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As I know no man who surpasses yourself in combining a love 
of the most romantic fiction with the coolest good sense, and, in passing 
from the driest metaphysical questions to the heartiest enjoyment of 
humour, — I trust that even a modesty so true as yours will not grudge 
me the satisfaction of inscribing these volumes with your name. 

That you should possess such varieties of taste is no wonder, consid- 
erino'what an abundance of intellectual honours you inherit; nor might 
the world have been the better for it, had they been tastes, and nothing 
more. But that you should inherit also that zeal for justice to mankind, 
which has become so Christian a feature in the character of the age, and 
that you should include in that zeal a special regard for the welfare of 
your Father's Friend, is a subject of constant pleasurable reflection to 

Your obliged and affectionate 




The purpose of these volumes is, to add to the stock of 
tales from the ItaUan writers ; to retain at the same time 
as mucli of the poetry of the originals as it is in the power 
of the writer's prose to compass ; and to furnish careful bi- 
ographical notices of the authors. There have been several 
collections of stories from the novelists of Italy, but none 
from the poets ; and it struck me that prose versions from 
these, of the kind here offered to the public, might not be 
unwillingly received. The stories are selected from the five 
principal narrativ^e poets, Dante, Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto, and 
Tasso ; they comprise the most popular of such as are fit for 
translation ; are reduced into one continuous narrative, when 
diffused and interrupted, as in the instances of those of An- 
gelica, and Armida ; are accompanied with critical and ex- 
planatory notes ; and, in the case of Dante, consist of an 
abstract of the poet's whole work. The volumes are fur- 
thermore interspersed with the most favourite morceaux of 
the originals, followed sometimes with attempts to versify 
them ; and in the Appendix, for the better satisfaction of 
the student, are given entire stories, also in the original, and 
occasionally rendered in like manner. The book is partic- 
ularly intended for such students or other lovers of the lan- 
guage as are pleased with any fresh endeavours to recom- 

viii PREFACE. 

mend it ; and, at the same time, for such purely English 
readers as wish to know sometliing about Italian poetry, 
without having leisure to cultivate its acquaintance. 

I did not intend in the first instance to depart from the 
plan of selection in the case of Dante ; but when I consid- 
ered what an extraordinary person he was, — how" intense is 
every thing w hich he says, — how widely he has re-attracted 
of late the attention of the world, — how willingly perhaps his 
poem miglit be regarded by the reader as being itself one 
continued story (which, in fact, it is), related personally of 
the w^riter, — and lastly, w^hat a combination of ditficulties 
have prevented his best translators in verse from giving the 
public a just idea of his almost Scriptural simplicity — I be- 
gan to think that an abstract of his entire w^ork might pos- 
sibly be looked upon as supplying something of a desidera- 
tum. I am aware that nothing but verse can do perfect jus- 
tice to verse ; but besides the imperfections which are par- 
donable, because inevitable, in all such metrical endeavours, 
the desire to impress a grand and worshipful idea of Dante 
has been too apt to lead his translators into a tone and man- 
ner the reverse of his passionate, practical, and creative style 
— a style whicli may be said to write things instead of 
words ; and thus to render every w^ord that is put out of its 
place, or brought in for help and fiUing up, a misrepresenta- 
tion. I do not mean to say, that he himself never does any 
tiling of the sort, or does not occasionally assimie too much 
of the oracle and the schoolmaster, in manner as well as 
matter ; but passion, and the absence of the superfluous, are 
the chief characteristics of his poetry. Fortunately, this sin- 
cerity of purpose and utterance in Dante, render him the 
least pervertible of poets in a sincere prose translation ; and, 
since I ventured on attem])ting one, I have had the pleasure 


of iiiccting ^Yitll an express recommeiulation of such a ver- 
sion^ ill ail early number of the Eduiburgh Revleiv. 

The abstract of Dante, therefore, in tliesc vohimes (with 
every deprecation that becomes me of being supposed to pre- 
tend to give a thorough idea of any poetry whatsoever, es- 
pecially without its metrical form) aspires to be regarded as, 
at all events, not exhibiting a false idea of the Dantesque 
spirit in point of feeling and expression. It is true, I have 
omitted long tedious lectures of scholastic divinity, and other 
learned absurdities of the time, which are among the bars to 
the poem's being read through, even in Italy (which Foscolo 
tells us is never the case) ; and I have compressed the w^ork 
in other passages not essentially necessary to the formation 
of a just idea of the author. But quite enough remains to 
do so in every respect ; and in no part of it have I made ad- 
ditions or alterations. There is warrant — I hope I may say 
letter — for every thing put down. Dante is the greatest poet 
for intensity that ever lived ; and he excites a correspond- 
mg emotion in his reader — I wish I could say, always on 
the poet's side ; but his ferocious hates and bigotries too often 
tempt us to hate the bigot, and always compel us to take 
part with the fellow-creatures whom he outrages. At least, 
such is their effect on myself. Such a man, however, is the 
last whom a reporter is inclined to misrepresent. We re- 
spect his sincerity too much, ferocious though it be ; and we 
like to give him the full benefit of the recoil of his curses 
and maledictions. I hope I have not omitted one. On the 
other hand, as little have I closed my feelings against the 
lovely and enchanting sweetness which this great semi-bar- 
barian sometimes so affectingly utters. On tho.-;e occasions 

1 " It is probable that a prose translation would give a better idea of the ge- 
nius and manner of this poet than any metrical one." Vol. i. p. 310, 



he is like an angel enclosed for penance in some furious gi- 
ant, and permitted to weep through the creature's eyes. 

