefly of a pelican rending its 
br(?ast may be seen in a church at Haarlem and in that of Sle. Anne 


The Swan 

In an eclogue addressed to the pedant Giovanni del 
Virgilio, Dante models his style after Virgil, but he intro- 
duces an allusion obviously borrowed from Ovid's Meta- 
morphoses. Necessarily our poet's thoughts were forced 
into the channels suggested by the vocabulary and liter- 
ary traditions of the old Latin tongue. If, then, Dante 
introduces a touch of animal life, there is no occasion 
for seeking an observation of his own, but we should 
expect only what we get, — the faint, far echo of a few 
verses read in Ovid, and as barren of originality or life 
in Ovid's lines as in those of Dante. 

Alphesibceus, a mouth-piece borrowed from Virgil 
(£f/. V, 73 ; Vni, i), e.vpresses his wonder that Mopsus 
likes a certain spot, though he can quite understand 
'why the snowy birds, joyful in the mildness of heaven 
and in the marshy valley, like to make Cayster resound.' 

Qu0d Hbeal niveis aviius resonare Caystrum 
Temperie ceeli latis, et valk palustri. 

— Oxford Dante, p. 189, vss. 18-19. 

Obviously the idea is based on these verses (with a 
change of application due to some allegory no longer 
clear) : — 

/Estual Alpketis, ripa Sperch^'ides ardent, 
Quodque iua Tagus amnt vthit, fiuit ignibus aurum ; 



El qua Maonia celebrabant carmine ripas 
Fluminea volucres, medio ealuere Caystro} 

— Met. II, 350-153. 
And on these: — 

Haud procul Hennais laeus est a mcenibus alta, 

J\'omine P e " — - ^'''- Ulo plura Caystros 

Carmina r; audit in undis? 

—vWtf/.V, 385-387. 

The swans 
Flaccus (6, « 
says : — 

Qua tarn 

^ so they are in Valerius 
and Silvius (13, n6) 

anteirit oUres. 

' She who in whiteness surpasses the snow, in white- 
ness would surpass the swans,' 

No epithet was ever more obvious or oftener used 
than 'snow-white' of the swan. 'The swan,' declares 
Isidor of Seville, 'is so called because his feathers are 
all white, for no one remembers a black swan,'* — and 
Brunetto Latini* copies him. Of the old poets, Horace 

' ' The Alpheus seethes, the banks of Spercheos glow, and the gold 
that the Tngus bears in its torrent rolls in flames ; and the river birds 
that had been wont to throng singing on the Msonian banks were 
scorched in mid Cayster.' 

' ' Not far from Henna's walls is a deep lake, called Fergus. More 
songs of swans the Caystros never hears on its gliding waves.' 

^ EtymoL Xil, vii, 18, 'Olor autem dictus, quod sit totus plumis 
albis; nullus enim meminit cygnum nigrum.' 

' Tresor, p. 213. Brunetto mentions also the beauty of its death 
song, a myth accepted by Horace (Od. IV. 2. 25), Ovid (Heroid. 
VI 1, 1-2), and by the ■ Physiologiis," but doubted by Pliny ('Olonim 
morte narralur flebilis cantus, falso ul arbitror, aliquot experi- 
roentis.' Nat. Hist. 10, 32). 


only seems to apply another hue.^ He speaks of gleam- 
ing swans. 'What/ cries Alexander Neckam, *what 
shall we say of the swan, which seems to be clad in its 
tender age in a dusky hue, but ere long changes to a 
dazzling whiteness ? Even thus some seem first to be 
darkened by a cloud of sin, and afterward are clad in 
the spiritual raiment of the dazzling whiteness of inno- 

Dante remembers the swan on wishing to describe 
the wings of an angel : — 

Con r alt aperte che parean di cigno? 
With opened wings that seemed those of a swan. 

Dante must have been thinking of a white swan, and 
therefore of a white-winged angel. Swans were always 
white till travellers in South America came upon a black- 
necked kind, and further upset Noah's zoology by find- 
ing in Australia a swan wholly black. Swans are now 
exclusively white only in literature. 

iC>^. IV, 1, 10:— 

' Tempestivius in domum 
Pauli, purpureis ales oloribus, 
Comissabere Maximi 
Si torrere iecur quaeris idoneum.' 

' In fitter season, if thou wouldst set a ready heart on fire shalt thou 
enter revelling the house of Paulus Maximus, borne on wings of 
gleaming swans.^ Servius explains this purpureis to mean simply 
< beautiful,^ ^ purpureum, pulchrum ut Horatius : purpureis ales olori- 
bus.^ Cited by L. MUller, Haraiiusj p. 344. 

« Ed. by Wright, p. loi. 

' Purg. XIXy 46. See chapter on ' The Angels,^ p. 28. 

The Blackbird 

Though Dante, in a didactic mood, twice ' denies that 
any bird can speak, he has adopted a pretty legend, 
current, no doubt, before his time. A commentator 
so early as Benvenuto da Imola catches the point of 
Dante's allusion, and a story in the background is told 
by the Florentine Francesco Sacchetti,' who relates that 
'a blackbird had found shelter in a house during the 
winter. When a fine day came at the end of January 
(such days are known in Lombardy as gionii di mcrla) 
he began to rejoice, and flew away from his master 
singing, " Sir, I care for thee no more, for I am out of 
the winter " ; but soon he repented, because the cold set 
in again, and so he knew that the spell of fair weather 
was not spring.' ' 

Sapia, a lady of Siena, refers to the insolent black- 
bird in a charmingly natural way. Not long after 
Sapia's prayer to God to do His will, her enemies were 
put to flight by her fellow-citizens near Colle ; and this 
lady gloated beyond measure at the chase. 

' Coitv. Ill, vii, 104-107, and Di V. E. I, ii, 52-56- 

* A.D. 1330-1399. 

* Quoted from Vernon, Readingt, Purg. I, pp. 339. Sacchetti 
in nov. 149 (Fraiicelli's ' Aotica Novella') uses die words, 'Dotnine, 
pill non ti euro, ch£ uscito son dal veroo.' For a long article on 
Dante's blackbird, see Luisi, in GiornaU Dattlesio, Vlll, 109. 


Rottifur quivi, e volti tiegS amari 
Passi difuga, e neggeniio la (accia, 
Lefiiia presi a tutU altre liisfari; 
Tanlo ch' ia vohi in su /' arditafacda, 
Gridando a Dio : 'Omai piii non ti temo' ; 
Come fa il merlo per poca bonaccia} 

Routed were they, and turned into the bitter 
Passes of flight ; and I, the chase beholding, 
A joy received unequalled by all others ; 
So that I lifted upward my bold face, 
Crying to God : ' Henceforth I fear thee not,' 
As did * the blackbird at the little sunshine. 

— Longfellow. 

Though the male blackbird has a few sweet, mellow 
notes, his colour and his habit of living alone gave him, 
no doubt, this half-devilish reputation. In the legend 
adopted by Dante he seems to have defied God; to 
St. Benedict he incarnated the demon,' 

'/^rf. xrii, 118-123. 

' Some MSS. read/if'. Whether we choose /«' 
is equally proverbia]. 

' In ihe dialogues of St. Gregory b told this storj' : ' St. Bene- 
dict, happening one day to be alone, saw come to him a lillle black- 
bird vulgarly called merle, which began to fluller about him, striking 
him in the face with its wings. The saint might easily have laid 
hold of the bird, but drove it off with the sign of the c 
days afterward he was a prey to such violent emotions that he could 
undo their effect only by casting himself quite naked upon the net- 
tles and briers that he found about his cell,' etc. Cf. Hippeau, 
Beiliaire d^ Amour, p. 110. The blackbird of St. Benedict was, of 
course, the liend. 

The Magpie 

In the worl 
Ovid's Metati 
magpies are r 
that he refers 
the invocation 

quentia} Dante names 
place where speaking 
lerefore, safe to assume 
rsion " of the legend in 

A nsurga, 

O vestro seno, 

E qui Calliope alquanto surga, 
Seguilando il mio canto con quel suono, 
Di cui le Piche misere sentiro 
Lo colpo tal eke disperar perdono? 

But let dead Poesy here rise again, 
O holy Muses, since that I am yours, 
And here Calliope somewhat ascend, 
My song accompanying with that sound 
Of which the miserable magpies felt 
The blow so great that they despaired of pardon. 
— Longfellow, 

Without Ovid's description Dante's reference Js en- 
tirely incomprehensible.* Now the nine daughters of 

' De V. E. I. ii. 52-66. 

^ Mel. V. 294 ff.; also 662-678. * Piirg. 1. 7-!!. 

* Scartaiiini's note on Purg. 1. 11. is one evidence only of the 

adulation to which many admirers of D.inte have come. Dante's 

verses on the "Piche" demand acquaintance with the mythological 

episode, which alone gives them any meaning. 




Pierius, king of Thessaly, challenged the Muses to a 
trial of skill at song. Being vanquished, all nine were 
changed into magpies, whose fate and sorrows Ovid 
describes in his Metamorphoses. It is to these myth- 
ological magpies that Dante alludes in the treatise 
De Vulgari Eloquentia^ where he wishes to show that 
Ovid is speaking figuratively when he describes talking 

1 Cf. note I. Cf. also Conv. Ill, vii, 107, where Dante also refers 
to the parrot 

The Rook or Daw — La Pola 

The author of the oldest Provencal poem at present 
known, ^ having possibly mistaken an uncial Q in his 
manuscript of Boethius for an uncial A, read avibus in- 
stead of qiiibiis, and then proceeded to describe how 
Boethius beheld a hundred thousand birds mounting a 
ladder toward heaven. Some (the souls of those who 
had sinned too deeply) had to come down again; but 
the virtuous, having risen to 0, the mystic letter at the 
top of the ladder beheld by Boethius on the gown of 
Damosel Philosophy, are redeemed, and, changing hue, 
become beloved of the Damosel.* Though it may be 
that Dante neither made the same error, nor yet knew 
any version of the Provencal poem, it nevertheless is 
true that in the Seventh Heaven the poet, accompanied 
by Beatrice (the embodiment of Theology), beheld a 
heavenly ladder on which angels were descending. No 

' Text in PAUL Mevek's Recueil, pp. 23-32- Choix. II, pp. 4-39. 

' The misread sentence in Boethius is this : Aique inter utrasque 
litteras in scalanim modum gndus quidam insigniti videbantur, qui- 
bus ab ioferiore ad siiperiusclementum esse! adscensus. 'And between 
the two letters [seen on the gown of Philosophy] some steps like 
those of ladders were clearly seen, whereon the ascenl was made from 
the lower to the higher element.' For this explanation of the birds 
in the Provencal Boethius, see article by, Quelien dts 
alttsttn prouensalischtH Gedichtts, in the SiUuHgslxrUIUf of the 
Munich Acid, of Sdences, 1870, pp. 176-177. 




doubt this is Jacob's ladder ; ' yet in the background of 
the poet's memory there may have been another idea — 
a reminiscence, perhaps, of the Provencal Boethius, or 
of some similar poem. 

Though to Dante's mind those who descended the 
ladder were beaming angels, they suggest to him an 
image of the flight of rooks at dawn. 

Di colvr d' oro, in che raggio traluce, 
Vid' to una uako ereHo in suso 
Tanlo, eke nol segiiiva la mia luce. 
Vidi anco per It gradt scender gitiso 
Tanti splendor, ch' io pensai eh' ogni lume 
Che par ntl del quindi fosse diffiiso. 
E come, per lo natural costume, 
Le pole^ insitme, al cominciar del gictmo. 
Si movono a scaldar le fredde piume ; 

' See Genesis xxviii. ii. 

' Pole, now Qbsolele io Tuscan save in a proverb, is used by the 
Venetians (so G. di Mirafiore says) to designate a taccoLi or daw. 
Benvenuto da Imola renders, 'the magpie or something similar,' 
'/iT pole, qux sunt de genere picarum.' Lubin, Fraticellt, and 
Scartazzini say ' cornacchie' ; Giuseppe Campi says 'cornacchia,' 
' mitlacchia' i Andreoli, 'dette anche mulacchie e piu comunemente 
cornacchu} Philalethes translates * Krahn.' In my opinion the word 
pola is derived from cornix pauia, as sandier, by the same well- 
known dropping of the noun, is derived from parens singnlaris. 
Cornix paula = cornicula or, rather * cornacula, whence coruae- 
chia. No etymology for pala is registered in Korting, LateinisiA' 
Romanisckes Worterbuch, 2d ed. As to the meaning of pola, Ihe 
following definitions are given ; cornacchia, mulacciia, taccola, and, 
finally, in his Opere Div. 90, Franc. Sacchetii attributes to the pola 
essentially the characteristics attributed by the ' Physiologus ' to ihe 
uptipa. hoopoe or lapwing. The weight of testimony indirates that 
the bird is either the rook or the daw. The word pola seems to 
have had more than one owner in Dante's time. 


Pot allre vanno via sensa rifomo, 
Allre rivolgon si, onde son mosse, 
Ed altre roteandofan soggiorno; 
Tal modo parve a me che quivifoste 
In quelle sfavillar the insieme venne. 
Si come in certo grado sipertosse^ 

Coloured like gold on which the sunshine gleams, 
A stairway I beheld to such a height 
Uplifted that mine eye pursued it not. 
Likewise beheld I down the steps descending 
So many splendours that 1 thought each light 
That in the heaven appears was there diffused. 
And as accordant with iheir natural custom 
The rooks together at the break of day 
Bestir themselves to warm their feathers cold; 
Then some of them fly off without return. 
Others come back to where they started from, 
And others wheeling round still keep at home, 
Such fashion it appeared to me was there 
Within the sparkling that together came 
As soon as on a certain step it struck. 


Hard though it be for the undated sceptic of these 
days even for a moment to force into the mind's eye 
any vision of these variously moving angelic ' splen- 
dours,' the image from nature has all the undiminished 
beauty of truth. Rooks and daws are not, however, the 
only birds that shake the chilly wetness out of their 
feathers at dawn. In the second song of Helgi, Sigrun 
utters her joy over her well-beloved husband by com- 
paring it to the joy felt by Odin's hawks, when, at early 
' Parad. XXI, 28-41. 



dawn, they sit in the wood, dripping with dew. 'Nu,' 
she cries, ' em ek svS fegin sem atfrekir OSin's haukar, 
er dbglitir dagsbrCln sia!' (Now I am as happy as 
Odin's greedy hawks, when, dripping with dew, they 
see the brow of day.)^ 

So, in a passage read by Dante,^ Virgil -tells how the 
rook, soaked by showers, calls out harshly, and hovers 
about alone over the dry sand. And Selby describes 
how starlings, ' before they retire to rest, . . . perform 
various manosuvres in the air, the whole frequently de- 
scribing rapid revolutions around a common centre. 
This peculiar flight will sometimes continue for nearly 
an hour before they become finally settled for the night 
Upon the approach of spring they spread themselves 
over the whole country.'* 

There is a certain likeness between Dante's phrase 
and Virgil's, but a likeness forced by nature ; for if two 
men observe nature understandingly in any single phe- 
nomenon, the result of their observation is destined to 
be similar in tone, if not in the mere accident of words. 
If there be one simile in Dante for which he owes no 
debt, it is this lively description of the chilly rooks shak- 
ing themselves to get some warming blood into their 
wings, then wheeling and flying away, or settling down 
in the same spot, as they happen to be inclined, — a di- 

' Cited by Luning, Die Natur in der allgermaniscken und miiul- 
hochiUulschfn Efiik, p. 171. 