The stories from goodnaturcd Pulci I have been obliged 
to compress for other reasons — chiefly their excessive diffuse- 
ness. A paragraph of the version will sometimes comprise 
many pages. Those of Boiardo and Ariosto are more exact ; 
and the reader will be good enough to bear in mind, that no- 
thing is added to any of the poets, different as the case might 
seem here and there, on comparison ^\^th the originals. An 
equivalent for whatever is said is to be found in some part of 
the context — generally in letter, always in spirit. The least 
characteristically exact passages are, some in the love-scenes 
of Tasso ; for I have omitted the plays upon words and oth- 
er corruptions in style, in which that poet permitted himself 
to indulge. But I have noticed the circumstance in the com- 
ment. In other respects, I have endeavoured to make my 
version convey some idea of the different styles and genius 
of the writers, — of the severe passion of Dante, the overfliow- 
ing gaiety and affecting sympathies of Pulci, several of whose 
passages in the Battle of Roncesvalles are masterpieces of 
pathos ; the romantic and inventive elegance of Boiardo ; the 
great cheerful universality of Ariosto, like a healthy ariima 
vuindi ; and the ambitious irritabilit}^, the fairy imagination, 
and tender but somewhat effeminate voluptuousness of the 
poet of Armida and Rinaldo. I do not pretend that prose 
versions of passages from these writers can supersede the ne- 
cessity of metrical ones, supposing proper metrical ones at- 
tainable. Tiiey demand them more than Dante, the tone 
and manner in their case being of more importance to the 
effect. But with all due respect to such translators as Har- 
rington, Rose, and Wiffen, their books are not Ariosto and 
Tasso, even in manner. Harrington, the gay "godson" of 


Queen Elizabeth, is not always unlike Ariosto ; but when 
not in good spirits he becomes as dull as if her majesty had 
frowned on him. Rose was a man of wit, and a scholar ; 
yet he has imdoubtedly turned the ease and animation of 
his original into inversion and insipidity. And Wiffen, 
though elegant and even poetical, did an unfortunate thing 
for Tasso, when he gave an additional line and a number 
of paraphrastic thoughts to a stanza already tending to the 
superfluous. Fairfax himself, who upon the whole, and with 
regard to a work of any length, is the best metrical translator 
our language has seen, and, like Chapman, a genuine poet, 
strangely aggravated the sins of prettiness and conceit in 
his original, and added to them a love of tautology amount- 
ing to that of a lawyer. As to Hoole, he is below criticism ; 
and other versions I have not happened to see. Now if I 
had no acquaintance with the Italian language, I confess I 
would rather get any friend who had to read to me a passage 
out of Dante, Tasso, or Aiiosto, into the first simple prose 
that offered itself, than go to any of the above translators for 
a taste of it, Fairfax excepted ; and we have seen with how 
much allowance his sample would have to be taken. I have 
therefore, with some restrictions, only ventured to do for the 
pulilic what I would have had a friend do for myself. 

The Critical and Biograjjhical Notices I did not intend 
to make so long at first ; but the interest grew upon me ; 
and I hope the reader will regard some of them — Dante's 
and Tasso's in particular — as being " stories" themselves, 
after their kind, — " stories, alas, too true ;" " romances of 
real life." The extraordinary character of Dante, which is 
personally mixed up with hir^ writings beyond that of any 
other poet, has led me into references to his church and creed, 
unavoidable at any time in the endeavour to give a thorough 


estimate of his genius, and singularly demanded by certain 
phenomena of the present day. I hold those phenomena to 
be alike absurd and fugitive ; but only so by reason of their 
being openly so proclaimed ; for mankind have a tendency 
to the absurd, if their imaginations are not properly directed ; 
and one of the uses of poetry is, to keep the faculty in a 
healthy state, and cause it to know its boundaries. Dante, 
in the fierce egotism of his passions, and the strange identi- 
fication of his knowledge with all that was knowable, would 
fain have made his poetry both a sword against individuals, 
and a prop for the support of the superstition that corrupted 
them. This was reversing the duty of a Christian and a 
great man ; and there happen to be existing reasons why it 
is salutary to shew that he had no right to do so, and must 
not have his barbarism confounded with his strength. Mach- 
iavelli was of opinion, that if Christianity had not reverted 
to its first principles, by means of the poverty and pious lives 
of St. Francis and St. Dominic,* the faith would have been 
lost. It may have been ; but such are not the secrets of its 
preservation in times of science and progression, when the 
spirit of inquiry has establislied itself among all classes, and 
nothing is taken for granted, as it used to be. A few per- 
sons here and there, who confound a religious reaction in a 
corner with the reverse of the fact all over the rest of Eu- 
rope, may persuade themselves, if they please, that the world 

* Discorsi sopra la Prima Deca di Tito Livio, lib. iii. cap. i. At p. 136 of 
the present volume I have too hastily called St. Dominic " the founder of the 
Inquisition." It is generally conceded, I believe, by candid Protestant in- 
quirers, that he was not, whatever zeal in the foundation and support of the 
tribunal may have been manifested by his order. But this does not acquit him 
of the cruelty for which he has been praised by Dante : he joined in the san- 
guinary persecution of the Albigenses. 

PREFACE. xiii 

lias not advanced in knowledge for the last three centuries, 
and so get up and cry aloud to us out of obsolete horn-books ; 
but the community laugh at them. Every body else is in- 
quiring into first principles, while they are dogmatising on 
a forty-ninth proposition. The Irish themselves, as they 
ought to do, care more for their pastors than for the pope ; 
and if any body wishes to know what is thought of his holi- 
ness at head-quarters, let him consult the remarkable and 
admirable pamphlet which has lately issued from the pen 
of IMr. Mazzini.* I have the pleasure of knowing excellent 
Roman Catholics ; I have suffered in behalf of their eman- 
cipation, and would do so again to-morrow ; but I believe 
that if even their external form of Christianity has any 
chance of survival three hundred years hence, it will have 
been owing to the appearance meanwhile of some extraordi- 
nary man in power, who, in the teeth of worldly interests, 
or rather in charitable and sage inclusion of them, shall have 
proclaimed that the time had arrived for living in the flower 
of Christian charity, instead of the husks and thorns which 
may have been necessary to guard it. If it were possible 
for some new and wonderful pope to make this change, and 
draw a line between these two Christian epochs, like that 
between the Old and New Testaments, the world would feel 
inclined to prostrate itself again and for ever at the feet of 
Rome. In a cathoHc state of things like that, delighted 
should I be, for one, to be among the humblest of its com- 
municants. How beautifid would their organs be then ! 
how ascending to an unperplexing Heaven their incense ! 

♦ It is entitled, " Italy, Austria, and the Pope ;" and is full, not only of 
the eloquence of zeal, and of evidences of intellectual power, but of the most 
curious and instructive infonnution. 


how unselfish their salvation ! how intelligible their talk 
about justice and love ! 

But if charity (and by charity I do not mean mere tolera- 
tion, or any other pretended right to permit others to have 
eyes like ourselves, but whatever the beautiful Greek word 
implies of good and lovely), if this iruiy and only divine con- 
summation of all Christian doctrine be not thought capable 
of taking a form of belief " strong" enough. Superstition must 
look out for some new mode of dictation altogether ; for the 
world is outgrowing the old. 

I cannot, in gratitude for the facilities afforded to myself, 
as well as for a more obvious and public reason, dismiss this 
Preface without congratulating men of letters on the estab- 
lishment and increasing prosperity of the London Library^ 
an institution founded for the purpose of accommodating 
subscribers with such books, at their own homes, as could 
only be consulted hitherto at the British Museum. The sole 
objection to the Museum is thus done away, and the literary 
world lias a fair prospect of possessing two book-institutions 
instead of one, each with its distinct claims to regard, and pre- 
senting in combination all that the student can w^ish ; for 
while it is highly desirable that authors should be able to have 
standard works at their command, when sickness or other 
circumstances render it impossible for them to ^^o to the Mu- 
seum, it is undoubtedly requisite that one great collection 
should exist in which they are sure to find the same works 
unremoved, in case of necessity, — not to mention curious vol- 
umes of all sorts, manuscripts, and a world of books of reference. 



Critical Notice of his Life and Genius, . 
The Italian Pilgrim's Progress, 

The Journey through Hell, .... 

The Journey through Purgatory, 

The Journey through Heaven, 


Critical Notice of his Life and Genius, . 
Humours of Giants, ..... 
The Battle of Roncesvalles, . . . 


Critical Notice of his Life and Genius, . 
The Adventures of Angelica, . . . 
The Death of Agrican, .... 
The Saracen Friends, .... 

Seeing and Believing, .... 


Critical Notice of his Life and Genius, . 
The Adventures of Angelica, (continued,) 
Part I. — Angelica and her Suitors, 
II. — Angelica and Medorc 
ni. — The Jealousy of Orlando, . . . 

AsTOLFo's Journey to the Moon, 
Ariodante and Ginevra, .... 


















Critical Notice of his Life and Genius, 
Olindo and Sophronia, 
Tancred and Clorinda, 


Part I. — Armida in the Christian Camp, 

II. — Armida's Wrath and Love with Rinaldo, 
III. — Tancred in the Enchanted Forest, 
IV. — The Loves of Rinaldo and Armida, 

v.— The Disenchantment of the Forest, and the taking of Jerusalem, 


No. I. — Story of Paulo and Francesca, 

II. — Accounts given by different writers of the circumstan- 
ces relating to Paulo and Francesca ; concluding 
with the only facts ascertained, .... 

III. — Story of Ugolino, .... ... 

IV. — Picture of Florence in the time of Dante's Ancestors, 

V. — The Death of Agrican, 

VI. — Angelica and Medoro, 

VII. — The Jealousy of Orlando, ... . . 

VIII. — The Death of Clorinda, . . . . i . 

IX. — Tancred in the Enchanted Forest, .... 







Critiral Notice of l)is £ife onir ®enins. 




Dante was a very great poet, a man of the strongest passions, 
a claimant of unbounded powers to lead and enlighten the world ; 
and he lived in a semi-barbarous age, as favourable to the inten- 
sity of his imagination, as it was otherwise to the rest of his pre- 
tensions. Party zeal, and the fluctuations of moral and critical 
opinion, have at diiferent periods over-rated and depreciated his 
memory ; and if, in the following attempt to form its just estimate, 
I have found myself compelled, in some important respects, to 
differ with preceding writers, and to protest in particular against 
his being regarded as a proper teacher on any one point, poetry 
excepted, and as far as all such genius and energy cannot in 
some degree help being, I have not been the less sensible of the 
wonderful nature of that genius, while acting within the circle to 
which it belongs. Dante was indeed so great a poet, and at the 
same time exhibited in his personal character such a mortifying 
exception to what we conceive to be the natural wisdom and tem- 
per of great poets ; in other words, he was such a bigoted and 
exasperated man, and sullied his imagination with so much that 

* As notices of Dante's life have often been little but repetitions of former 
ones, I think it due to the painstaking character of this volume to state, that 
besides consultinfj various commentators and critics, from Boccaccio to Frati- 
celli and others, I have diligently perused the Vita di Dante, by Cesare IJalbo, 
with Rocco's annotations ; tlic Histuire Littcraire d' Italic, by (iinguen(^ ; tho 
Discorso sul Testo delta Commcdia, by Foscolo ; the Atnori e Rime di Dante 
of Arrivabene ; the Veltro Allegorico di Dante, by Troja ; and Ozanam's 
Dante et la Philosophic Catholique au Treizieme Siecle. 



is contradictory to good feeling, in matters divine as well as hu- 
man ; that I should not have thought myself justified in assisting, 
however humbly, to extend the influence of his writings, had I 
not believed a time to have arrived, when the community may 
profit both from the marvels of his power and the melancholy ab- 
surdity of its contradictions. 

Dante Alighieri, who has always been known by his Christian 
rather than surname (partly owing to the Italian predilection for 
Christian names, and partly to the unsettled state of patronymics 
in his time), was the son of a lawyer of good family in Florence, 
and was born in that city on the 14th of May 1265 (sixty-three 
years before the birth of Chaucer). The stock is said to have 
been of Roman origin, of the race of the Frangipani ; but the 
only certain trace of it is to Cacciaguida, a Florentine cavalier of 
the house of the Elisei, who died in the Crusades. Dante gives 
an account of him in his Faradiso* Cacciaguida married a 
lady of the Alighieri family of the Valdipado ; and, giving the 
name to one of his children, they subsequently retained it as a 
patronymic in preference to their own. It would appear, from 
the same poem, not only that the Alighieri were the more impor- 
tant house, but that some blot had darkened the scutcheon of the 
Elisei ; perhaps their having been poor, and transplanted (as he 
seems to imply) from some disreputable district. Perhaps they 
were known to have been of ignoble origin ; for, in the course 
of one of his most philosophical treatises, he bursts into an extra- 
ordinary ebullition of ferocity against such as adduce a know- 
ledge of that kind as an argument against a family's acquired 
nobility ; affirming that such brutal stuff should be answered not 
with words, but with the dagger. f The Elisei, however, must 
have been of some standing ; for Macchiavelli, in his History of 
Florence, mentions them in his list of the early Guelph and Ghi- 

* Canto XV. 88. 