' Cf. Edw. Moore, Studies in Dante, First Series, p. 344. 
' Turn cotnix plena pluvium vocal improba voce, 
El sola in Jicca Hcum spalialur harena.' Gearg. 1, 388-3B9. 
• Id WHrra's Nat. Hist, of Selborne, note by editor to letter 


versity of purpose and of actions entirely at variance 
with our author's dogma that all animals of the same 
species act in a uniform manner.^ No, it is hardly the 
dogmatist that is speaking here, but rather the poet who 
rebuked those sterile rimesters, Bonagiunta of Lucca, 
the Notary, r-^ ^-!^--- -r "rezzo, in these majestic 
verses : — 

who, whenever 
Love dl md in that measuie 

Which h singing go.* 

It is from r K can get new images, 

new truths. ere cohwebs and dust. 

To think of I d, wet grove or wood at 

dawn, watching keenly every movement of these birds 
as they bestir themselves for the business of another 
day, certainly starts a new train of speculation. 

■ See De V. E. I, ii, 36-37. ' Purg. XXIV, 52-54. 


The Phenix 

Dante saw this miracle in Hell. A thief, having been 
bitten by a demoniacal serpent, burnt to ashes quicker 
than you could write O or I. Then, like the phenix, 
he came to life again in his old form. 

N^ O St tosto mat, ni I si scrisse, 
ConC ei s* accese ed arse, e cener tutto 
Convenne che cascando divenisse : 
E pot che fu a terra si disfrut/o, 
La pokier si raccolse per sh stessa, 
E in quel medesmo ritomb di butto : 
Cosl per li gran savi si confessa ^ 
Che la Fenice more e poi rinasce, 
Quando al cinquecentesimo anno appressa, 
Erba n^ biado in sua vita non pasce. 
Ma sold* incenso lagrime ed amomo ; ' 
E nardo e mirra son V ulHme fasce? 

Never was O nor I more swiftly penned 
Than, sinking down, all ashes he became ! 
As soon as thus dissolved in dust he fell. 
Straightway the ashes gathered from the earth 

1 Cf. this verse with /«/. XXIX, 63, where Dante tells of the ants 
from whose seed arose the new people in iCgina : — 

' Secondo che i poeti hanno per fenno.* 

* Literally (according to Toynbee's text), * but only tears of in- 
cense and amomum.^ • Tnf, XXIV, loo-iii. 



To their old figure : thus great sages tell 

The phenix dies, then hath a second birth. 

About the term of her five hundred years, 

Through which on no green herb nor Uade she feeds, 

But incense only and the amomum's tears. 

While myrrh and spikenard form her funeral weeds. 

— Parsons. 

Though our poet says, * Cosi per li gran savi si con- 
fessa ' (thus by the g^eat sages is avowed), he borrows 
this tale without the shadow of a doubt from Ovid*s 

How did the phenix look? Albert of Bollstadt, 
Bishop of Ratisbon, knows to the minutest detail; yet 
he squints at the story like a heretic. Here are his 
views : * That the bird Phenix dwells in Eastern Arabia 

1 Lib. XV, 392-402 : — 

* Una est, quae reparet seque ipsa reseminet, ales : 
Assyrii phcenica vocant Non fruge neque herbis, 
Sed turis lacrimis et suco vivit amomL 
Haec ubi quinque siue complevit saxula vitse, 
Ilids in ramis tremulaeve cacumine palmae 
Unguibus et puro nidum sibi constniit ore. 
Quo simul ac casias et nardi lenis aristas 
Quassaque cum fulva sutetravit cinnama muira, 
Se superimponit, finitque in odoribus aevum. 
Inde ferunt. totidem qui vivere debeat annos, 
Corpore de patrio parvum phoenica renasd.* etc 

That Dante borrowed the story from Ovid will be obvious to who- 
ever reads the description of other * gran savi,' e.g. Solinus, Poiyh. 
33; Pliny, Nat. Hist. X, 2; Isidor of Se\7LLE, EtymoL XII, 
vii, 22 ; Statius, Silv. II, 4 ; Bruxetto Latixi, Tresor, p. 214. 

Ovid and Pliny seem to have done most to form medieval opinion 
as to this thaumaturgic pheasant-like bird. Pliny avers that he got 
his information from Manilius, a senator of vast learning. Pliny 
evidently believes the tale; so does Brunetto Latini. Dante, like 
Albertus Magnus, seems not to believe. 


is written by those who look rather into mystic the- 
ology than into nature. They say, indeed, that this 
bird without a male or mingling of sexes is the only one 
of its kind and liveth 340 years alone. It is further- 
more, as they say, of an eagle's size, with a head like a 
peacock, and tufted cheeks. About the neck it gleams 
with a golden splendour, has a long tail of a brilliant 
hue {Jfurpurei coloris\ dotted with certain rose-tinted 
feathers, as the peacock's tail is decked with certain 
eye-shaped orbs. And this variety is of wondrous 

Having described how the phenix bums up at Heli- 
opolis, then rises from its own ashes quick and whole, 
the bishop thus concludes, *As Plato saith, not by us 
are to be calumniated those things which are set down 
in the books of holy shrines.' ^ 

There was, as Ovid says, but one phenix in the 
world. This is why Dante exclaims in his letter to 
the Italian cardinals, * But, O Fathers, deem me not the 
phenix of the universe; for, what I am chattering 
about, all are murmuring or thinking or dreaming.' * 

^ De Animalibus, lib. XXIII, tract, unicus. The version of 
Albertus Magnus is repeated almost word for word by Benvenuto da 

* Epist, VIII, viii, 122-123 : * Sed, o Patres, ne me phcenicem 
aestimetis in orbe terrarum. Omnes enim, quse garrio, murmurant 
aut cogitant, aut somniant^ C£ first line of citation in note i, p. 310. 

The Swallow 

Whether or not the proverb, ' One swallow does not 
make a summer/ was first written down by Aristotle, it is 
in Aristotle ^ that Dante found it ; for, to point an argu- 
ment, Dante says in his Convivial *Stccome dice il mio 
maestro Aristotile nel primo delV Etica^ "una nmdine 
nonfa pritnavera^' ' — * as my master, Aristotle, says in 
the first book of the Ethics^ ** one swallow does not make 

It is again from a Greek, and not a Latin source that 
Dante draws, in alluding to the hour when Philomela 
grieves. The Latin poets commonly changed Philomela 
into a swallow, and Procne into a nightingale, whereas 
the Greeks got the legend the other way.' Dante 
dreamt when dreams are almost divine : — 

Near to the dawning and about the hour 
When first the little swallow 'gins her sad lays, 
Mayhap remembering afresh her ancient woes. 

NeJT ora che comincia i trisH lai 
La rondinella presso alia matHna 
Forse a memoria de* suoi primi guai} 

1 Aristotle, Ethics^ I, vii, i6 (1098 a, 18). See Edw. Moore, 
Studies in Dante^ First Series, p. 376. • I, ix, 60-62. 

■ See Tozer's (x>mmeot on Purg. IX, 15. In Purg. XVII, 19-20, 
Dante identifies Procne with the nightingale. ^ Purg. IX, 13-15. 




Thus the twittering swallow sings 'lays/ like the 
cranes;^ yet here the swallow's feigned reminiscence 
of a human existence undoubtedly influenced Dante's 
conception of the swallow's song. 

The poet strikes a truer note when he breaks out at 
his adversaries that it would be better for them to fly 
low, like a swallow, than, like a kite, to sweep in lofty 
circles over things most vile.* 

1 See chapter on * The Crane,' pp. 283-284. 

* Conv, IV, vi, 187-190, *Meglio sarebbe a voi, come rondine 
volare basso, che come nibbio altissime rote fare sopra cose vilissime.* 
See chapter on *The Kite,' p. 253. 


The Goose 

Among the usurers in Hell (whom Dante recognised 
only by their family blazons, painted on certain pouches 
that hung from their necks) the poet saw a member of 
the Florentine Ubbriachi and saw his arms. 

Vidine urC altra come sangiu rossa 
Mostrare urC oca bianca piU che burro} 

Another of them saw I, red as blood 
Display a goose more white than butter is. 

— Longfellow. 

Jacopo della Lana, Buti, and Benvenuto da Imola all 
agree as to this coat of arms, but Benvenuto is obviously 
* calling names ' when he says, * That goose, a greedy 
bird, drank the blood of many. ' Dante hardly meant to 

To those who, without art or science but trusting to 
their inborn genius alone, break forth in an endeavour 
to sing loftily the loftiest things, our poet satirically 
recommends to refrain from such presumption, and if 
they are geese through their natural sluggishness let 
them not imitate the star-sweeping eagle!* 

1 /«/. XVII, 62-63. 

• De V, E. II, iv, 77-82, *Et ideo confiteatur eonim stultitia, qui 
arte scientiaque immunes, de solo ingenio confidentes, ad summa 
summe canenda prorumpunt ; a tanta praesuntuositate desistant, et 
si anseres natural! desidia sunt, nolint astripetam aquilam imitari.^ 




^1 There is more vitality in Dante's allusion to the 'goose' 

^P that saved Rome ; for here the goose is conceived to be 

^1 an agent of God, acting miraculously. In his conviction 

^P of Rome's divine destiny Dante cries, ' Did not God 

take a hand when the Frenchmen, having captured all 

Rome, were stealing upon the Capitol by night, and only 

the voice of a goose caused their coming to be known ? ' ' 

Again, in the treatise De Moiiarchia, he refers to this 

occurrence, but the goose has assumed an angelic trait : 

it had never been seen there before ! 

' Livy,' declares Dante, ' and many illustrious writers 
bear harmonious testimony that when the Gauls, having 
taken the rest of the city and relying on the darkness, 
were stealthily climbing the Capitol, which alone remained 
to spare the Roman name from total destruction, a goose, 
never before seen there, cried that the Gauls were at 
hand, and awoke the guardians to the defence of the 
Capitol.'" Thus, then, our author not only makes 
the goose a worker of miracles, — quite like Balaam's 
ass and many saints, — but the goose is alone. 

e 2). Cf. also Virgil, 
' Argutos inter strepere 

Cf. CoHV. IV, vi, 187-190 (cited, p. 313, n 
Gtorg. 1, 119, — and, better still, £f/. IX, 36, ' 
anser olores.' 

' CoHV. IV, V, 160-164, 'E nonpose Iddio le mani proprie. quando 
li Franceschi, tutta Roma presa, prendeano di furlo Campidoglio di 
notte, e solamente la voce d'un' oca fe' ci6 sentiref ' 

* Dt Man. II, Iv, 43-49, ' Quumque Galli, reliqua urbe iam capla, 
noctis tenebris confisi, Capitolium fiirtim subireni, quod solum res- 
tabal ad ullimum interitum Romani DomJnis, anserem, ibi Don ante 
visum, cecinisse Gallos adesse, atque cuslodes ad defeDsaDdum Capi- 
tolium eicitaase, Livius et mulii scripiores illustres coocorditer con- 
testantur.' See Edw. Moore, Studies, First Series, p. 375 (2). 
Dante himself quotes Virgil's lines containing the argenUus aniir 
{DeMoM. II, iv, 56-57). 


The Cock 

Lo gallo si i uno potto ^ lo qual H omeni del mondo 
pb imprender verasi esenpU} — Tusco- Venetian Bestiary? 

Although the cock never became so common a basis 
for moralisation as the lion, the viper, and many other 
animals, his reputation passed imscathed through the 
Middle Ages. On a shrine of St Taurin of Evreux the 
cock figures as the emblem of a lady (Liberality) who is 
scattering coins from a golden vase.' St. Ambrose* 
has this to say : * The crow of the cock is sweet at 
night and useful, too; for, like a good neighbour, he 
not only awakens the sleeper, but he warns the busy man, 
and comforts the wayfarer, crying out the passage of 
night with a cheerful meaning. At his voice the thief 
quits his wiles, and Dawn, awakened, lights up the 
heavens. At his voice the dreading sailor throws his 
sadness by, and oft the storm, driven up by the breath 
of evening, becomes mild. He urges to prayer, gives 
hope, lessens the pain of wounds, the burning of fever, 

^ Translation, ^ The code is a fowl that can teach the men of the 
world truthful examples.^ This bestiary gives the code an ezcdlent 
reputation, pp. 19-20. 

* Edited by Goldstaub and Wendriner. Halle, 1892. 
■ See Cahier, Milanges^ II, 31. 

* HexameroHy lib. V, cap. 88. 



r restores to Jesus the faith of backsliders,^ sets the erring 
right again. The cock's crow warned Peter of his stn,' 
Dante, meeting his beloved Nino in Purgatory, hears 
Nino chide his wife Beatrice for having married, on 
Nino's death, Galeazzo of Milan. Now this Galeazzo 
belonged to the Visconti, who bore in their arms a viper,' 
whereas Nino was of the Pisan Giudici (governors) of 
Gallura in Sardinia, and the Giudici bore in their arms a 
cock on a shield tierced in bend, azure, argent, and gules.* 
Thus to an emblem of heraldry Dante transfers the tra- 
ditionally good reputation of the cock, which he ob- 
viously contrasts with the ill fame of the viper. Since 
it was an almost universal custom to carve the arms of 
great nobles on their tombs, the words that Dante makes 
him utter about his wife are clear : — 

Per lei assai di lieve si comprende. 
Quanta in Jemmina foco d' amor dura, 
St i' occhio o il talto spesio non I' accemie. 
Non le /ard si bella sepollura 
La vipera (he i Milanesi accampa. 
Com' avria fatto ilgalio di Gallura* 

Through her full easily is comprehended 
How long in woman lasts the fire of love. 
If eye or touch do not relight it often. 
So fair a hatchment will not make for her 
The viper marshalling the Milanese 
Afield, as would have made Gallura's cock. 

— Longfellow. 

^ An obvious reminiscence of Matthew xxvi, 34. 

' See chapter on ■ Serpents,' pp. 332-333- 

' See Woodward, Heraldry, British and Foreign, vol. I, p. 96. 

*/*«r^. Vni,7fr-8i. 


In these fictitious words of Nino Dante has blended 
a popular tradition with an heraldic emblem. Semblance 
of nature is still more remote when the poet turns to the 
cock of a so-called iEsopic fable : E da notare^ eke siecome 
dice nostra Signore^ nan si deono le margarite gittare in- 
nansi ai porci ; perocchi a loro non i prode^ e alle mar- 
f^arite i danno ; e^ come dice Esopo poeta nella prima 
Favola^piti iprode al gallo un granello di grano^ eke una 
margarita ; e perh questa lascia, e quello ricoglie,^ 
* It is to be observed that, as our Lord says, pearls 
should not be cast before swine, for to them it is 
of no profit and it is harmful to the pearls ; and, as 
i£sop says in the first fable, of more profit to the cock 
is a grain of com than a pearl ; and therefore he will 
leave the pearl to pick up the com.' 

Two points in this statement by Dante give a clew to 
the source of Dante's version of the fable of the Cock and 
the Pearl. First, iEsop figures as a poet; secondly, Dante 
says the * first ' fable. Although the fable of the Cock 
and the Pearl is the twelfth of the third book of Phaedrus, 
this fable appears as the first in the collection of Romu- 
lus, a Caroling^an writer, who offers the following ver- 
sion:^ In sterquilinio quidam gallinacius dum querit 
escam invenit margaritam in indigno loco iacentem, 
Quam ut vidit^ sic ait: Bona res in stercore iaces, Te si 
cupidus invenisset, quo gaudio rapuissety ut redires ad 
splendorem pristinum decoris tui. Ego te inveni in koc 
loco iacentem ; potius mihi escam quero. Nee tibi ego 

* Conv, IV, XXX, 36-44. 

* Oesterley, Romulus j Berlin, 1870; Hervieux, Fabulistes La- 
tinsy 2d ed., Paris, 1894, vol. II, p. 195. 