t For the donht apparently implied respecting the district, see canto xvi. 43, 
or the summary of it in the present volume. The following is the passage al- 
luded to in the philosophical treatise : " Risponder si vorrebbe, non colle parole, , 
ma col coltello, a tanta bestiality."— .Convz7o,—0;?cre Minori, 12mo. Fir. 1834, , 
vol. ii. p. 432. " Beautiful mode" (says Perticeri in a note) " of settling ques- ■ 


belline parties, whero the side whicli they take is different from 
that of tlie poet's immediate progenitors.* The arms of the 
Alighieri (probably occasioned by the change in that name, for it 
was previously written Aldighieri) are interesting on account of 
their poetical and aspiring character. They are a golden wing 
on a field azure. f 

It is generally supposed that the name Dante is an abbreviation 
of Durante ; but this is not certain, though the poet had a 
nephew so called. Dante is the name he goes by in the gravest 
records, in law-proceedings, in his epitaph, in the mention of him 
put by himself into the mouth of a blessed spirit. Boccaccio in- 
timates that he was christened Dante, and derives the name from 
the ablative case of dans (giving) — a probable etymology, espe- 
cially for a Christian appellation. As an abbreviation of Du- 
rante, it would correspond in familiarity with the Ben of Ben 
Jonson — a diminutive that would assuredly not have been used 
by grave people on occasions like those mentioned, though a wit 
of the day gave the masons a shilling to carve " O rare Ben 
Jonson !" on his grave-stone. On the other hand, if given at the 
font, the name of Ben would have acquired all the legal gravity 
of Benjamin. In the English Navy List, not long ago, one of 
our gallant admirals used to figure as " Billy Douglas." 

Of the mother of Dante nothing is known except that she was 

* Istorie Fiorentine, ii. 43 (in Tutte le Opere, 4to., 1550). 

t The name has been varied into Allagheri, Aligieri, Alleghieri, Alligheri, 
Aligeri, witli the accent generally on the third, but sometimes on the second 
syllable. See Foscolo, Discorso sul Teslo, p. 432. He says, that in Verona, 
where descendants of tiie poet survive, they call it Aligeri. But names, like 
other words, often wander so far from their source, that it is impossible to as- 
certain it. Who would suppose that Pomfret came from Pontefract, or wig 
from panucca ? Coats of arms, unless in very special instances, prove nothing 
but the whims of the heralds. 

Those who like to hear of anything in connexion with Dante or his name, 
may find something to stir their fancies in the following grim significations of 
the word in the dictionaries : 

" Dante, a kind of great wild beast in Africa, that hath a very hard skin." 
— Florio's Dictionary, edited by Torreggiano. 

" Dante, an animal called otherwise the Great Beast."- Vocaholario della 
Crusca, Compendiato, Ven. 172.'. 


his father's second wife, and that her Christian name was Bella, 
or perhaps surname Bello. It might, however, be conjectured, 
from the remarkable and only opportunity which our author has 
taken of alluding to her, that he derived his disdainful character 
rather from his mother than father.* The father appears to have 
died during the boyhood of his illustrious son. 

The future poet, before he had completed his ninth year, con- 
ceived a romantic attachment to a little lady who had just entered 
hers, and who has attained a celebrity of which she was destined 
to know nothing. This was the famous Beatrice Portinari, 
daughter of a rich Florentine who founded more than one char- 
itable institution. She married another man, and died in her 
youth ; but retained the Platonical homage of her young admirer, 
living and dead, and became the heroine of his great poem. 

It is unpleasant to reduce any portion of a romance to the 
events of ordinary life ; but with the exception of those who 
merely copy from one another, there has been such a conspiracy 
on the part of Dante's biographers to overlook at least one disen- 
chanting conclusion to be drawn to that effect from the poet's 
own writings, that the probable truth of the matter must here for 
the first time be stated. The case, indeed, is clear enough from 
his account of it. The natural tendencies of a poetical tempera- 
ment (oftener evinced in a like manner than the world in general 
suppose) not only made the boy-poet fall in love, but, in the truly 
Elysian state of the heart at that innocent and adoring time of 
life, made him fancy he had discovered a goddess in the object 
of his love ; and strength of purpose as well as imagination 
made him grow up in the fancy. He disclosed himself, as time 
advanced, only by his manner — received complacent recognitions 
in company from the young lady — offended her by seeming to 
devote himself to another (see the poem in the Vita Nuova, begin- 
ning " Ballata io vo") — rendered himself the sport of her and her 
young friends by his adoring timidity (see the 5th and 6th son- 
nets in the same work) — in short, constituted her a paragon of 

* See the passage in " Hell," where Virgil, to express his enthusiastic appro- 
bation of the scorn and cruelty which Dante shews to one of the condemned, 
embraces and kisses him for a right " disdainful soul," and blesses the " mother 
that bore him." 


perfection, and enabled her, by so doing, to shew that she was 
none. He says, that finding himself unexpectedly near her one 
day in company, he trembled so, and underwent such change of 
countenance, that many of the ladies present began to laugh with 
her about him — "«' gahbavano di we." And he adds, in verse, 

" Con r altre donno mia vista gabbate, 

E non pensate, donna, onde si mova 

Ch' io vi rassembri si figura nova, 
Quando riguardo la vostra beltate," &lc. — Son. 5. 

" You laugh with the other ladies to see how I look (literally, 
you mock my appearance) ; and do not think, lady, what it is 
that renders me so strange a figure at sight of your beauty." 

And in the sonnet that follows, he accuses her of preventing pity 
of him in others, by such " killing mockery" as makes him wish 
for death (" la pieta, che 'I vosiro gabbo recinde,'' &c.)* 

Now, it is to be admitted, that a young lady, if she is not very 
wise, may laugh at her lover with her companions, and yet re- 
turn his love, after her fashion ; but the fair Portinari laughs and 
marries another. Some less melancholy face, some more intel- 
ligible courtship, triumphed over the questionable flattery of the 
poet's gratuitous worship ; and the idol of Dante Alighieri be- 
came the wife of Mcsser Simone de' Bardi. Not a word does he 
say on that mortifying point. It transpired from a clause in her 
father's will. And yet so bent are the poet's biographers on 
leaving a romantic doubt in one's mind, whether Beatrice may 
not have returned his passion, that not only do all of them (as far 
as I have observed) agree in taking no notice of these sonnets, 
but the author of the treatise entitled Dante and the Catholic 
Philosophy of the Thirteenth Century, " in spite" (as a critic 
says) " of the Beatrice, his daughter, wife of Messer Simone de' 
Bardi, of the paternal will," describes her as dying in " all the 
lustre of virginity.""}" The assumption appears to be thus glo- 

» Operr Minori, vol. iii. 12, Flor. 1839, pp. 292, &c. 

t " Beatrix quitta la tcrre dans tout I'dclat de la jeunesse et de la virginity." 
See the work as above entitled, Paris, 1840, p. 60. The words in liatin, aa 
quoted from the will by the critic alluded to in the Foreign Quarterly Review 
(No. G5, art. Dante Allighieri), are, " Bici filiee suae et uxori D. (Domini) 


riously stated, as a counterpart to the notoriety of its untruth. It 
must be acknowledged that Dante himself gave the cue to it by 
more than silence ; for he not only vaunts her acquaintance in 
the next world, but assumes that she returns his love in that re- 
gion, as if no such person as her husband could have existed, or 
as if he himself had not been married also. This life-long per- 
tinacity of will is illustrative of his whole career. 

Meantime, though the young poet's father had died, nothing 
was wanting on the part of his guardians, or perhaps his mother, 
to furnish him with an excellent education. It was so complete, 
as to enable him to become master of all the knowledge of his 
time ; and he added to this learning more than a taste for draw- 
ing and music. He speaks of himself as drawing an angel in 
his tablets on the first anniversary of Beatrice's death.* One of 
his instructors was Brunetto Latini, the most famous scholar then 
living ; and he studied both at the universities of Padua and Bo- 
logna. At eighteen, perhaps sooner, he had shewn such a genius 
for poetry as to attract the friendship of Guido Cavalcante, a 
young noble of a philosophical as well as poetical turn of mind, 
who has retained a reputation with posterity : and it was probably 
at the same time he became acquainted with Giotto, who drew 
his likeness, and with Casella, the musician, whom he greets with 
so much tenderness in the other world. 

Nor were his duties as a citizen forgotten. The year before 
Beatrice's death, he was at the battle of Campaldino, which his 
countrymen gained against the people of Arezzo ; and the year 
after it he was present at the taking of Caprona from the Pisans. 
It has been supposed that he once studied medicine with a view 
to it as a profession ; but the conjecture probably originated in 
nothing more than his having entered himself of one of the city- 
companies (which happened to be the medical) for the purpose of 

Simonis de Bardis." " Bici" is the Latin dative case of Bice, the abbreviation 
of Beatrice. This employment, by the way, of an abbreviated name in a 
will, may seem to go counter to the deductions respecting the name of Dante. 
And it may really do so. Yet a will is not an epitaph, nor the address of a 
beatified spirit ; neither is equal familiarity perhaps implied, as a matter of 
course, in the abbreviated names of male and female. 
* Vita Nuova, ut sup. p. 343. 


qutilifying himself to accept office ; a condition exacted of the 
gentry by the then democratic tendencies of the republic. It is 
asserted also, by an early conniientator, that he entered the Fran- 
ciscan order of friars, but quitted it before he was professed ; and, 
indeed, the circumstance is not unlikely, considering his agitated 
and impatient turn of mind. Perhaps he fancied that he had 
done with the world when it lost the wife of Simone de' Bardi. 

Weddings that might have taken place, but do not, are like the 
reigns of deceased heirs-apparent ; every thing is assumable in 
their favour, checked only by the histories of husbands and kings. 
A\'ould the great but splenetic poet have made an angel and a 
saint of Beatrice, had he married her ? He never utters the 
name of the woman whom he did marry. 

Gemma Donati was a kinswoman of the powerful fairdly of 
that name. It seems not improbable, from some passages in his 
works, that she was the young lady whom he speaks of as taking 
pity on him on account of his passion for Beatrice ;* and in com- 
mon justice to his feelings as a man and a gentleman, it is surely 
to be concluded, that he felt some sort of passion for his bride, if 
not of a very spiritual sort ; though he afterwards did not scruple 
to intimate that he was ashamed of it, and Beatrice is made to 
rebuke him in the other world for thinking of any body after her- 
self, f At any rate, he probably roused what was excitable in 

* Vita Nuova, p. 345. 

t In the article on Dante, in the Foreign Quarterly Review, (ut supra), 
the exordium of which made me hope that the eloquent and assumption-de- 
nouncing writer was going to supply a good final account of his author, equally 
satisfactory for its feeling and its facts, but which ended in little better than the 
customary gratuitousness of wholesale panegyric, I was surprised to find the 
xuiion with Gemma Donati characterised as " calm and cold, — rather the ac- 
complishment of a social duty than the result of an irresistible impulse of the 
heart," p. 15. The accomplishment of the "social duty" is an assumption, 
not very probable with regard to any body, and much less so in a fiery Italian 
of twenty-six ; but the addition of the epithets, '' calm and cold," gives it a 
sort of horror. A reader of this article, evidently the production of a man of 
ability but of great wilfuhiess, is tempted to express the disappointment it has 
given him in plainer tenus than might be wished, in consequence of the extra- 
ordinary license which its writer does not scruple to allow to his own fancies, 
in expressing liis opinion of what he is pleased to think the fancies of others. 


his wife's temper, with provocations from his own ; for the nature 
of the latter is not to be doubted, whereas there is nothing but 
tradition to shew for the bitterness of hers. Foscolo is of opinion 
that the tradition itself arose simply from a rhetorical flourish of 
Boccaccio's, in his Life of Dante, against the marriages of men 
of letters ; though Boccaccio himself expressly adds, that he 
knows nothing to the disadvantage of the poet's wife, except that 
her husband, after quitting Florence, would never either come 
where she was, or suffer her to come to him, mother as she was 
by him of so many children ; — a statement, it must be confessed, 
not a little encouraging to the tradition.* Be this as it may, 
Dante married in his twenty-sixth year ; wrote an adoring ac- 
count of his first love (the Vita Nuova) in his twenty-eighth ; 
and among the six children which Gemma brought him, had a 
daughter whom he named Beatrice, in honour, it is understood, 
of the fair Portinari ; which surely was either a very great com- 
pliment, or no mean trial to the temper of the mother. We shall 
see presently how their domestic intercourse was interrupted, and 
what absolute uncertainty there is respecting it, except as far as 
conclusions may be di-awn from his own temper and history. 