^M presuT, 

■ A r 

H ably ir 



Prosum nee tu mihi. Hec illis jEsopus narrat qui non 

A metrical version in elegiac distichs, written prob- 
ably in the twelfth century, to be found in the collec- 
tion of fables called Anonymus NeveUtt, which is now 
ascribed to one Walter of England and various others, 
reads as follows : — 

Dum rigido/odit ore fitnum, dum qutrilat escam, 

Dum ilupet inventa iaspide gallus, ait : 

Ret vili preciosa loco natique nitoris, 

Sac in lorde iacem nil mihi messis ha&ei, etc' 

' Since this last occurs in the most widely known 
fable book of the Middle Ages,' writes McKenzie,' "we 
should expect Dante to have been familiar with it, and 
his phrase Esopo poela seems to indicate that he, at 
least, knew some metrical version ; yet, since he uses 
the somewhat rare word margarita, and not one corre- 
sponding to iaspide, it seems likely that he had here the 
version of Romulus in mind. Perhaps he knew both 
Romulus and Anonymus Neveleti and quoting from 
memory combined the two ; or he may have been in- 
fluenced in his choice of words by the Vulgate's, Nolite 
dare sanctum canibus ; neque mittatis margaritas vestras 
ante porcos, etc. (Matthew vii, 6). 

' The old Italian versions, which are prose translations 
from the Anonymus Neveleti and from Marie de France, 
have una pietra preziosa ; thus, even if old enough to 

' Hervieux, op. cil. vol. 11, p. 316, 

' Kenneth McKenzie, Dante's Reftrencts to jEsoP, from the 
Sevtntttntk Annual Report of tht Dante Society, Boston, I90OL 


have been known to Dante, they did not influence his 
conception of the fable.' 

Of twenty-seven Italian manuscripts of i£sopic fables 
examined in Italy ,^ some seven' g^ve first the fable of 
the Cock and the Jewel All these manuscripts are 
later than Dante's version. Marie de France seems to 
have been translated into Italian in the second half of 
the fourteenth century. Now Marie's Iscpet g^ves the 
fables otherwise in the branch called Q than in any other 
branch, and five of the manuscripts under Q g^ve first 
the Cock and the Jewel; so in Wamke's Marie? Never- 
theless we have, as has been shown above, evidence that 
Dante did not derive his fable of the Cock and the Pearl 
from Marie de France. 

1 Murray Brush, Th€ Isopo Laurenzianoy Baltimore, June, 1898, 
and Columbus, Ohio (Lawrence Press), 1899. 

* op. cit, p. 66. 

* Die Fabeln der Marie de Franccy Niemeyer, Halle, 1898, p. 6^ 
' De Gallo et Gemma.^ 

The Dragon 

Thz Bishop of Ratisbon mentions various kinds of 
dragons that live in Nubia, Ethiopia, and India, where 
they are sometimes more than thirty ells long. These 
dragons have black and yellowish faces, a mouth of 
great amplitude, eyebrows that cover their eyes, and 
scales on the neck. Avicenna, an Arabian philosopher 
of Ispahan in Persia, saw one with long, thick hair that 
hung down its neck like a horse's mane. 

Dragons, continues the bishop, have three teeth in 
the upper and a like number in the lower jaw, long and 
sticking out.^ Isidor of Seville, also a bishop, differs 
as to the mouth, which he declares to be small and fitted 
with close-set tubes, through which the dragon breathes 
and sticks out his tongue.' Most authorities, however, 
are of opinion that the dragon's strength is not in his 
teeth, but in his tail,^ 

Another characteristic is that when the dragon gets 
hot he cools off on elephants" blood.* As to dragons 
that emerge from caves and fly aloft, breathing out 

' Alaertus Magnus, Dt Animal, lib. XXIV, tract, unicus. 

' IsiDOR, Elymol. XII, iv, 4. 

* Isidor, /«.«;(. ; Hugo of St. Victor, 0« ^«//u, 11, 24; Bru- 
METTO Latini, TrtsoT, p. 193. See also Oltitno Commento on Inf. 
XXV, 19. * Albertus Magnus, loc. at. 


quick flames, the Bishop of Ratisbon differs from the 
Bishop of Seville, going so far as to declare the thing 
impossible, miless the reference be to certain meteors 
called dragons, which are enkindled high up, then come 
hissing down into the water, roaring like white-hot iron.^ 
Finally (and here the most substantial authorities are at 
one), finally, the dragon has a crest or tuft on his head, 
and is the biggest serpent in the world. 

Dante saw two dragons, one in Purgatory and another 
in Hell. Among the thieves there appeared suddenly a 
Centaur, Cacus, hotly piu^uing a thief. 

Ed io vidi un Centauro pien di rabbia 
Venir chiamando : * Oif ^, ov^ e V acerbo f ' 
Maremma non cred* io che tante tC abbia 
Quante biscU egU avea su per la grappa^ 
Infin dove comincia nostra labbia. 
Sopra U spaile, dietro dalla coppa\ 
Con V alt aperte gU giacea un draco^ 
E quello affoca qualunque s* intoppa} 

Then I beheld a Centatu- swoln with wrath, 

Come shouting : ' Where's that hardened sinner, where ? ' 

I guess Maremma fewer serpents hath. 

Fewer than dangling round his flanks he bare. 

To where the beast and human aspect blended ; 

Behind his neck and o'er his shoulders lay 

A fiery dragon, with his wings extended. 

Kindling to flame all shapes that cross his way. 

— Parsons. 

1 Benvenuto da Imola follows Albertus Magnus almost word for 

' Draco is a Latinism, here used to rime with coco and laco. 
• Inf. XXV, 17-24. 


Unless the Centaur, Cacus, is huge, this dragon must 
be small, for he finds room enough at the nape of 
the Centaur's neck; but he is a fire-breather and hot 
enough to set things afiame. 

After the Car of the Church, beheld by Dante in 

Purgatory, had been assailed by a monstrous eagle 

and an heretical fox, there rose a dragon out of the 


Pot parve a me che la terra s' aprisse 

Tr* ambo le rote^ e vidi uscime un drago^ 

Che per lo carro su la coda fisse ; 

Ey come vespa che ritragge P ago 

A si traendo la coda maligna^ 

Trctsse del fondoy e gissen vago * vago? 

Methought, then, that the earth did yawn between 
Both wheels, and I saw rise from it a dragon, 
Who through the chariot upward fixed his tail. 
And as a wasp that draweth back its sting. 
Drawing unto himself his tail malign, 
Drew out the floor and went his way rejoicing. 

— Longfellow. 

The other dragon, the one clinging to Cacus, was a 
demon; but this dragon, which rises from the lower 
world and tears loose with its stinging tail the very floor 
of the Church, is the prince of darkness,* who knows 

^ IsiDOR, loc, cit,j *• Vim autem non in dentibus sed in cauda habet 
et verbere potiusquam rictu nocet/ 

* Cf. Purg, XIX, 22, * lo volsi Ulisse del suo cammin vago Col 
canto mio ' ; /«/. VIII, 52, * Molto sarei vago di vederlo attuffare in 
questa broda^; Purg. XXVIII, i, *Vago di cercar ... La divina 
foresta.' « Purg. XXXII, 130-135. 

* Rabanus Maurus, De Univ. VIII, 3, * Mystice draco aut diabo- 
lum significat, aut ministros ejus, vel etiam persecutores Ecdesiae, 


not only how to take on monstrous shapes, but emerges 
from Hell, and, having wrought havoc, goes blithely 
away, — whither, it is hard to telL The dragon is fero- 
cious in pursuit,^ like Dante's enemies the Adimari, — 

V oltrcuotata schiatta^ che s* indraca 
Retro a chi fugge^ ed a chi mosira il dente 
O ver la borsa^ conC agnel si placa? 

The insolent race, that like a dragon follows 
Whoever flees, and unto him that shows 
His teeth or purse is gentle as a lamb. 

— Longfellow. 

homines ne&ndos, cuius mysterium in pluribus lods Scripturae in- 
venitur/ Cf. Du Cange (2), 'Effigies draconis, quae cum vezillis 
in Ecdesiasticis processionibus deferri solet, qua vel diabolus ipse, vd 
hxresis designantur, de quibus triumphat Elcdesia/ Dragons occur 
often on medieval cathedrals. Cf., e.g,^ H. W. Schultz, Dtnkmdler^ 

^ So are fiery meteors, conceived by many medievals to be 
demons. Cf. Albertus Magnus, loc. cit,^ and A. D. Whttb, 
Warfare of Science with Theology^ I, 336-350. 

* Farad. XVI, 115-117. 

The Snail — La Lumaccia 

There are land-snails and sea-snails of a thousand 
varieties, all of which have something in common. To 
make travel easier, these slow-goers exude a glistening 
road of slime. Some of them, when not on a journey, 
can hide away within their shells. Others have only a 
patch to protect what is most vulnerable. Others still, 
which we call slugs, are naked. Nearly all wear horns 
on their faceless heads, and these horns seem at times 
to give their owner an almost intelligent air. 

By the /utnaccia {novaLdays lumaca) Italians mean the 
common slug, and slug is probably what Dante means; 
yet lumaccia is more safely rendered by 'snail." 

In order to make clear a certam point in the transfor- 
mation of a man into a serpent, and of the serpent into 
a man, Dante chooses to use the image of a snail : — 
Quel che giacea, U muso innanzt caccia, 
E gli orecchi rilira per la testa. 
Come face U eorna la lumaceia} 
Meanvhile the prostrate thing puts forth its nose. 
And even as its horns a snail draws in. 
Contracts into its head those human ears. 

— Parsons. 

'/»/. XXV, 130-132. Giovanni Villani, IX, cix, 4. 'E dicono 

che i Lombardi hanno paura detia lumaccia, doi lumaca.' Ja- 

copo della Lana, ' Qui fa connparazione come la lumaca overo 

chi [o]cdola di si medesima fa coma,' etc. 




Chiefly from Lucan, Statius, Ovid, Virgil, the early 
Encyclopedists, and the Bible, Dante gathered much 
fantastic lore as to various serpents, — their looks and 
the effects of their poison. These various monsters, 
whose absence from any well-furnished hell would be 
surprising,^ found their place in the Inferno, where they 
do such wonders as were never imagined by another 
poet. Serpents are lavishly supplied by Dante. The 
Furies are * girt with greenest hydras,* and have small, 
homed serpents for hair.* Cacus, the Centaur, bears on 
his back a mass of snakes; more of them, Dante be- 

^ Deuteronomy xxxii, 24, ' I will also send the teeth of beasts 
upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.^ Cf. Vmcn., 
j£n. VUpassim, In the Anglo-Saxon ' Satan," * hwilum nacode men 
vinna9 ymbe vyrmas," vs. 136. In TundaPs Vision, the lost souls, on 
reaching a certain lake, became pregnant with serpents that used 
their burning heads, sharp iron beaks, and barbed tails to break out 
of their victims. Cf. what is said about the Viper, p. 332. See 
SceUa di Curios, Lett, vol. 128, pp. 53-54. 

^ Inf. IX, 40-42. Cf. Statius, Theb, I, 103 ff. Albertus 
Magnus, De Animalibus, lib. XXV, tract, unicus, makes the hydra a 
Nile serpent that slips down the throat of the sleeping crocodile, then 
tears its way out. Cf. Hugo of St. Victor, De Bestiisy II, cap. 7. 
Of the cerastes, Albertus Magnus says that it is of dusty hue, hides 
in the dust, and poisons birds that alight on its horns. Albertus 
denies that the horns of the cerastes are used at the tables of nobles 
to betray, by sweating, the presence of poison. 



lieves, than would be found in the Marsh (Maremma).^ 
These are merely decorative in their way. Others are 
actively engaged in torturing the damned. 

Noi discendetnmo ilponte daUa iesta^ 

Dove s' aggiunge coW ottava ripa, 

E pot mifu la bolgia manifesta : 

E vidivi entro terribile stipa 

Di serpenti^ e di si diversa mena^ 

Che la memoria il sangue ancor mi sctpa. 

PiU non si vanti Libia con sua rena ; ' 

Chi^ se cheUdri^ iaculi efaree 

Produce^ e cencri con amfisibena ; 

Nh tante pestilenze nh si ree 

Mostrb giammai con iutta V Etiopia 

Ni con cib che di sopra il mar rosso ee? 

Tra questa cruda e tristissima copia 

Correvan genti nude e spaventatCy 

Senza sperar pertugio elitropia. 

Con serpi le man dietro avean legate : 

Quelle ficavan per le ren la coda 

E il capoy ed eran dinanzi agroppate} 

'We descended the bridge at its head, where it joins 
on with the eighth bank, and then the pit was appar- 
ent to me. And I saw therewithin a terrible heap of 
serpents, and of such hideous look that the memory 
still curdles my blood. Let Libya with her sand vaunt 
herself no more ; for though she brings forth chelydri, 
jaculi, and phareae, and cenchri with amphisboena, she 

* Inf, XXV, 19-21. In Virgil, Cerbenis is covered with bristling 
snakes. Sec ^n, VI, 419. * Cf. Lucan, Phars, IX, 706-721. 

* That is, the Bible tells nothing so dreadfiil. 

* Inf. XXIV, 79-96. 


never, with all Ethiopia, nor with the land that lies on 
the Red Sea, showed either so many plagues or so 

'Amid this cruel and most dismal store were running 
people naked and in terror, without hope of hole or 
heliotrope. They had their hands tied behind with ser- 
pents, which fixed through the reins their tail and their 
head, and were knotted up in front.' — Norton. 

Libya was popularly called Barbaria in Dante's time. 
Hence, almost with the first word, we have a show of 
erudition.' These uncouth reptiles need a commentary, 
and the horror is not greater when one discovers that 
Dante saw monsters even stranger than the amphisboena, 
with a head on each end, the smoking chelydrus, and 
the iaculi that fling themselves, like missiles, from 

Bitten by one of these monsters, a sinner bums to 
ashes, then regains his old form, but suffers as if 
dragged down by a demon, and sighs.^ Another blas- 
phemes, and is wound so tightly by two serpents that he 
cannot budge or speak ; * and these serpents are demo- 

' According lo H. F. Toier's comment, Solinus. Orosius, and the 
Hereford map mean by Libya the Roman province of Africa to 
westward of Egypt. 

' See IsiDOR, Etymol. XII, iv, ^o\ Albertus Magnus, Dt Ani- 
mal, lib. XXV, tract, unicus. 

•/«/ XXIV, 97-118. He may have been biiien by the dipsas. 

Cf. Alex. Neckam, Wright's ed. p. 195. Cf. also Albertus Magnus, 
lib. XXV, tract, unicus. 'De natura et diversitate veneni et maliiiz 
eius in serpentibus.' One poison, says he, is 'oppilans vias hane- 
litus,' etc. Cf. vs, 1 14. 

' Inf. XXV, 1-9. Dante says (vs. 4), ' Da indi in qua mi for le 
■erpi amicbc' Cf. Ovid, M^. IV, 373, ' vota buos habuere deos.' 


niacal avengers Uke those that hid under the shield of 
the goddess when they had strangled Laocoon,' 
Forestalling our incredulity, Dante says. 

Now, O reader ! mark; 
And if my tale thou slowly shalt receive. 
Thy doubt will cause in me no great surprise j 
For I, who saw it, hardly can believe.' 

— Parsons. 

Here follows an astounding scene. A monster with 
six feet, flinging itself upon a sinner, sticks to him like 
ivy, and the two beings melt into each other, becoming 

The twain were blended ; yea, four limbs compressed 
Into two arms their lengths before my view ; 
The legs and thighs, the belly and the chest, 
Became new members, such as ne'er were seen. 
Nor of the former shape appeared a trace ; 
And the perverted form, whose mingled mien 
Seemed both, yet neither, passed with lagging pace.* 

— pARSOt<S. 

Hardly has this infernal miracle been wrought, when 
a fiery Uttle adder, livid and dark as pepper-grain,^ darts at 
the bowels of the two other sinners, and fastening upon 

'^ £n. II, 312 fT, Also in Virgil the crowd say Laocoon had 
atoned for his crime. ' Inf. XXV, 46-48. 

• Inf. XXV, 49-69. Cf. Ovid, AUt. IV, 373 ff. 
•A/. XXV, 71-78. 

* This snake, ' un serpeniello acceso, Livido e nero come gran di 
pepe,' vss. 83-84, seems to be a medley of the chelydrus, the dipsas, 
and the prester. Albertus Magnus, Hugo of St. Victor, lib. II, 
cap. 43, and Alex. Neckam, p. 195, Wright's ed., leave the matter 



one, poisons him. Smoke issues from the two bodies,* 
Snake and sinner eye each other, and the sinner, as if 
overwhelmed by fever, yawns.^ Conscious that the 
horror is becoming real, Dante bids Lucan and Ovid be 
still ; then tells how the two natures were so trans- 
fused that the man grew into a serpent and the ser- 
pent into a man. One went hissing down the valley; 
the other, fledged with new shoulders, sputtered and 
stayed.' So close lies the serpent's nature to human 
turpitude ! 

These monsters are in Hell. In Purgatory Dante saw, 
or believes he saw, the serpent that tempted Eve.* 
How did this serpent look ? Both St. Augustine and 
St. Thomas Aquinas discussed the problem without sat- 
isfying other thinkers ; for medieval manuscripts, ivo- 
ries,^ stained glass windows, and other representations 
never came to agree. Sometimes the Tempter has a 
man's head ; oftener a woman's ; sometimes the human 
element is scarcely traceable, or entirely loses itself in 
a multitude of reptiUan fantasies. 

In Purgatory Sordello tells Dante that two angels, 
' heavenly goshawks,' are coming from Mary's bosom to 
guard the valley against the serpent, Presently Sordello 
speaks to Virgil : — 

Vedi /d il nostro awenaro : 
E drizzb il dilo, perche in la guarJasse. 
Da quella parte, ondt non ha riparo 

' Albertua Magnus and other medievals cite Lucan : — 

■ Oraque distcndens avidus fumarHia prcsier.' 

* /«/. XXV. 89-90. '/«/. XXV, 94-141. • Purg. XXXII, 31 
' Cf. Cahier, Melanges, vol. 11, pis. IV, VII, VIII. 


La picciola valka, era una bisda, 
Forse qual liiede ad Eva il cibo amaro. 
Tra r erba t ifior venia la mala slrisda, 
Volgendo ad or ad or la testa al dosso, 
Leccando come bestia che si liscia. 
lo non vidi, e perb dicer non poiso. 
Come mosser gli astor celestiali, 
Ma vidi bene I' una e /' altro mosso. 
Sentendo fender P acre alle verdiali, 
Fuggi 7 serpente, e gli angeli dier volla 
Siiso alle poste rivolando eguali) 

'"See there our adversary," and pointed his finger 
that he should look thither. At that part where the Uttle 
valley has no barrier was a snake, perhaps such as gave 
to Eve the bitter food. Through the grass and the 
flowers came the evil trail, turning from time lo time its 
head to its back, licking like a beast that sleeks itself. 
I did not see, and therefore cannot tell, how the celes- 
tial falcons moved, but I saw well both one and the 
other in motion. Hearing the air cleft by their green 
wings the serpent fled, and the angels wheeled about, 
up to their stations flying back alike.' — Norton. 

The serpent of Genesis may have had legs, — may have 
been, indeed, more or less like a crocodile or a dragon, 
because after his humiliation he was condemned to go 
on his belly, and it is in this guise that he appeared to 
Dante, whose angelic hawks are satisfied to drive him 
out of the valley, — a moderation harder to explain than 
that of the Eastern hero who, having got the 'evil 
genius ■ into a bottle, rashly let him out, 

' Purg. VIII, 9S-io8. Cf. vs. I02, 'Leccando come bestia che si 
tiscia,' with j£n, II, 21 1, ' Sibila lambebaal Unguis vibrantibus ora.' 



Dante believed in the serpent of Eden as in other 
articles of the Faith, and in his treatise De Vulgari 
Eloquentia he explains how it was that the serpent could 
speak clearly, though hissing was its natural tongue.' 
Nor is there any good reason for supposing that Dante 
did not believe in the many-headed hydra slain by 
glorious Alcidcs, whose story he tells.^ Dante drew 
upon the classics for his gruesome miracles, and for the 
myth of Tiresias^ and the suicide of Cleopatra.* From 
Genesis he got the naturalised 
serpent seen in Purgatory. It 
was probably from the ' Physiolo- 
gus ' ^ that he leamt the ' nature ' 
of the viper; for the expression 
' generation of vipers,' used by 
John the Baptist," would not be 
The generatjcn ok VirERs clear to one not acquainted with 
From a medieval MS. Aiier jj^g viper's Conception and bear- 
ing of her young. According to 
the Physiologus, the viper conceives through her mouth, 
and kills her mate (nimia libidine commota viriUa mas- 
culi morsu abscidit, et moritur ille). Having grown 
inside their mother, the young vipers gnaw through her 
sides, and thus she is slain. Hence Dante's objurga- 
tion of Florence, ' Hasc est vipera versa in viscera 
genetricis ' (She is a viper turned upon the entrails of 
her own mother),^ and it is to this story that he refers in 

' Di V. E. 1, ii, 43-52. Sec diapter on ' Man,' p. 24. 

*Episl. VII, 113-121. »/n/. XX.44. *Parad. VI, ?6-78. 

• See Lauchert, GeschukU dds Physiologus, p. 14. 

• Luke iii, 7. ' ^ist. VII, vii, 143-144. 



making Nino say that the Cock of Gallura would have 
made his wife a better escutcheon for her tomb than 
she will get from the Viper that marshals the Milanese 
afield.' The arms of the Visconti, which afterward be- 
came the coat of the Duchy of Milan, were. Argent, 
a serpent ondoyant in pale azure, crowned with a ducal 
crown or, and vorant a child gules.* 

Like most of mankind, Dante abhorred snakes. 
Virtue, says he of evil-doers, is shunned like a serpent.^ 
In the Suicides' wood he innocently plucked a twig, 
when the trunk cried out : ' Why dost thou rend me, 
why dost thou tear me ? Art thou pitiless ? Men we 
were, and now we are turned to stumps. Thy hand 
should have been more merciful had we been souls of 
serpents.' * 

Borrowing from Virgil, Dante says Fortune lurks like 
a snake in the grass;* borrowing perhaps from Aris- 
totle,* perhaps applying an observation of his own, 
Dante writes to his coimtrymen that peace and joy are 
at hand if the old sin, which, serpent-like, twists and 
turns upon itself, does not stand in the way.^ There is 
less bookishness and more beauty in a simple description 
of frogs driven out of their pool by a water-snake, and 
this is the only convincingly truthful touch of snake life 
in all Dante. Virgil and he catch the sound of some- 
thing fleeting toward them over a great infernal pool. 

^ Purg. VIII, 79-81. 

' See Woodward, Htraldry, British and Foreign, I, 288. 

» Pt,rg. XIV, 37-39' ' ^"/- Xm. 31-39- 

• Inf. VII, 84. Cf. ViBCiL, Ed. Ill, 92-93. 

• De Part. Animaliiim, lib. IV, cap. 11. 
T Epist. VI, vi, 94-96. 


Gli oecki mi sdolse, e disse : ' Or liritta il rurda 
Ddviso su per quella schiuma antita. 

Br indi 01 

,e guelfum 


pik aeerlio.' 

Come le ra 

me innanu 

■ alia nimiea 


/' acqua s 

■i dikgtian tutte. 

Fin che aSa terra da 

scuna s' abhica ; 




che alpaiso 




d: 'DireLiihe nerve 


ent foam, 


>kc is inosl intense.' 


hostile serpent 


broad, J 

Until eacn oi 

ic ■:< iiiiuui 


the earth, 

More than a thousand ruined souls I saw. 
Thus fleeing from before one who on foot 
Was passing o'er the Styx on soles unwet. 

— LONr.FKLlX)W. 

Tales of fabulous serpents came into Europe from the 
East. Ovid's serpents and those of Virgil are exotic. 
Lucan's monstrosities dwelt in Libya,* a land which 
medieval writers supposed to swarm with devils. 
Dante's notions are, with a single exception, of bookish 
origin, and only a credulity unlikely in any modern 
reader of Dante could make such conceptions really 
horrible. Dante himself was conscious of his own 
literary craft in the handling of his infernal serpents. 
They were almost the playthings of his imagination. 

'/«/. IX. 73-81. 

' And in his second Eclogue, vs. 23. Dante says : — 


The Eye-Lizard (?) — II Raicarro 

To denote the speed of a demoniacal adder, darting 
upon two thieves in Hell, Dante says : — 

Come il ramarro^ sotto la gran fersa 
D^ dt canicular cangiando siepe^ 
Fo^ore par^ se la via attraversa ; * 
Cosi parea^ venendo verso P epe 
DegH altri due^ un serpentello acceso^ 
Uvido e nero come gran di pepe} 

As the swift lizard, 'neath the scourging ray 
Of dog-star time, seems lightning, if by chance 
Flitting from hedge to hedge, it cross the way, 
So did a fiery little adder glance 
Straight at the bowels of the other two, 
A livid snake, and black as pepper's grain. 

— Parsons. 

Writing of this fiery adder {serfetitello (uceso\ Gclli 
says: 'It was coming with such velocity that Dante 
likens it to a ramarro^ a very well-known animal like 

^ Cf. VniGiL EcL II, 9, < Nunc virides etiam occultant spineta 

« Cf. Horace, Od. lib. Ill, xxvii, 5 : — 

' Rumpat et serpens iter institutum, 
Si per obliquuin similis sagittas 
Temiit mannos.' 

• Inf, XXV, 80-84. 



the lizard, but much larger and much greener in colour 
and far more beautiful, and with its skin dotted over 
with certain spots that shine so that they seem like little 
stars {stelloline); for which reason the Latins call it 
stcllio ; and it is exceedingly swift in its movements, 
and more especially so in seasons of heat, so that the 
hotter is the season, the stronger it gets and the more 
swiftly it runs.' ^ 

Jacopo della Lana,^ seeming to mean the same crea- 
ture, gives it the same fabulous trait of attacking a man 
as is described by the author of the Libra del Gandolfo 
Persiano? who recommends that the moulting of a fal- 
con be helped along by feeding her on ' Came del 
rospo grande, cite irovi de marso, e de la luserta verde 
eke si chiama ligoro e maiTO calopio, zoe cite prende lo 
homo e non lasa.' That this writer fails to mention 
the dotting stars is of small weight. Not only do he, 
Jacopo della Lana, Benvenuto da Imola, and Gelli sub- 
stantially agree, but, curiously enough, some friends of 
Mr. W. W. Vernon saw at Florence, in August, 1891, 
' two large-sized lizards, answering to the description 
given above, that had been caught in the Cascine, 
exhibited close by the Piazza della Signoria, and they 
heard them called both ramarro and luceriolone, — more 

' Quoted by Verno.v, Headings, Ih/. II, p, 318. 

* ' Ramarro h una speiie di ferucole velenose, e sono appellate 
magrassi owera ligura [in Lombard dialect] li quali al tempo del 
graa caldo appariscoDO nelle strade, e sono molto paurosi anlmali, 
che come vegiono 1' uomo, e gittam seli addosso e quelio cbe in bocca 
h mai non lassano, o elli fuggano come folgore, doc velodssima- 

* la SceUa di Curios. Letl., vol. 144, chap. 105. 



frequently the latter.' Mr. Vernon speaks of having 
run across this rare species at Cannes and Mentone.^ 
In a word, then, the ramarro of Dante is probably 
not the ordinary little green lizard of Italy, but a larger 
and rarer kind, beautifully dotted with stars. Yet 
nearly all lizards may be seen flashing across roads 
from hedge to hedge, and the heat of dog-days only 
heightens their activity. 

^ Cf. Readings on Inf,, vol. II, pp. 327-329. 

The Scorpion 

Geryon, the man-faced demon, has an unusual taiL 

Nel vano tutta sua codaguitzava 

Torcendo in su la venenosaforca^ 

Che^ a guisa di scorpion^ la punta armava} 

His tail was wholly quivering in the void, 
Contorting upwards the envenomed fork. 
That in the guise of scorpion armed its point 

— Longfellow. 

A real scorpion has nippers like a lobster, but its tail 
tapers down to the poisonous telson or sting. What, 
then, can Dante mean } Geryon's tail ends in a poison- 
ous fork, but also in a point like that of a scorpion. 
' Fork ' and * point * seem contradictory terms, due, per- 
haps, to a confusion in the poet's mind of the scorpion's 
nippers and of its tail, or, it may be, to a misunder- 
standing of the word unca, in this line of Ovid's MetO' 
morphoses (XV, 371) : — 

Scorpius exhibit^ caudaque minabitur unca. 

Such an explanation, however, seems far less likely 
than the other. At all events, Dante's anatomising of 
Geryon's tail seems to contain a flaw. A scorpion, hav- 
ing seized its prey with the nippers, makes sure of the 

1 /«/. XVII, 25-27. 


victim by twisting upward and forward the venomous 

When Dante says that ' the concubine of old Tithonus 
was glowing in the east, her brow glittering with gems 
set in the shape of the cold animal that stings people 
with its tail,' he means the scorpion.* 

Di g€mme la sua/ronte eralucente. 
Paste infigura del Jrtddo animate, 
Che eon la teda percale la gente? 

Benvenuto da Iniola adds to our astrological lore by 
declaring that the Sign of the Scorpion gives to man a 
poison not less black and deadly than the cold scorpion, 
For, he relates, one Guidoof Forll writes of having seen 
in Arabia a great astrolabe wherein were figured all the 
zodiacal signs, and in the sign of the Scorpion was 
figured an Ethiopian holding certain filth to his nose 
as a token that those born in the sign of the Scorpion 
delight in filth and other such things. 

Dante may have believed this, but this is not what he 
says; for his words refer not to the influence of the zodi- 
acal scorpion, but to the fact that the stars rose in the 
shape of the cold animal that stings with its tail. From 
the scorpion's habit of lurking in a dank place or under 
stones Dante may have got the idea of its being cold. 
The epithet is by no means conventional in the zoologi- 
cal lore of the Middle Ages. 

' Cf. the importanl obMrvatlons of Dr. Edward Moorr in hit 
Acctnni al Tempo uttla Divina Commtdia, Florence, 1900, pp. go- 
101. The citation from Brunetto Latini on page 91 »eem» to me 
of littJc vilue ; there wai too gnat dlKigivcment antoDg medirval 
writera as to the nature of (erpenls' poiun. ' P^rg. IX, 4-6. 


The Worm. ' 

Dante bera 
the world,' * ai 
The drops of 
gards stung b 
'loathsome wc 
in Hell suggest 
tion, Thoii art h 

.K. The Butterfly 

lilty worm that pierceth 
ro is ' the great worm.' * 
hat fall from the slug- 
es are gathered up by 
;gots seen by the poet 
' I have said to comip- 
..e worm, Thou art my 

^ /w/. XXXIV, io8. Dante's Lucifer is of flesh and blood, but 
symbolises the evil conscience of the world, and in this sense recalls 
the words of Isaiah Ixvi, 24, ' And they shall go forth and look upon 
the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me ; for tlieir 
worm shall not die [Vulg., vermis eorum non morietur], neither 
shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence unto 
all flesh.' Cf. Ra»ani;s Mai;ri)s, De Uiiiv. lib. Vlll, cap. 4, 

a/«/. VI, 23-33: — 

Le hocchc apcrse, 

I hope to discuss elsewhere than in this book the relation of these 
verses to those in the Penitential Psalm attributed to Dante by a 
very few persons. See Oxford Dante, p. 193, vss. 10-iz ; — 

• DiiL-ndimi. O Signor, dallo gmn vermo, 


' Inf. 111. 67-69. See citation from Isaiah above, note I. Cf. 
also Cotni. IV, vii, 106-107, 'Veramente morto i) malvagio uomo 


mother and my sister' (Job xvii, 14). They are the 
basest of all the creatures that writhe or crawl in the 
Under World, baser than the worms of Tundal's Vision ; 
for they were busy gnawing sensual sinners 'both night 
and day,' and their victims were clerics and others who 
had worn the cioak of religion.^ Dante's sluggards suf- 
fer a fate not unlike that of many a wretch in his time, 
and, though the conception be scriptural, the description 
vivifies a sickening feature of life in the Middle Ages. 