Italy, in those days, was divided into the parties of Guelphs 
and Ghibellines ; the former, the advocates of general church- 
ascendancy and local government ; the latter, of the pretensions 
of the Emperor of Germany, who claimed to be the Roman 
Caesar, and paramount over the Pope. In Florence, the Guelphs 
had for a long time been so triumphant as to keep the Ghibellines 
in a state of banishment. Dante was born and bred a Guelph : 
he had twice borne arms for his country against Ghibelline 
neighbours ; and now, at the age of thirty-five, in the ninth of 

* " Le invettive contr' essa per tanti secoli originarono dalla enumerazione 
rettorica del Boccaccio di tiitti gli inconvenienti del matrimonio, e dove per al- 
tro ei dichiara, — * Certo io non affermo queste cose a Dante essere avvenute, 
che non lo so ; comechfe vero sia, che o a simili cose a queste, o ad altro che 
ne fusse cagione, egli una volta da lei partitosi, che per consolazione de' suoi 
affanni gli era stata data, mai nfe dove ella fusse voile venire, ne sofFerse che 
dove egli fusse ella venisse giammai, con tutto che di piu figliuoli egli insieme 
con lei fusse parente.' " — Discorso sul Testo, ut sup. Londra, Pickering, 
1825, p. 184, 


his marriage, and last of his residence with his wife, he was ap- 
pointed chief of the temporary administrators of ailairs, called 
Priors ; — functionaries who held office only tor two months. 

Unfortunately, at that moment, his party had become subdivi- 
ded into the factions of the Whites and Blacks, or adherents of 
two different sides in a dispute that took place in Pistoia. The 
consequences becoming serious, the Blacks proposed to bring in, 
as mediator, the French Prince, Charles of Valois, then in arms 
for the Pope against the Emperor ; but the Whites, of whom 
Dante was one, were hostile to the measure ; and in order to pre- 
vent it, he and his brother magistrates expelled for a time the 
heads of both factions, to the satisfaction of neither. The Whites 
accused them of secretly leaning to the Ghibellines, and the 
Blacks of openly favouring the Whites ; who being, indeed, al- 
lowed to come back before their time, on the alleged ground of 
the unwholesomeness of their place of exile, which was fatal to 
Dante's friend Cavalcante, gave a colour to the charge. Dante 
answered it by saying, that he had then quitted office ; but he 
could not show that he had lost his influence. Meantime, Charles 
was still urged to interfere, and Dante was sent ambassador to 
the Pope to obtain his disapprobation of the interfej-ence ; but the 
Pope (Boniface the Eighth), who had probably discovered that 
the Whites had ceased to care for any thing but their own dis- 
putes, and who, at all events, did not like their objection to his 
representative, beguiled the ambassador and encouraged the 
French prince ; the Blacks, in consequence, regained their as- 
cendancy ; and the luckless poet, during his absence, was de- 
nounced as a corrupt administrator of alTairs, guilty of pecula- 
tion ; was severely mulcted ; banished from Tuscany for two 
years ; and subsequently, for contumaciousness, was sentenced 
to be burnt alive, in case he returned ever. He never did return. 

From that day forth, Dante never beheld again his home or his 
wife. Her relations obtained possession of power, but no use 
was made of it except to keep him in exile. He had not accord- 
ed with them ; and perhaps half the secret of his conjugal dis- 
comfort was owing to politics. It is the opinion of some, that the 
married couple were not sorry to part ; others think that the wife 
remained behind, solely to scrape together what property she 

10 DANTE. 

could, and bring up the children. All that is known is, that she 
never lived with him more. 

Dante now certainly did what his enemies had accused him of 
wishing to do : he joined the old exiles whom he had helped to 
make such, the party of the Ghibellines. He alleges, that he 
never was really of any party but his own ; a naive confession, 
probably true in one sense, considering his scorn of other people, 
his great intellectual superiority, and the large views he had for 
the whole Italian people. And, indeed, he soon quarrelled in 
private with the individuals composing his new party, however 
staunch he apparently remained to their cause. His former as- 
sociates he had learnt to hate for their differences with him and 
for their self-seeking ; he hated the Pope for deceiving him ; he 
hated the Pope's French allies for being his allies, and interfer- 
ing with Florence ; and he had come to love the Emperor for be- 
ing hated by them all, and for holding out (as he fancied) the only 
chance of reuniting Italy to their confusion, and making her the 
restorer of himself, and the mistress of the world. 

With these feelings in his heart, no money in his purse, and no 
place in which to lay his head, except such as chance-patrons af- 
forded him, he now began to wander over Italy, like some lonely 
lion of a man, "grudging in his great disdain." At one moment 
he was conspiring and hoping ; at another, despairing and en- 
deavouring to conciliate his beautiful Florence : now again catch- 
ing hope from some new movement of the Emperor's ; and then, 
not very handsomely threatening and re-abusing her ; but always 
pondering and grieving, or trying to appease his thoughts with 
some composition, chiefly of his great work. It is conjectured, 
that whenever anything particularly affected him, whether with 
joy or sorrow, he put it, hot with the impression, into his " sacred 
poem." Every body who jarred against his sense of right or his 
prejudices he sent to the infernal regions, friend or foe : the 
strangest people who sided with them (but certainly no personal 
foe) he exalted to heaven. *He encouraged, if not personally as- 
sisted, two ineffectual attempts of the Ghibellines against Flor- 
ence ; wrote, besides his great work, a book of mixed prose and 
poetry on " Love and Virtue" (the Convito, or Banquet) ; a 
Latin treatise on Monarchy {de Monarckia), recommending the 


"divine right" of the Emperor ; another in two parts, and in the 
same language, on the Vernacular Tongue (de Vulgari Eloquio); 
and learnt to know meanwhile, as he affectingly tells us, " how 
hard it was to climb other people's stairs, a^id how salt the taste 
of bread is that is not our own." It is even thought not improb- 
able, from one awful passage of his poem, that he may have 
" placed himself in some public way," and, " stripping his vis- 
age of all shame, and trembling in his very vitals," have stretched 
out his hand " for charity'"* — an image of suffering, which, 
proud as he was, yet considering how great a man, is almost 
enough to make one's common nature stoop down for pardon at 
his feet ; and yet he should first prostrate himself at the feet of 
that nature for his outrages on God and man. 