The silk industry was new then, having reached Sicily 
through the Arabs in 1 1 30, and then Calabria, whence it 
spread over Italy. Silk weavers throve at Lucca from 
1242 to 1314, when the Luccans fell out with Florence, 
and the weavers were driven to other cities.^ Dante, 
ever ready for a new image, makes a spirit in Paradise 
say to him : — 

My gladness keepeth me concealed from thee. 
Which rayelh round about me, and doth hide me 
Like as a. creature swathed in its own silk. 

— Longfellow, 
Za mia letizia mi H Hen celato, 
Chi mi raggia dintorna, e mi naseoni/e 
Quasi animal di sua setafasciato? 

Here is perhaps the first allusion to the silkworm in 
modem literature. But there is more grace in the words 
of a spirit in Purgatory, who, with science delicately con- 
cealed, tells how the caterpillar is to become the angelic 

• In Scelta di Curios. Lett. voL 128, pp. 45-46. 
' See La Grande Encychpidie, s.v. ' Soie,' p 
*Parad. VIII, 53-54. 


Non v' accorgetf voi, eke not siam vermi 

Nati a format- r angelica farfaUa} 
Che vola alia giusfizia srnza schermi f 
Di ehe /' animo vostro in alto galla, 
Poi siete quasi entomata ' in di/dto, 
Sieomevermo, in cui/ormaziou/a/laf* 

Perceive ye not that man is but a worm 
Bom to produce the angeUc butterfly 

' With verses 124-125 cf. Aristotle, De Hist. Animaliiim, lib. 
V, ' De lis inseelorum generibus, qua aut ex erucis, aut ex vermi- 
bus, aut ex fimo gignuntur.' — 'What arc called butterflies, however, 
are generated from caterpillars ; but caterpillars are generated from 
green leaves, and especially from rnphanos, which some call cabbage. 
And at first something less than a grain of millet is produced ; after- 
irard small worms originate from this, and these increasing, in the 
space of three days are formed into caterpillars. Such caterpillars, 
also, when increased, cease from motion, change their form, and are 
called chrysalides, or aurclix. In this slate, likewise, they are enclosed 
in 3 bard shell; but move if they are touched. The chrj'satides are, 
also, enclosed in cavities which resemble the webs of spiders, but 
Ihey neither have a mouth, nor is any other part apparent. In a short 
time, too, the shell bursts and winged animals fly out of it, which 
we caU butterflies.' Albertus Magnus. De Animal, lib. XXVI, 
tract, unicus, ' Paplliones sunt vermes volatites muliorum colorum.' 
Inlib. XVII, tract, ii, cap. i., Albertus follows Aristotle rather clasely 
in statement as to origin and development of butterflies. Albertus 
Magnus, De Animal, lib. XVII, tract, ii. cap. i, 'Dicamus ergo, 
quod animalium natura etiam sic dividitur, quod quxdam geoerant 
animalia complela, et quidam incompleta, sicut vermes.' Again, 
ibid., Albertus Magnus, describing how Nature prepares the creation 
of the eggs before the time of ovation, says, ' Et facit hoc in verme 
qui ultimam complelionem non habuit : ultimo enim non est comple- 
tus, nisi quando vola I,' etc. 

' ¥or entomata — a word which I have not noticed in any medieval 
work on io6Iog>*^see Albertus Magsvs, £)^ Animal, lib. XVII, 
tract. ii,cap.i, dt/^n. See also H. F. Tozer's comment. 

*J^rg. 124-130. 


That with no screening shall to Justice fleet ? 
For what should human spirit mount so high ? 
Ye are as winged creatures, incomplete, 
Even as the worm is, not formed perfectly. 

— Parsons. 

The Greeks ^ had one word for the butterfly and for 
the soul, — psyche, — and the epitaph of a Roman 
tippler refers to his soul as a * drunken butterfly ' — 
MEUS EBRius PAPiLio. This sad conception of our 
mortality, so familiar in ancient art, is thus hopefully 
perpetuated in the half-scientific, half-poetic lines of 

^ For a less Greek, more Christian conception of the disembodied 
soul, cf. the Cantilena of Saint Eulalia^ — a poem of the ninth 
century printed in Chrestomathie de VAncien Franqais of Bartsch 
AND Horning, col. 6^ 7th ed. Having first ordered Eulalia to be 
burnt, the heathen king commanded that she be beheaded. 

' La domnizelle celle kose non contredist, 
Volt lo seule lazsier, si niovet Krist 
In figure de colomb volat a ciel. 
Tuit Oram, que por nos degnet preier,' etc 

The Flv a\d Gadfly. The Flea. The Wasp 

Until evolution had made clear to thinking men 
that every creature in the known universe exists for its 
own sake without divine reference to man, theologians 
and their flocks universally followed the Babylonian 
myth of creation. According to this myth, God gave 
Adam dominion over all Uving things. This and other 
Eastern legends found their way into the West, and ap- 
pealed so strongly to anthropocentric conceit that there 
arose abelief that all creatures harmful to man were agents 
of Satan, A certain Richalmiis, who flourished about 
1270, declared it a mistake to think that we are really 
bitten by lice and fleas, since it is actually devils who tor- 
ment men in this fashion.* Martin Luther was only ac- 
cepting an old superstition in thinking flies to be demons. 
They annoyed him when he was reading. ' I hate flies," 
said he, ' because they are likenesses of the devil and of 
heretics.'* The simple-minded and a few others still 
wonder why God created mosquitoes. 

Dante obviously believed in the demoniacal quality of 
certain animals. Dogs he portrays as bothered in sum- 
mer by fleas, or flies, or gadflies, and the torture de- 

' See RosKOFF, GeschkfUt des Teufels, I, 340-341. 
»ln Table-talk. Cited by A. D, White, Warfare of Science 
with Theology, I, 31. 


scribed is true to the life.* But in Hell he observed a 
demoniacal scene. Those who had been sluggish in the 
earthly life were undergoing a special torture. 

Questi sciauraH, die mai non fur irivi, 
Erano ignudt e sHmoIati molto 
Da mosconi' e da vesfe^ ch' erano ivi. 
EUe* rigavan lor di sangue ilvolto, 
Che mischiato di lagrime, at lor piedi, 
Da fastidiosi vcrmi era rieolto? 

These miscreants, who never were alive. 
Were naked and were stung exceedinglsf 
By gadflies and by homels that were there. 
These did their faces irrigate with blood. 
Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet 
By the disgusting worms was gathered up. 

— Longfellow. 

Not only are these insects present in Dante's Hell, 
which is a real hell and not a state of mind,^ but they 
are partial to a certain class of sinners. Their selection 
is excellent. They show, indeed, a discretion unusual 
in the hornets and wasps of real life, which sting phi- 
losophers, saints, and pickpockets impartially. 

' Inf. XVn, 49-51. Cf. Purg. XXXII. 133, where Dante marks 
thai the wasp draws out its sting. See p. 313. 

' Literally ' large flies,' perhaps gadflies or hornets in a modem 
sense. Bninetto Latini calls honeybees 'flies.' 'Besainnes sont 
les mosches qui font le mie!,' Triior, p. 206. Benvenuto da Imola, 
' Genus muscarum et vesparum.' 

' Aristotle, De Hist. Animal. IX, 41, distinguishes two kinds 
of wasps ; then adds of one class, • All these, however, . . . have 
slings . . . and the wound which Ihey inflict Ls more painfiil,' etc. 

* Feminine by attraction to vespe, but of course refers both to 
vespt and mosconi. * Inf. Ill, 64-69. " See Introduction, p. 9. 



By a single only does Dante make 

time visible, i ;rc arithmetic cannot) 

of the evenini it on the only image in 

all nature per* id. Moving lights far 

off in the glo :hat envelop and hide 

the Evil Com. ans them from a high 

bridge, as he must many a time have looked out upon 
his own Italian landscape in the growing darkness. 
This is the image of those flames: — 

Qiianie il villan, cK al poggio si riposa, 
Nel Unipo che colui che il mondo schiara 
Lafaccia sua a noi tifn mcno ascosa. 
Come la mosea cede aila zenzaraf 
Vfdf liicdole giii per la vallea, 
Forse cola dove vendemmia ed ara ; 
Di tanle fiamme tutta risplendea 
L' oltava bolgia, st com' io m' accorsi, 
Tosto ch' iofui la 've il/ondo parea} 

As in that season, when with less concealed 
A face he shines who floods the world with iiglit. 
When to the gnat the weary fly doth yield. 
The peasant, resting on some neighbour height, 
Beholds the fireflies in the vale below, 

' Inf. XXVI. 25-33. Cf. Mn. XI, 207 ff. 



Wherein he ploughs, or trims his vines, perchance, 
So many fiames this eighth pit, all aglow, 
Showed when its depths I fathomed with my glance. 

— Parsons. 
It is only a touch, but the touch is true.^ 

^ Vernon, in his Readings (Jnf, vol. I, p. 357), remarks on the 
conspicuousness of these insects in Italy. He has lived there, and is 
good authority for those who have not observed this phenomenon 
at home. The commentary called 'Ottimo,^ and Longfellow, take 
Dante^s luccioU to mean glowworms, an interpretation not very 
adequately warranted by the details of Dante^s description. 



lante gmnde, 
^ i aperto} 

the aliments 
Thai the wilderness ; 

Whence he is glorious, and so magnified 

As by the Evangel is revealed to you, 


Daniello^ comments thus, 'Not grasshoppers, as 
some foolishly believe, for it would be a mistake to 
believe that so great a saint nourished himself on such 
food; but he [Dante] means the very tender tips of 
trees, shrubs, and herbs." Sancta simplicitas ! Not 
only is there no warrant in any other passage for thus 

i/Vf. XXll. 1SI-1S4. 

^ Cited by Scartaziini. St. Ambrose {Expos, in Lucam, lib. II) 
explains why loeii.'ifs were so proper a food for the saint, dissenting 
from the opinion of various wiseacres wlio declared tliat the itcpiSit 
(Vulgate lociistas) were sprouts, grass, or shrubbery. Indeed, these 
locusts were, bj- a widely po])ular allegory, conceived as meaning the 
peoples once without 'King Christ,' without a prophet, without a 
teacher, now g.ithered in the faiih and h.isteuing to the spiritual on- 
sl.iuglil .'tg,iin«t the devil. See the VENKKAm.R Bede on Proverbs 
XJCK and Ecclesiastes xii, and GuK(i()RY the Great, Moral, in Jab, 
xxxix, 20, lib. xx.\i, 25 (No. 4; sq. t. Ill, 237). 



interpreting the Latin locustas} but there is, further- 
more, no evidence in the Latin vocabulary to justify 
Daniello, much less Dante. The poet, no doubt, under- 
stood that John the Baptist fed on honey and grass- 
hoppers, — not so revolting a diet to certain Orientals 
as to a European.^ The line in Dante shows, not that 
the poet looked upon such fare as loathsome, but as 
ennobling because of its ascetic simplicity. It hardly 
seems as if Dante could have been in a prophetic mood 

when he said : — 


Dispregib ciho^ ed acquis to sapere? 

^ 'Locustas et mel silvestre edebat.* Mark i, 6; Matthew iii, 4. 
^ See citations in comment of Scartazzini. 
^ Purg. XXn, 146-147, 'Daniel despised food and acquired 


In his let 
that cupictit 
Jacet Grego 

lying amii 
s said that 
in kings 

rdinals,' Dante declares 
itter of men, then says, 
aaeamm ^ (Thy Gregory 
in Proverbs (xxx, 28^ 
old with her hands and 
lante is bemoaning the 

decline of theology and the popularity of law, he clearly 
means, not that Gregory the Great has fallen victim to 
spiders, but that he lies neglected and forgotten. 

Once more, borrowing from Ovid for the adornment 
of his Purgatory, he refers to the metamorphosis of 
Arachne into a spider. Having mentioned alternately 
various characters from Hebrew or pagan mythology 
whose pride had caused them to be sculptured in Purga- 
tory, Dante cries: — 

Ofolk Aragne, s't veiUa 10 le 

Gill mezza aragna ' trisla in sii gli siracci 

Dili' opera cht mal per te si/e'.* 

' Oxford Danle. pp. 41 1-413. ' vii. 1 14. 

' Ab Scartaziini has pointed out, this form is a Lilinism due to the 
desire to maintain the cla.ssic pun, which, by the way, was much more 
obvious in the two identical words of the Creek than in the Ovidian 

* Piirg. XII. 43-45. This passage has no l>earing on D.inle's 
knowledge of nature. Whether he believed in the actuality of the 



Thee, mad Arachne, there 
I saw, ha]f spider, fumbling the deplored 
Shreds of that work which wrought for thee despair. 

— Parsons. 

occurrence or not is another question. I dte in full the familiar 
passage in Ovid, without which Dante^s mention is so slight as to be 
nearly unintelligible to readers not thoroughly versed in mythology 
(Ovid, Met, VI, 139 ff.): — 

' Post ea discedens succis Hecateidos herbae 
sparsit; et extempio tristi medicamine tactse 
defluxere comae, cum quis et naris et aures, 
fitque caput minimum. Toto quoque corpore parva est: 
in latere exiles digiti pro cruribus hserent, 
cetera venter habet ; de quo tamen ilia remittit 
stamen, et antiquas exercet aranea telas. 
Lydia tota fremit, Phrygiaeque per oppida (iacti 
rumor it et magnum sermonibus occupat orbem. 
Ante suos Niobe thalamos cognoverat illam, 
tum cum Mseoniam virgo Sipylumque colebat ; 
nee tamen admonita est poena popularis Arachnes, 
cedere caelitibus verbisque minoribus uti.' 


Though L 
myths of the 
books of tht 
erature,* he 
Myrmidons a: 
and the otbei 
everything in 
little worm. 

e to more than a few 
both from the sacred 
rom GfEeco-Roman lit- 
Kd the legend of the 
1 one eye upon Ovid' 
Comedy, he tells how 
na died, even to the 

. . . e pot it gffiti antiche, 
Sfcondo chc i poeli hanno per fer, 
Si risiorar di semi di formUhe.^ 

. . . and, afterward* 
The ancient races were 
From seed of ants. 

bards declare, 
e restored ag.iin 

The higher seriousness of Dante's style often seems 
to imply on his part a belief in the fancies of folklore 
or of superstition. 

An impression received in religious ecstasy, through 
the most primitive ignorance of natural laws, or in the 
hallucination of disease, is sifted by the popular mind 
and converted slowly into a fable. If the fable origi- 

' a. Inf. XXVI, 34-36: De V, E. I, ii, vii, etc. 

' See e.g. chapters on ' Panther,' p. 132 ; ' Dolphin,' p. 207, etc- 

» Mel. \'I1, 523 tr. * Inf. XXIX, 62-64. 

THE ANT 353 

nated amongst the Hebrews it becomes, if strong 
enough, a poetic dogma of Christendom. If the same 
or a like fable is borrowed from pagan sources the 
medieval poet or philosopher may conceive it to be 
true only as an allegory ; or, on the other hand, may 
simply exploit it to embellish matter of his own. That 
Dante suspected the Ovidian version of the ants 
{nvpfjLTjKe;) turning into Myrmidons is rendered likely, 
yet not proved, by the line, 

Secondo ^he i poeti hanno per fermti} 

Be this as it may, the allusion is but a cold fragment 
of mythology, and, therefore, throws little or no light 
on Dante's knowledge of nature. 

In Purgatory Dante saw the 'shades' so fulfilling 
one of those almost automatic operations' of that safe 
but uncomfortable region in such wise as to suggest to 
him a delightful touch of nature. 

Ia ve^io d' ogni parte farsi presta 
Ciascun' ombra, e baciarsi una con una, 
Settza restar, eonUnU a breve festa : 
Cost per entro loro schiera bruna " 
S' ammusa P una con V altra formica, 
Font ad espiar lor via e lor/artuna.* 

> /«/ XXIX, 63. 

■ This action of the ' shades ' is based on the apostolic ' Salutate 
invicem in osculo sancio' (Romans xvi, 16; I Corinthians xvi, 
20; 1 Corinthians xiii, 12, etc. See Scartaixini on Piirg. xxvi, 32). 
Cf. chapter on ' The Bee,' p. 357, where ihe same psychic phenomenon 
takes place in Dante. 

' Cf. Schiera bruna and // nigrum campis agmen, jEh. IV, 404, 
dted by Scartaiani. * Purg. XXVI. 31-36. 


There see I hastening upon either side 
Each of the shades, and kissing one another 
Without a pause, content with brief salute. 
Thus in the middle of their brown battalions, 
Muiile to muzzle one ant meets another, 
Perchance to spy their journey or their fortune. 

— Longfellow, 

Here is a word or two with a Virgilian turn, but there 
is a stronger similarity to a description in Pliny — a 
description which Dante may have found as a citation, 
if not in Pliny. Pliny exclaims ; . . . jam in opere qui 
labor, qu<B scdulitas ! et quottiam ex divcrso convehunt, 
altera alterius ignara, certi dies ad recognitionem mutuam 
njtndinis dantttr. Qua tunc eanim concursatio, quam 
diligens cum obviis qucedam conlocutio atque percontatio. 
(In working how they toil! What assiduity! And since 
they fetch their provisions without one another's know- 
ledge from divers parts, they have certain market days 
for a mutual understanding. And then what a throng- 
ing! One might think they stopped for a talk, and 
taking in of stock with others met on the way.)^ 

Pliny adds that pebbles are worn down by them in 
the making of a path, and Aristotle affirms they go over 
the same roads, and are seen to work not only by day, 
but under the full moon.^ 

Dante's description by the mere word s' ammusa — 
a beautifully accurate observation — becomes his own. 
Yet, strange to say, the poet has once more forgotten 
his dogmas, and added the unsuspected touch that 
makes the animals — all other animals — and man akin. 

^Ndl.Hiit.Xl, 109. 

* Dt Hiit. Animal. IX, 38. 


The Bee 

Dante affirms in the Banquet^ that ' one might arrive 
at a knowledge of bees by reasoning about the fruit of 
their wax as well as by reasoning about the fruit of their 
honey, though both come from them/ — leaving us to 
infer that the ordinary procedure is to know them by 
their honey. This thought, suggested, it may be, by 
the Biblical phrase, ' By their fruits ye shall know them,* 
shows that Dante, like his contemporaries and forerun- 
ners, recognised in the bee an animal well fitted to point 
and embellish discussions of man and his morals.^ It 
shows also (curiously enough) that in Dante's time the 
bee was valued less as a maker of wax than as a maker 

1 Com). IV, xvii, 123-132, 'Onde, pcrciocchfc le Virtii inora£ 
paiono essere e sieno piii comuni e piu sapute, e piii richieste die 
r altre, e unite nell^ aspetto di fuori, utile e convenevole fu piii per 
quello cammino procedere che per altro ; ch^ cosl bene si verrebbe 
alia conoscenza delle api per lo fhitto della cera ragionando, come 
per lo frutto del mele, tutto che T uno e T altro da loro proceda.' Cf. 
the following from a Tusco- Venetian Bestiary, edited by Goldstaub 
and Wendriner, Halle, 1892, p. 17, 'L^ apa si e una criatura di 
pizolla aparenza et (d) e (e) di gran fruto ; et (d) e molta savia cria- 
tura, che ^1 suo fruto si e miele et zera/ 

«Cf. Pliny, Nat, Hist, II, 41. Seneca, Clement. I, 19, <Uti- 
nam eadem homini lex esset, quse apibus, et ira cum telo frangere- 
tur!' Brunetto Latini, Tresor, pp. 206-208. See note i, 

P- 357. 



of honey, which was generally if not always used 
throughout Europe instead of sugar in Dante's time.' 

Psychic and moral problems are the deep-toned back- 
ground whereon Dante paints the brighter, more ap- 
preciable, more beautiful pictures of life. Of this there 
is hardly any better witness than Dante's bees. Puzzled 
by the mystery of our inborn inclinations, our ' love ' 
given us by an ' outer ' power, Dante appeals to Virgil, 
and learns that man cannot know whence comes to him 
the intelligence of the first notions nor the aflection for 
the first allurements, which are in us 

, , . ji come studio^ in ape 
Difarlo mele; e guesta prima vogHa* 
Merte di lode o di biasmo non cape} 

... as instinct in the bee 
To make its honey ; and this Rrst desire 
Merit of praise or blame containeth not. 

— Longfellow. 

Surely here is a doctrine unwittingly hostile to the dogma 
of original sin ! 

If the moralist has in this instance outweighed the 
artist, the latter will reassert himself, and the bees will 
be compared to the angels as were the rooks or daws, a 
phenomenon of actual bee life being offered as a likeness 
of a scene which the bees themselves suggested to the 

' See article on ' Sugar,' Encyc. Brii. 9th ed., p. 625, col. i. 

* Scartatzini cites Virgil's wish lo tell of the bees (Georg. IV, 
», s), '.Mores et studia el popalos et prrelia dicam' (Of thdr ways 
snd zealous aims and peoples and battles I shall tell). 

» Sec pp. 78-81. * Purg. XVIII, s8-<o. 



poet's mind. Putting to good use a figure borrowed, in 
all probability, from St. Anselm or St. Bernard,' Dante 
likens the passing to and fro of the angels from the 
gleaming heavenly rose composed of the Blessed, to the 
going and coming of bees from flower to hive. 

In forma dunque di Candida rosa 

Mi si moslrava la miltzia santa, 

Che net suo sangue Cristo feci spesa. 

Ma r altra, che volando vede e eanta 

La ghiria di colui ehe la innamora 

M la honta che la fece cotanta, 

Si come schiera d' api che s' infiora 

Una fiata, ed una si riioma 

La dove suo lavoro s' insapora, 

Nel gran fior discendeva, che s' adarna 

Di tattle foglie ; e quindi risaUva 

Ld dove il suo Amor sempre soggiorna? 

In fashion then as of a snow-white rose 
Displayed itself lo me the heavenly host, 
Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride, 
But the other host that flying sees and sings 
The glory of him who doth enamour it. 
And the goodness that created It so noble. 
Even as a swarm of bees, that sinks in flowers 
One moment and the next returns again 
To where its labour is to sweetness turned, 
Sank into the great flower that is adorned 
With leaves so many, and thence reascended 
To where its love abideth evermore. 

— Longfellow. 

' See Scartazxini' 
'Pttrad.XXXl, 1-12. 

n Parad. XXXI. 7. 


It is safe to say that this whole description could 
never have occurred to Dante, nor to any other poet, 
save through the existence of bees, and at least an 
artist's observation of their ways. The observation is 
not wholly Dante's ; for Virgil was a student of the bees, 
and bequeat'--'' '— *■'- ^' — ^-'~s certain verses' which 
seem to have led from silver into gold 

in the magic i 

At anothei roduction of his Divine 

Conit-dy thesf i bees suggested to the 

poet's much-& ag mind a fine simile to 

express a nir ird by him in the depths 

of Hell. 

GiA era in loco ovf s' uaia ii rimhomho 
DeW acqua che cadea nelV alto giro, 
Simik a quel che I' arnie /anno rombo} 

Now where I stood 1 heard the rumbling sound, 
Like swarms of bees that round their beehives hum, 
Of water falling to the other round. 

— Parsons, 

>^«. 1,430-43': — 

' Quales apes asiatc nova per florea rjra. 
Escrctt sub sole labor.' 
(As the bees in springtime throughout tlie flowery country are busied 
by their toil beneath the sun.) And jEit. VI, 707-709 : — 

a fund 

(And as in the meadows, where in the peaceful season the bees settle 
in various flowers, swarming about the gleaming lilies, and every field 
doth hum.) 

^ Inf. XV'l, 1-3. Cf. this hy the author of the Carm. Philom. 



Could any other figure have made us hear so well the 
distant roar of the infernal waters as the familiar 
buzzing by their hives of many bees ? Dante knew how 
to quicken the dead, and he likewise understood how to 
effect a credible illusion of reality in impossible things 
through an almost continuous reference to actual life. 


We may in 
to make plaii 
ception of tiu 
inquire what 
animals throi 

In the treatise De ^ 

, our long study and sedc a 
inal facts in Dante's con- ' 
n, but first we may well ' 
tribution of references to ^ 
I et Terra, which is probably 

authentic,' no animal is mentioned save man. In the 
ethereal I'lta Niiova the poet tells how he was one day 
drawing an angel, and he tells how it seemed to him in 
his grief that the birds as they flew fell dead and that 
there were great earthquakes.^ In the Sonnets, in the 
Ballate, and in the Catizoni, Dante sometimes speaks of 
the birds, of their joy at spring and of their migrations ; 
yet his words have mostly the conventional tone of so 
many poems of Provence and Germany. In the Letters 
references are more frequent ; for here the politician or 
the philosopher becomes more majestic, rhetorical, or 
didactic in tone. In usurping crows, in the stinking 
fox, in the thankless viper, or in the soaring eagle and 
the phenix. Dante finds imagery to embellish his style 
or to point a moral. It is, however, in the treatise De 
Viilgari Eloqticntia and in the Convivio that Dante's 
' See Dr. E. MoORE, Studies in Dante, Second Series. ' § 23. 


anthropological or zoological theories occur most abun- 
dantly. And how clearly these two works show that 
Dante the Dogmatist thinks less truthfully, less nobly, 
than Dante the Poet ! In these two treatises Dante most 
strongly resembles the encyclopedists of the thirteenth 

Our author's most beautiful thoughts on animals are 
scattered with unequal beauty throughout the Divine 
Comedy. The Inferno holds the richest imagery of all ; 
for as we climb with Dante up the Mountain of Purga- 
tory and are wafted off into the thin atmosphere of the 
Blessed, more and more we miss the illusion of a living 
world ; or the poet's imagery ceases to be in keeping 
with the ethereal residents of the Court of Heaven. 
With these reflexions we may briefly reconsider Dante's 
animal kingdom from a rather more zoological point of 

In the thirteenth century nobody realised the infinite 
variety of animal life. Even if the stories of Adam and 
of Noah had not hindered the study of animate nature, 
there was another, a greater weakness in the intellectual 
life of the Middle Ages, — the lack of observation. 
Instead of observing either his own nature or that of 
other animals, the medieval philosopher sought his in- 
formation in encyclopedias, in beast-books, or in works 
of fiction. The Crusaders and later travellers brought 
home tales of marvellous creatures they had 'seen' or 
heard of in some zoological fairy-land. Furthermore, 
not only were there almost no menageries in Europe, 
but there existed an extraordinary misunderstanding of 
common European animals. When Brunctto Latini re- 



ports that black sheep say 'meh,' but that white 
say 'beh,' he is not even quoting the shepherds 
second hand. 

All together Dante mentions about a hundred 
beasts, fishes, and monsters. His deviis are, so far as 
can be determined, either the hybrid of man and some 
lower animal, or they result from distortion, or from 
combining two or more lower animals. The griffin, 
the phenix, the dragon, to say nothing of a six-footed 
serpent and of a fiery adder, are monsters. Other 
creatures may have a normal anatomy, but they act 
abnormally. Such are the Three Beasts and other 
demoniacal animals to be found in Hell. Such too 
are the beaver, the pelican, and the eagle that gazes 
into the sun. On the other hand our poet's falcons 
and hawks are wholly natural. And here it is timely 
to remark that no other birds than hawks and falcons 
(except, perhaps, their quarry) were carefully studied 
during the Middle Ages. 

Dante mentions or describes six or seven exotic ani- 
mals, — the monkey, the lion, the ounce (some kind of 
leopard or a cheetah), the panther, the beaver, the 
elephant, the whale, and the dolphin, for these two are 
exotic, as they Uve in the sea. Of these it is more than 
likely that Dante had seen the three first named. Those 
animals that he knew least Dante nevertheless portrays 
with the energy of genius. Ignorance hardly lessened 
his power. Those that he knew best he describes so 
well as to surpass all other writers of the Middle Ages. 

To aflSrm that Dante could not really have believed 
in things so fantastic as giants and dragons would be- 

sheep ^H 

at ^1 

birds, H 



token an inadequate knowledge of the age in which he 
lived. Whoever reads carefully the works of an Alber- 
tus Magnus, a Thomas Aquinas, or those of Dante, 
cannot fail to perceive how greatly their credulity ex- 
ceeds our own. It is possible, too, that six centuries 
from now much that we deem rational may be thought 
mere fantasy. 

Dante Alighieri's art and philosophy of the animal 
kingdom are not vitiated by modem science, for they 
are part of him ; and though we may smile at his 
dogmas, it is his belief and sincerity, joined to his 
power, that make his philosophy interesting, his art 
beautiful. By learning what Dante felt and thought, 
we discover what impression the animate world made 
on one of the noblest thinkers, one of the most keen- 
sighted poets, that have blessed our earth. 



List of Names and Subjects 

[The numbers refer to the pages.] 

Adam's creation, 12; sin, 14; fate, 
4; progeny, 16; abode, 23; do- 
minion over animals, 344. 

^^Esop, 137, 138, 140, 318-320. 

Agincourt, de, 242 n. I. 

Agliate, church of, 210 n. i. 

Albertus Magnus, Bishop of Ratis- 
bon, on species, 77; intelligence 
in lower animals, 7-8, 215 ; speech, 
79 n. 2 ; odour of panther, 93 n. 3 ; 
on lion, 106 n. 2; wolf, 112 n. 5, 
1 13 n. I ; sheep, 186 n. 2; sponge, 
223; griffin, 225 n. i; goshawk 
and falcon, 244 n. i ; falcon, 25 1 
n. 2; lark, 266 n. i; cranes, 287 
n. 5; pelican, 295 n. i; stork, 
290 n. 2; phenix, 310-31 1; 
dragon, 321 ; hydra and cerastes, 
326 n. 2; butterfly, 342 n. i. 

Alfred, King, 204 n. I. 

Allegory mars Dante's art, 183, 191- 

Ambrose, 92, 127 n. I, 264, 291 n. 2, 

316, 348 n. 2. 

Amphisboena, 328. 

Angang, 87 n. i. 

Angels, good and bad, 26; their 
humanity, 27; corporeality, 28; 
dress, 29; Cimabue and Giotto's 
angels, 29; angel and Balaam's 
ass, 160; angels like goshawks, 
243; like rooks or daws, 304-306; 
like bees, 35^35^ 

Angling, 218-219. 

Animal = caterpillar, 341 . 

Animal kingdom, meaning of, 5. 

Animals, the lower, spiritual signifi- 
cance of, 10, 21; psychology of, 
78-83, 215 n. I; demoniacal, 9, 
31* 33 > noxious, 21; animals in 
architecture, 10; in hell, 15; 
Dante's feeling for, 14; used for 
the chase, loi. See also under 
individual names. 

Anne, Ste., church of (Douai), 296 
n. 2. 