Several of the princes and feudal chieftains of Italy enter- 
tained the poet for a while in their houses ; but genius and 
worldly power, unless for worldly purposes, find it difficult to ac- 
cord, especially in tempers like his. There must be great wis- 
dom and amiableness on both sides to save them from jealousy of 
one another's pretensions. Dante was not the man to give and take 
in such matters on equal terms ; and hence he is at one time in 
a palace, and at another in a solitude. Now he is in Sienna, now 
in Arezzo, now in Bologna ; then probably in Verona with Can 
Grande's elder brother ; then (if we are to believe those who have 
tracked his steps) in Casentino ; then with the Marchese Moroello 
Malaspina in Lunigiana ; then with the great Ghibelline chief- 
tain Faggiuola in the mountains near Urbino ; then in Romagna, 
in Padua, in Paris (arguing with the churchmen), some say in 
Germany, and at Oxford ; then again in Italy ; in Lucca (where 
he is supposed to have relapsed from his fidelity to Beatrice in 
favour of a certain " Gentucca") ; then again in Verona with 
the new prince, the famous Can Grande (where his sarcasms ap- 
pear to have lost him a doubtful hospitality) ; then in a monas- 
tery in the mountains of Umbria ; in Udine ; in Ravenna ; and 
there at length he put up for the rest of his life with his last and 
best friend, Guido Novello da Polenta, not the father, but the 
nephew of the hapless Francesca. 

* Foscolo, in the Edinburgh Review, vol. xxx. p. 351. 

12 DANTE. 

It was probably in the middle period of his exile, that in one 
of the moments of his greatest longing for his native country, he 
wrote that affecting passage in the Convito, which was evidently 
a direct effort at conciliation. Excusing himself for some harsh- 
ness and obscurity in the style of that work, he exclaims, " Ah ! 
would it had pleased the Dispenser of all things that this excuse 
had never been needed ; that neither others had done me wrong, 
nor myself undergone penalty undeservedly — the penalty, I say, 
of exile and of poverty. For it pleased the citizens of the fair- 
est and most renowned daughter of Rome — Florence — to cast me 
out of her m^ost sweet bosom, where I was born, and bred, and 
passed half of the life of man, and in which, with her good leave, 
I still desire with all my heart to repose my weary spirit, and 
finish the days allotted me ; and so I have wandered in almost 
every place to which our language extends, a stranger, almost a 
beggar, exposing against my will the wounds given me by for- 
tune, too often unjustly imputed to the sufferer's fault. Truly I 
have been a vessel without sail and without rudder, driven about 
upon different ports and shores by the dry wind that springs out 
of dolorous poverty ; and hence have I appeared vile in the eyes 
of many, who, perhaps, by some better report had conceived of 
me a different impression, and in whose sight not only has my 
person become thus debased, but an unworthy opinion created of 
every thing which I did, or which I had to do."* 

* " Ahi piaciuto fosse al Dispensatore dell' universo, che la cagione della 
mia scusa mai non fosse stata ; che ne altri contro a me avria fallato, ne io 
soflferto avrei pena ingiustamente ; pena, dico, d' esilio e di pov ert^. Poich6 
fu piacere de' cittadini della bellissima e famosissima figlia di Roma, Fiorenza, 
di gettarmi fuori del sue dolcissimo seno (nel quale nato e nudrito fui sino al 
colmo della mia vita, e nel quale, con buona pace di quella, desidero con tutto il 
core di riposare 1' animo stance, e terminare il tempo che m' b dato ) ; per le 
parti quasi tutte, alle quali questa lingua si stende, peregrine, quasi mendican> 
do, sono andato, mostrando contro a mia voglia la piaga della fortuna, che suole 
ingiustamente al piagato molte volte essere imputata. Veramente io sono 
state legno sanza vela e sanza governo, portato a diversi porti e foci e liti dal 
vento secco che vapora la dolorosa poverty, ; e sono vile apparito agli occhi a 
molti, che forse per alcuna fama in altra forma mi aveano immaginato ; nel 
cospetto de' quali non solamente mia persona invilib, ma di minor pregio si fece 
ogni opera, si gi^ fatta, come quella che fosse a fare." — Opere Minori, ut 
sup. vol. ii. p. 20. 


How simply and strongly written ! How full of the touching 
yet undegrading commiseration which adversity has a right to 
take upon itself, when accompanied with the consciousness of 
manly endeavour and a good motive ! How could such a man 
condescend at other times to rage with abuse, and to delight him- 
self in images of infernal torment ! 

The dates of these fluctuations of feeling towards his native 
city are not known ; but it is supposed to have been not very long 
before his abode with Can Grande that he received permission to 
return to Florence, on conditions which he justly refused and re- 
sented in the following noble letter to a kinsman. The old spell- 
ing of the original (in the note) is retained as given by Foscolo 
in the article on "Dante" in the Edinburgh Review (vol. xxx. 
no. 60) ; and I have retained also, with little difference, the trans- 
lation which accompanies it : 

" From your letter, which I received with due respect and af- 
fection, I observe how much you have at heart my restoration to 
my country. I am bound to you the more gratefully, inasmuch 
as an exile rarely finds a friend. But after mature consideration, 
I must, by my answer, disappoint the wishes of some little minds ; 
and I confide in the judgment to which your impartiality and 
prudence will lead you. Your nephew and mine has written to 
me, what indeed had been mentioned by many other friends, that 
by a decree concerning the exiles, I am allowed to return to 
Florence, provided I pay a certain sum of money, and submit to 
the humiliation of asking and receiving absolution : wherein, my 
father, I see two propositions that are ridiculous and impertinent. 
I speak of the impertinence of those who mention such conditions 
to me ; for in your letter, dictated by judgment and discretion, 
there is no such thing. Is such an invitation, then, to return to 
his country glorious to d. all. (Dante AUighieri), after suffering 
in exile almost fifteen years ? Is it thus they would recompense 
innocence which all the world knows, and the labour and fatigue 
of unremitting study ? Far from the man who is familiar with 
philosophy be the senseless baseness of a heart of earth, that 
could act like a little sciolist, and imitate the infamy of some 
others, by offering himself up as it were in chains : far from the 
man who cries aloud for justice, this compromise by his money 

14 DANTE. 

with his persecutors. No, my father, this is not the way that 
shall lead me back to my country. I will return with hasty 
steps, if you or any other can open to me a way that shall not 
derogate from the fame and honour of d. (Dante); but if by no 
such way Florence can be entered, then Florence I shall never 
enter. What ! shall I not every where enjoy the light of the 
sun and stars ? and may I not seek and contemplate, in every 
corner of the earth, under the canopy of heaven, consoling and 
delightful truth, without first rendering myself inglorious, nay in- 
famous, to the people and republic of Florence ? Bread, I hope, 
will not fail me."* 