Anonimo Fiorentino, 154, 166 n. i, 

Anonymus Neveleti, 138, 140^ 319. 

Anselm, 357. 

Anthropocentric psychology, 16; 
anthropocentric theory of food, 
170; of dolphins, 209. 

Anthropology, 4. 

Ants of vEgina, 35^-353; gathering 
off 354; Pliny's description, 354. 

Arbois de Jubainville, 284. 

Aristotle, nature study of, i; his 
scholasticism, 7; A. as source, 6; 
on immortality, 13; Fortune, 19; 
miracles, 19 n. i; on eagle, 255 
n. i; panther, 132; mole, 141 
n. I; sheep, 186 n. 2; dolphin, 
207; sponge, 222-223; cranes 
and pygmies, 287 n. 3; swallow, 
312; snakes, 333; caterpillar and 
butterfly, 342 n. I; wasps, 345 
n. 3; ants, 354. 




Ark, Noah's, 21. 

Amant Daniel, 48 n. 2. 

Ass a sluggard, 15^160; Balaam's 

ass, i6a 
Astrology, i^2a 
Augustine on death, 14 n. I; on 

fallen angels, 33-34; Ninirod, 71 ; 

noxious beasts, 21 ; fox, 12S. 
Averrofe, 2-3, 7 n. 3, 19. 
Avicenna, 3f 321. 


Balaam's ass, 24, i6a 

Basilisk, la 

Bastard, 158. 

Bat, 73. 

Bears of Bethel, 144-145; bear as 

clown, 145; typifies greed, 146; 

Orsini arms, 145; bear in epic, 

127; as a gift, loi. 
Beast-books as source, 6. 
Beaver, hunted for castorium, 198 ; 

a tail-fisher, 198-199. 
Bede, 348 n. 2. 
Bees' wax and honey, 355; bees' 

instinct, 356; rumbling water and 

bees, 358; angels like bees, 357; 

bees and heavenly rose, 140. 
Beivre, 197. 
Benvenuto da Imola, 13 n. 2, 20 n. I, 

69 n. I, 96 n. 2, 99, 140, 142, 149 

n- 2, ISO, 154. I57» '58. 166 n. i, 
168 n. 2, 170, 218 n. 2, 258. 

Bernard the ass, 127. 

Bernard, St, 357. 

Bemart de Ventadom, 267, 268. 

BesHaire iP Amours 132 n. 5. 

Bestiaire Divin, 93 n. 3. 

Bestiality, 81, 98. 

Bevero, 197. 

Biber, 197 n. i. 

Bible, as source, 6, 12, 14, 16-17, 21, 
23, 28 n. 5, 32-34. 39. 46 n. 2, 
64, 65 n. I, 86 n. i, 103 n. 2, no 
n. 3, 127 n. I, 144 n. i, n. 2, n. 3, 

160 n. I, 162 n. 2, n. 3, 163 n. 3, 
167 n. 3, 169 n. 5, 179 n. i, 212 
n. I, 225 n. 2, 235 n. 2, 238 n. 3, 
260 n. I, 273 n. I, 315 n. i (?), 

326, 332, 340. 341. 353 n- 2; 
in Middle Ages, 272. 

Birds, 230-239, 304, 304 n. 2. See 
also separate chapters in G>ntents 

Blackbird, boasts, 300-301 ; em- 
bodies Satan, 301 n. 2. 

Boar. »75-»77- 

Boar hound (and illustration), 118. 

Boar hunt, 176. 

Boccaccio, 13, 77 n. 4, 99, 122 n. 3, 

134 n. 4. 
Boethius, 159, 304-305. 
Botolo, 122 n. 3. 
Branca d' Oria, 41-42. 
Brandan, 233. 
Brunetto Latini, on Tresor, 6; geog- 

raphy, 12 n. 8, n. 9; on Dante's 

star, 20; Sirens, 67 n. 4, 70 n. I ; 

l>'nx, 64 n. I, 94; wolf, 112 n. 5; 

dogs, 120 n. I; mole, 141 11.3; 

beaver, 198; whale, 204-205; 

stork, 290; swan, 298 n. 4; 

phenix, 310 n. i; dragon, 321. 
Brush, M., 320 n. i. 
Buonconte, 39-4a 
Buti, 179 n. 3. 
Butterfly, 342. 

Cacus, 59, 322-323, 326. 

Caesarius Heisterbacensis, 37 n. 2, 

42,52, 70. 
Cagnazzo, 124 n. i. 
Cahier, 34 n. 2, 57 n. 2, 63, 224, 

227 n. I, 228, 255, 294, 317 n. 3, 

330 n- 5. 332- 
! Caladrius, 5. 

! Calisto, church of, 227 n. 3. 

- Camel, as gift, loi. 

. Cams, J. v., 77 n. i. 

^^^^'^^^H ^^J 

INDEX 369 V 

Carui, P.. 9 0- 4. 30 "- I, 74". 3, 

mystic interpretation of their nighl. ^H 

75 "■ »■ 

3S5 3. ^ 

Casini, loa n. a. 

Crow lypilies blackness of sin, 264 ; ^^1 

Cassiodorus, 131 n. 3. 

crowsandwhitesheep,264; young ^^M 

Caterpillar in cocixin, 341. 

crows and eaglets, 264. ^^1 

Call' war wilb mice, ihe-cat pio- 

Cuckoo, 265. ^^^^M 

verbial, 134. 

143- ^^^^H 

Cattle. Oi Ihe symbol of St. Luke, 

162; fiintaaiic 01, 163; Sicilian 


boU, 163-1641 Fasipbii«, 164-165: 

MinoUur, 165; butchery, 166; 

Dame, 195 n, 3- 

yoked oxen, 1661 01 licki it* now. 

Damian, 21, 149. 


Danle, orthodoxy of, 3-5 ; observa- 

CalidlM, 34 n- I- 

tion, 6, 201, 208, 214, 368-269, 

308 ; range of his knowledge, 5 ; 

Cecco d' Ascoli, 19. 

his Umitations, 8 ; funiliarity with 

Cencbti. 327. 

Centaur, Giotto's, 56 ; olhcr medi- 

lack of eiperimental science, 79 ; 

eval centaurs, 56-58 ; Dante's, 

his sources, 6 {also Text and 

5S-59 ; CenUui of Chartres, 59 ; 

Notes, fiosiitii) ; art and philoso- 

of Louvre, 60. 

phy, 8, 186; as poet and dog- 

Cerastes, 326 n. a. 

tnalist. 81.-83, 308; his incon- 

Ccrbcro. a hybrid, 47 ; » ' "orm ' 

sistency, 33, 37 : theory of kosmos. 

with tusks, 4S ; medieval, 50, 

12! of struggle for life, a3 ; of 

Cerviero (cenricr), 94, 95. 

stars, 20 ; of death, 14 : of the 

Charon, a red-eyed devil, 43-44. 

will, 16; of law, 17 ; of Species, 

Chaclres, cathedral of, 59. 

77; of intelligence in lower ani- 

Cheetah, 1 03. 

mals, 78-82. ao3. 215 ; his feeling 

Chclidnis, 328. 

for lower animals, 14. 331. 268- 

Christ of Salerno, 74. 

269 1 D. exalts the falcon. 237, 243, 

Ciacco, 177 n. a. 

■nd the eagle, 2115-363 ; is fond 

Cicero, 13, 139 n. a, 141 n. 1. 

of the lark, 267-268; D, hates 

Cimabue, 19. 

dogs, 118-121; wolves, 110-117; 

Ciriatto, 172. 

foxes. 137-131: serpents, 333; 

Cock, friendly to man, 316 ; cock 

and dislikes sheep. 180; his be- 

of Gallura (heraldic), 317: fa- 

lief in giants, 70; In Satan, 75; 

ble of cock and pearl, 138, 31S- 

hU ability to vJtaUse monsters. 


aio ; D. on the Trtsor, 204 ; 

CoUignon, 61 0. 3. 

D. as a borrower, 267-268 ; his 

Coluber. 334 n. a. 

convenlionality, 234 ; D. thinks 

Cotenna, 176 n. 3. 

best in Italian, 218, 297: his be- 

Crane. T.F., 18411. 1. 

lief in demoniacal animals, 344 ; 

Cranes' flight and song, 183-284 1 

in serpent of Eden, 332 ; his art 

alphabet- makers, 23;, 26a. 284- 

marred l>y allegory. I83. 19I-193- 

286 ; cranes «intcr on Nile. 186; 

Da Prsto, 177 n. 1. 

fly both north and south. 288-389 ; 

Dartein. 227 n, 3. 

^^^V IBU^^HI^H 

370 INDEX ^^^H 

Darwin, 79 n. 1. 

Dragon's looks, abode, and behav- ^| 

Daw. Sm Rooks. 

iour. 321-322 ; afraid of panther, ^H 

Dt Animatibus {Biati AlUrH 

93 1 acus ridden by a dragon. ^H 

Ahgni, Lugduni, 1651), 266 n. I. 

322 ; dragon's tail, 323 ; a Geice ^^| 

Sec Albert QS Magnus. 

pursuer, 324. ^H 

De Artt I'eiuindi cum AvUm, 7, 

Du Cange. 313 n. 4. ^H 

240-142. See Ftedeticlc II. 

Duck, 250-252. ^^H 

Dcalb, origin of, 14; second death. 


14 n. 2. 

Deer. 195-196. See Dame, 

Eagle's miraculous gaze, 35S--3S6, 

Dclmf-Kaddiffe, 247. 

Deudc dc Pcadaa, 283. 

257 ; Polenta arms, 258 ; imperilJ 

Devil, vogue, pride, and fall of, 30, 

eagle, 259. 261 ; demoniacal sym- 

31 ; wickedness, ubtiiuitjr, actual- 

ity. 3' ; special demons, 32 ; god« 

St. Lucy. a6l ; heavenly eagle, 

of the Gentiles, 33 ; devil's lan- 

262-263, ^l; eaglets and young 

guage, 25, 33 ; names, 37 ; horns, 

crows, 264. 

34 ; weapons, 34-35 ; faUen angels, 

Earle, 192 n. 2. 

33-34; a fiendish body-carrier, 

Oephant. rare in Middle Agei, 203 ; 

36-37 ; devils' ill behaviour lo the 

huge, but unintelligent. 203. 

poets, 38 ; devil causes disease, 

Encyclopedias, medieval. 6. 

39, and ilorms, 39-^°: animates 

Enlomata. 343 n. 2. 

a corpse. 41-43 ; in lice, ilcas, 

Environmenl. 16. 

and flies, 344; stiife with angels, 

Epicureans. 3, 13. 

• 40-41. 

Eaopo. Sec .^sop. 

Didron, 26, 296. 

Evans, E. P.. 9 n. 5, 580. 1.67 n.1. 

Diez, 84 n. 2. 267 n. 3. 

229 n. 1. 

Dino Compagni, 114 n. 3, 153. 

Evolution denied by Dante, Si ; 

Dipsas, 328 n. 3. 

evolution and noiious anhnal^ 

Dog, superficially described, 119 ; a 


scavenger. 119 ; watch-dogs, 120; 


bothered by insects, 122; demo- 

niacal, 124-126; on tombs, 126; 

Falcon. See Falconry. 

Malatesta arms, 121 0. z; dogs 

Falconry, in Europe, 240 1 in Arabia, 

and oiler. 200. 

241; aristocratic. 241-241; in 

Dolphin's fondness for boys, 207, 

art, 241-242 ; observed and ad- 

ao8 ; swift, huge, loves company. 

mired by Dante, 242-243 ; gos- 

foretells storms, 207-208 ; job- 

hawks fly low, 243 1 a blocking 

bers and dolphins, 209 ; dolphins 

falcon, 244 ; hawk's eye, 245-246; 

in architecluie, 210 n. I. 

a garing falcon, 246-247 ; training 

Dove, typifies theology, 272-273 ; 

of peregrine, 246 n. 4, 247; falcon 

273 n. 1 ; peaceful, 274 n. 1 ; a 

nnhooded, 247-248 j seeling, 248- 

Christian symbol of soul. 343 n. i ; 

250 ; falcon and duck, 350 ; devil 

betokens ehaititv, 274 n, 1 . 275, and 

like sparrow-hawk, 351-353. 

iMt. 276. 276 n. 1 i dove's flight. 

Fall of man. 30-31, 

277-279 i doves feeding. 275. 

Farfalla, 342. 



— "^^^ 

INDEX 371 V 

Faust, cited, 115. 

Gatta. 134. 

Fe., 56, 57 n. 4. 


Feireti, lol. 


Fidelii, SI., church of, II7 n. 3. 

Gervaise, author of betst-booh, 56 

Ftreflj. 346. 

n. 1, 93n-3. 197 n. »■ 

Ftib, inteUieenee of. aij ! "gn in 

Geijun's looks and actions, 61-64; 

origin, 64-66; .ymb"! of friad. 

fiih-pond», 117 ; lanr* of fiih un- 

96; GeryoD and beaver, 197; G, 

known to Duile, 3171 brEUn'i 

and eel, 311; his tail, 338. 

tckles, llS: ■ngUng. 118-3191 

Gianu, as devils. 70-73; compared 

eels of Bolsena, Z19. 

to elephant! and whales, ioj.106. 


Giotto. 39. 

Flies, 344. 

Goal, like tragedy, 187; butts. tS8: 

Folklore. 5. 199, ao4, J04 a. 4, 105, 

goats feeding, 188-189; aUegorical 


Fortune, 17-18. 

example, 1941 "> a proverb, 1941 

Fournivil, Kichird de, anthoi of 

symbol of lust, 34 n. x 

bcMt-book, 133. 

God is personal, 16, 17. 

Fowling, pkbeiui. 337; despised 

bf Dante, 137-1381 sJanen in 

67 n. 3. 

bird-Uinc, 338; deco)'. 338-139. 

Goose, heraldic 314 1 Juggiih, 314 ; 

Fox, foe of nuin tad bcul, 1171 

a tingle gooae saved Rome, 315. 

typifie. tricksters, 118-130; signi- 

Goshawk, 341, a4J-«44- 

fM heretics, 137 n. i, 130-131. 

Graf, 17 n. 3.30 n. 1,330.1,7411. 

Fr«tcAlbcrieo, 41. 

3, 7S »■ ■■ 

Frederigk II of Swsbia, 7.8, ■}, lot. 

Grafliacsne, 13411. 3. 

101 n. 3, KJi, 139 n. 1. »40-J4«i 

F. >ncl falconet (illustration). 140; 

Gtegoiy. 155 n. 3, 360 n- 1, JOl n. 1, 


348 n. I. 

I, 186 n, 1. See alio A ^r/t 

Gtiftmfoeofcolt (iUu«ralioD}.334i 

ytnandi turn Avitui. 

of man (iHuitration). 318; o( 

Free will. 8i. 

man and hone, 337 ; b architec- 

Freibgrg, ealhedtal of. 317 n. a. 

ture, 337 n. 3 : at Rtt, 6s ; half 

Frog*, of Apoealjrpse, of Pharaoh, 

eagle, half lion. 335-116; Dante's 

3111 heretics, sit: flee before 

mainsymbolof Christ. 317; speaks. 

snake, 311-313; linnera' amphibi- 

339 1 dwell In Asiatic Scylhta or 

ous altitude, at3-3i4- 

Fuogo nurino, 331-313. 

Furia, their looks. 53; Iheit mean- 

Grimm. 87 n. t. 

ing. 54- 

GuiUaome le Oerc, author of b«*M- 


book, 93 D. 3. 

Gadflies 344-345- 


Galer>, 3, 80. 


Gaipair, 11. 

Haarlem, church at. 196 n. a. ^M 





ffamUi, cited, 238 n. 5. 

Hare, an ill omen, 87 ; hunted, 121. 

Harpies, medievalised, 60-61. 

Harting, 242 n. 2. 

Hefner- Alteneck, von, 57 n. 3. 

Hell, a reality, 9. 

Heraldry, ic\ 103 n. 3 (c), 105, 121 

n. 2, 145, 162, 168-169, 258-259, 

261-262, 314, 317, 333. 
Heredity, 16. 

Hervieux, 318 n. 2, 319 n. I. 
Hildebertus, 93 n. 3. 
Hildegard, 93 n. 3. 
Hillard, 78 n. I, 82 n. I. 
Hippocrates, 3, 20. 
Hofinann, 304 n. 2. 
Homer, 166. 
Horace, 100 n. 5, 114 n. 2, 165, 170 

n. 3, 187 n. 2, 299 n. i, 335 n. 2. 
Horse of Mezentius, of Sinon, of 

Elijah, 147 ; horse valued, 148 ; 

horse race, 149; palfrey, 150 ; 

horse compared to appetite, 151 ; 

demoniacal, 152-153; Madonna 

Tonina, 1 54-1 55- 
Howells, 173 n. 3. 
Hugo a Sancto Caro, 93. 
Hugo of St. Victor, 67, 84 n. i, 127 

n. 2, 128, 227 n. 2, 260 n. i, 285 

n. 3. 
Hunting, 176-177, 20a 
Huxley, 39. 
Hydra, 332. 
Hyena, loa 

lacoli, 328. 

Ibn-Roschd. See AverroSs. 

Immortality, 13, 77, 81, 194. 

Insects, demoniacal, 344-345* 

Instinct, 78-79, 356. 

Intelligence in lower animals, 15, 

78-83, 215, 217. 
Isidor, Bishop of Seville, 67 n. 4, 

95, 207, 227 n. 3, 298, 321. 

Isopetto, 14a See iCiop. 
Isopo. See iCiop. 

Jackson, A. V. W., 204 n. 4. 
Jacopo della Lana, 154, 164 n. 3, 

i^ 258 n. 3. 
Jahveh, 16. 

Jerome, 9, 57, 141 n. 2, 285. 
Jonah, 205. 
Juvenal, 291 n. I. 


Kannegiesser, 192 n. 4. 

Kite, flies high over foul things, 

typifies gluttons, 253-254. 
Kosmos, 12. 
Kuhns, 141 n. I. 

Lactantius, 14 n. 2, 80. 

Lamarck, 7. 

Lanci, 65. 

Landeau, 204 n. 4. 

Language, 23-25, 51-52, 71-72, 79 
n. 2, 160 n. I, 300. 

Laocoon, 329. 

Lark*s flight and song, 266-267, 266 
n. I ; lark of Bemart de Venta- 
dom, 267. 

Latham, 131 n. 2, 167 n. 2, 259 n. i, 
n. 3. 

Lauchert, 93 n. i, 103 n. i, 132 n. 2, 
n. 4, 255 n. 2, 332 n. 5. 

Lay, of cranes, 283, 285 ; of night- 
ingale, 283 ; of swallow, 313. 

Leconte de Lisle, 8, 252. 

Leopard, 86, 93 n. i, loi, loi n. 2, 
n. 3, 102. 

Lime in fowling, 238, 238 n. 5. 

Lion's three meanings, 103 ; a kingly 
beast, 10 ; lion given by Boniface, 
104; miscellaneous references 



103 n. 3 ; demoniacal lion, 107 ; 

heraldic, 105 ; a basis for morali- 

sation, 316. 
Litta, 105 n. 3, 145 n. 5, 258 n. i. 
Lizard (eye-lizard). See Ramarro. 
Locust, 348-349' 
Lonza. See Ounce. 
Lonzo, 99. 

Lucan, 6, 124, 284, 327 n. 2. 
Lucciola, 346. 
Lucertolone, 336. 
Lucifer's variability, 72; looks and 

place in hell, 73; origin, 73-76. 
Lucretius, i. 
Luisi, 300 n. 3. 
Luiso, 20 n. I. 
Lumaccia. See SnaiL 
Liining, 307 n. i. 
Luther, 344. 

Lyncurium or lyngurium, 94-95. 
Lynx, keen-sighted and envious, 94. 


Maggots, 340. 

Magpies, mythological, 302-303 ; 
speaking magpies, 303. 

Man's soul, 13; death, 14; intel- 
lect, 15 ; relation to God, 17, 77, 
344; fortune, 17-18; stars, 19- 
20 ; other animals, 22-23 ; man's 
gradation, 82 ; origin, 12 ; spread, 
23-24 ; pollution, 24. 

Mantichora, 64. 

Marie de France, 139, 264 n. 3,319, 

Martial, 285. 

Mastiff, 121. 

Matthew Paris, 202 n. I. 

McKenzie, 139 n. i, 265 n. i, 319. 

Menageries, 7, 99-102, 104, 105 n. 

Merla, merlo, 300, 301. 

Meyer, P., 197 n. i. 

Meyer-Lfibke, 195 n. 3. 

Mice typify pilferers, 136; mouse 
and frog (fable), 137-140. 

Minos, chief-justice of hell, 44 ; his 

tail, and ethics, 46. 
Minotaur's looks, 55 ; demeanour, 

55-56, 165. 
Mirafiore, 305 n. 2. 
Modus, Le Roy^ et la reine Racio, 

III n. 2, 131 n. I, 171 n. i, 176 n. 

I, 200 n. I, 237. 
Mole, traditionally blind, 141 ; 

Dante's mole can see, 142. 
Monkey and jugglers, 84 ; its imita- 

tiveness, 85. 
Monte Santangelo, church of, 49 n. I. 
Moore, E., 19 n. i, 46 n. i, 97 n. I, 

267 n. 2, 270 n. 2, 339 n. i. 
Mosconi, 345. 
Mule, 154 (?) ; is characterised 

through a man, 156-158. 
Muratori, 145 n. 3. 


Nature, study of, i ; benignity of, 20. 

Necessity, 17. 

Neckam, 20 n. i, 128, 287, 295. 

Nibbio, 254. 

Nicole de Margival, author of beast- 
book, 132 n. 6. 

Nightingale, mentioned, 267 ; the 
greatest songstress, 270-271 ; 
sings lays, 283. 

Nile. See Cranes. 

Nimrod and Babel, 24 ; a giant, 71 ; 
speaks gibberish, 72. 

Noxious beasts, 21-23. 

Observation, 184 n. 3, 201. See 

Odin's hawks, 307. 
Oesterley, 318 n. 2. 
Ornithology, 240. 
Orosius, 163 n. 5. 
Otter hunt, 200; politician and 

otter, 201. 



Ounce and pardus of Jeremiah, 91 ; 
meaning of ounce's spots, 92-93 ; 
symbol of envy (?), 95 ; of lust 
( ?)» 9^~99 '9 ounce identified, 100- 
102 ; ounce and panther, 133. 

Ovid, 6, 24, 34 n. i, 100, 1 14 n. 2, 
163, 164, 177 n. I, 209 n. 2, 270 
n. 2, 291 n. I, 298, 302, 310, 326, 
328 n. 4, 329 n. 3, 338, 35C\ 352, 


Palfrey, 150, 242. 

Panther, legend of, 93» 93 n. 3 ; fra- 
grance of, 132; Christ-S3rmbol, 
1 33 ; panthers draw car of Bacchus, 

PaniA^re d^AmourSf 132 n. 6. 

Pappagallo, 303 n. I. 

Paris, G., 127 n. 4. 

Parrot, 303 n. i. 

Paul, St., on gods of the Gentiles, 33 ; 
on death, 14. 

Peacock, fable of crow and, 264. 

Pelican, symbol of Christ, 294-295 ; 
emblem, 296. 

Phsedrus, 318. 

Pharese, 327. 

Phenix lives 500 years, burns up, and 
lives again, 309-310; Ovid's 
phenix, 310; phenix of Albertus 
Magnus, 310-311 ; only one ex- 
ists, 311. 

Philomela, 270. 

Phlegyas, 52-53. 

Physiologus, 132, 198, 207, 256. 

Piche, 302. 

Pietro di Dante, 199. 

Pisa, frescos of, 35 ; church of, 255 
n. 2. 

Pliny on lynx, 100 n. 2; panther, 
132 ; mole, 141 n. 2 ; beaver, 198 ; 
whale, 204 n. 4 ; phenix, 310 n. 
I ; ant, 354. 

Pluto's gibberish, 51-52. 

Poison of snakes, 328 n. 3. 
Pola, 305 n. 2. See Rooks. 
Predestination, 16. 
Prester, 329 n. 5. 
Procne, 270. 

Proverbs, 109, 134, 148, 194, 31a. 
Providence, 16. 

Psyche, the soul a butterfly, 343. 
Psychology, anthropocentric in the 
Middle Ages, 15-16. 

Rabanus Maurus, 92-93, 120 n. i, 
127 n. I, 136, 211, 212 n. i» 323 
n. 4. 

Raimondi, 100 n. 2, 237. 

Ramarro, darts swiftly, 335 ; iden- 
tity of, 335-337- 

Rashdall, 20 n. i. 

Raumer, von, 7 n. 3. 

Reason, only in man, 15. 
; Renan, 3 n. I, 7 n. 3, 20 n. I, 32 n. I. 

Renard, 127 n. 3. 

Richalmus, 25, 31 n. 5, 52, 344, 

Richard. See FoumivaL 

Richiamo, 239 n. I. 

Romanes, 79 n. i. 

Romulus, fabulist, 138, 318, 319. 

Rooks, cold at dawn, fly at random, 

Roskoff, 30 n. I, 31 n. 5, 43 n. 3, 52 
n. 3, 344 n. I. 

Ruskin, 62, 64 n. 4. 

Ryccardus de Sancto Germano, 202 
n. 2. 

Sacchetti, 122 n. 3, 134 n. 4, 174, 

Salamander, 5, 141. 
Salimbene, 202 n. 3. 
San Qemente at Cesauria, church 

of, 61. 
San Marco, church o^ 62, 64. 



San Michele Maggiore, church of, 

55 n- I- 
Satan with three heads, 75. 

Saxo Grammaticus, 86. 

Scardova, 218. 

Schultz, A. W., loi n. 2. 

Schultz, H. W., 61 n. 4, 227 n. 3. 

Scorpion's telson, 338; scorpion is 
cold, 339. 

Seeling, 248-250. 

Serpents, in hell, 326-327 ; uncouth, 
328; attack sinners, 328-330; a 
transformation, 329; Eve's ser- 
pent, 330-332 ; viper's matricide, 
332 ; viper of Milan, 333 ; Dante's 
serpents mostly bookish, 334. 

Serra, 207 n. 2. 

Shakespeare, 285 n. 5, 118, 135. 

Sheep. Lamb of God, 179; sheep 
disliked by D., 180; sheepfold 
scenes, 180-181 ; Florence a 
sheepfold, 181-182 ; pseudo- 
classic pastorals, 183 n. i ; silly 
sheep, 183-184 ; figurative flocks, 
185 n. 3 ; sheep and wolves, 108- 
109 ; sheep and crows, 264. 

Siren, medieval, 66-67 > Dante's 
humanisation, 67-70 ; Siren and 
Angang, 87. 

Snail, 325. 

Solinus, 64, 65, 227 n. 2, 310 n. I. 

Solomon's dove, 272-273. 

Sorco, 136 n. 2. 

Sordello, 108. 

Soul, powers of, 78. 

Sources, 6. See also Text and Notes, 

Sparrowhawk, 245, 250-251. 

Species, 77. 

Spiders' webs, 350 ; Arachne, 350- 

Sponge moves and feels, 222-223. 

Starlings' flight, 280-282 ; typify 

lust (?), 282 n. I. 
Statins, 54 n. 4, 100 n. 5, 310 n. i, 

326 n. 2. 

Stinking beasts, 131 n. I. 

Storks clatter, 290 ; typify affection, 
291-292 ; mystical interpretation, 
291 n. I ; storklets in nest, 292-293. 

Stornei, 280 n. i. 

Struggle for life, 23. 

Strutt, 145 n. 3. 

Swallow, in a proverb, 312 ; sings 

lays, 313- 

Swan, snowy and songful, 297-299 ; 

black swan, 299. 
Swine, heraldic, 168-169; belted, 

169 ; swine and pearls, 169 ; 

typify lust and wrath, 1 70-1 71 ; 

tusks, 172; Tantony pigs, 172- 

175 ; mad hog, 176. 

Tafani (gadflies), 344. 

Tanaro, 280 n. i, 285 n. 2. 

Tantony pigs. See Swine. 

Temperament, 19-20. 

Tempier, 2. 

Ten Brink, 133 n. i. 

Thaun, 93 n. 3, 100 n. i. 

Theokritos, 183. 

Thomas, St., as a psychologist, 
15-16 ; on predestination, 17 n. 3 
miracles, 19 n. i ; angels, 28 
devils, 32 n. 2 ; giants, 70 n. 3 
species, 77; instinct, 79 n. i 
pelican, 294. 

Three Beasts, the, 86-87. 

Tiresias, 332. 

Todd, 7 n. I, 132 n. 6. 

Topo, 137. 

Toynbee, 51 n. 3, 53 n. i, 59 n. i, 
n. 2, 65 n. 4, 139, 142 n. 4. 

Tozer, 13 n. i. 

Tragedy, like he-goat, 187. 

Tresor {Li Livres dou). See Bru- 
netto Latini. 

Tundal's Vision^ 35 n. 3, 43, 124, 

233, 341. 
Turtle-dove, symbol of conjugal 

I fidelity, 34 n. 2. 



Tuscih Venetian Bestiary^ 355 n. i. 
Tyior, 199 n. 4. 

Ulyasea^ significance of his &te, 5-4. 

Valerius Maximos, 163 n. 5. 
Veltro, 118, 118 n. I, 126. 
Venery, 219, 240. 
Vernon, W. W., 157 n. 3, 336* 347 

n. I. 
Villani, G., 13, 30 n. 2, 104, 109, 

152, 220, 325 n. I. 
Vincent of Beauvais, 77, 170 n. 3. 
VioUet-le-Duc, 118. 
Viper, 332. 

Virgil, ^ 49 n. i, $<> »• 3» 54 n. 3» 
55 n. I, 61 n. 2, 64 n. 2, 100, 
141 n. 2, 147, 164, 165, 170 n. I, 
177 n. I, 183, 189 n. I, 196, 211 
n. 4, 212 n. I, 277, 307, 326, 329 

n. I, 333 n- 5» 335 "• >» 358. 
Vision of Friar Alberic^ 50~5'* 
Vixen, 131. 


Waher of England, fabulist, 319. 
Wamke, 264 n. 3, 320 n. 3. 
Wasps, 345. 
Whale in northern and southern 

Kterahire, 204; m fish, 204; hn^ 
and mindless, 205; stranded 
whales, 206. 
White, A. D., 21 n. 2, 30 n. i, 39, 

3240- I* 

White, G^ 79 n. 3, 282 n. i, 307 
n. 3. 

Will, freedom of, 15-18. 

Witte, C, 192 n. 4, 199 n. I. 

Wolf, common in Middle Ages, 109; 
wolves of Florence, no; greedy 
priests, no; wolf typifies envious 
greed, 96, 112-117; bitch wolf 
wantons, 114, 114 n. 3; wolf 
makes dumb, 116; a lucky omen, 
87; dream-wolves, iii; Dante's 
wolf a devil, 116-117; wolfs evil 
eye, 10, 113 n. 2 ; wolf eats earth, 
112; wolves in sheeps' clothing, 

Woodward, 121 n. 2, 145 n. 5, 258 
n. I, 259 n. 2, 317 n. 3, 333 n. 2. 

Worm, 340-341* 

Vuz, 102. 

Zeba, 194 n. 3. 
Zend Avesta^ 204 n. 4. 
Zenzara, 9, 9 n. i. 
ZoGlogy, 4, 10 1. 

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