Had Dante's pride and indignation always vented themselves 
in this truly exalted manner, never could the admirers of his ge- 
nius have refused him their sympathy ; and never, I conceive, 
need he either have brought his exile upon him, or closed it as 
he did. To that close we have now come, and it is truly melan- 

* " In licteris vestris et reverentia debita et affectione receptis, quam repa- 
triatio mea cures it vobis ex animo grata mente ac diligent! animaversione concepi, 
etenim tanto me districtius obligastis, qnanto rarius exules invenire amicos con- 
tingit. ad illam vero significata respondeo : et si non eatenus qiialitur forsam 
pusillanimitas appeteret aliquorum, ut sub examine vestri consilii ante judicium, 
afFectuose deposco. ecce igitur quod per licteras vestri mei : que nepotis, necnon 
aliorum quamplurium amicorum significatum est mihi. per ordinameutum nu- 
per factum Florentie super absolutione bannitorum. quod si solvere vellem cer- 
tam pecunie quantitatem, vellemque pati notam oblationis et absolvi possem 
et redire ut presens. in quo quidem duo ridenda et male perconciliata sunt. 
Pater, dice male perconciliata per illos qui tali expresserunt : nam vestre liters 
discretius et consultius clausulate nicil de talibus continebant. estne ista revo- 
catio gloriosa qua d. all. (i. e. Dantes Alligherius) revocatur ad patriam per 
trilustrium fere perpessus exilium? hecne meruit conscientia manifesta quibus- 
libet 1 hec sudor et labor continuatus in studiis ? absit a viro philosophie domes- 
tica temeraria terreni cordis humilitcis, ut more cujusdam cioli et aliorum in- 
famiam quasi vinctus ipse se patiatur ofFerri. absit a viro predicante justitiam, 
ut perpessus iiijuriam inferentibus. velud benemerentibus, pecuniam suam sol- 
vat, non est hec via redevxndi ad patriam, Pater mi, sed si alia per vos, aut 
deinde per alios invenietur que fame d. (Dantis) que onori non deroget, illam 
non lentis passibus acceptabo. quod si per nuUam talem Florentia introitur, 
nunquam Florentiam introibo. quidni? nonue solis astrorumque specula ubiquo 
conspiciam? nonno dulcissimas veritates potero speculari ubique sub celo, ni 
prius inglorium, imo ignominiosum populo, Florentineque civitati me reddam ? 
quippe panis non deficiet." 


choly and mortifying. Failure in a negotiation with the Vene- 
tians for his patron, Guido Novello, is supposed to have been the 
last bitter drop which made the cup of his endurance run over. 
He returned from Venice to Ravenna, worn out, and there died, 
after fifteen years' absence from his country, in the year 1231, 
aged fifty-seven. His \ii^ had been so agitated, that it probably 
would not have lasted so long, but for the solace of his poetry, 
and the glory which he knew it must produce him. Guido gave 
him a sumptuous funeral, and intended to give him a monument ; 
but such was the state of Italv in those times, that he himself 
died in exile the year after. The monument, however, and one 
of a noble sort, was subsequently bestowed by the father of Cardi- 
nal Bembo, in 1483 ; and another, still nobler, as late as 1780, 
by Cardinal Gonzaga. His countrymen, in after years, made 
two solemn applications for the removal of his dust to Florence ; 
but the just pride of the Ravennese refused them. 

Of the exile's family, three sons died young ; the daughter 
went into a nunnery ; and the two remaining brothers, who ulti- 
mately joined their father in his banishment, became respectable 
men of letters, and left families in Ravenna ; where the race, 
though extinct in the male line, still survives through a daughter 
in the noble house of Serego Alighieri. No direct descent of 
the other kind from poets of former times is, I believe, known to 

The manners and general appearance of Dante have been mi- 
nutely recorded, and are in striking agreement with his charac- 
ter. Boccaccio and other novelists are the chief relaters ; and 
their accounts will be received accordingly with the greater or 
less trust, as the reader considers them probable ; but the author 
of the Decameron personally knew some of his friends and rela- 
tions, and he intermingles his least favourable reports with ex- 
pressions of undoubted reverence. The poet was of middle 
height, of slow and serious deportment, had a long dark visage, 
large piercing eyes, large jaws, an aquiline nose, a projecting 
under-lip, and thick curling hair — an aspect announcing deter- 
mination and melancholy. There is a sketch of his counte- 
nance, in his younger days, from the immature but sweet pencil of 
Giotto ; and it is a refreshment to look at it, though pride and dis- 

16 DANTE. 

content, I think, are discernible in its lineaments. It is idle, and 
no true compliment to his nature, to pretend, as his mere wor- 
shippers do, that his face owes all its subsequent gloom and exa- 
cerbation to external causes, and that he was in every respect 
the poor victim of events — the infant changed at nurse by the 
wicked. What came out of him, he jnust have had in him, at 
least in the germ ; and so inconsistent was his nature altogether, 
or, at any rate, such an epitome of all the graver passions that 
are capable of co-existing, both sweet and bitter, thoughtful and 
outrageous, that one is sometimes tempted to think he must have 
had an angel for one parent, and — I shall leave his own tolera- 
tion to say what — for the other. 

To continue the account of his manners and inclinations : He 
dressed with a becoming gravity ; was temperate in his diet ; a 
great student ; seldom spoke, unless spoken to, but always to the 
purpose ; and almost all the anecdotes recorded of him, except 
by himself, are full of pride and sarcasm. He was so swarthy, 
that a woman, as he was going by a door in Verona, is said to 
have pointed him out to another, with a remark which made the 
saturnine poet smile — " That is the man who goes to hell when- 
ever he pleases, and brings back news of the people there." On 
which her companion observed — " Very likely ; don't you see 
what a curly beard he has, and what a dark face ? owing, I dare 
say, to the heat and smoke." He was evidently a passionate 
lover of painting and music — is thought to have been less strict 
in his conduct with regard to the sex than might be supposed 
from his platonical aspirations — (Boccaccio says, that even a goitre 
did not repel him from the pretty face of a mountaineer) — could 
be very social when he was young, as may be gathered from the 
sonnet addressed to his friend Cavalcante about a party for a boat 
— and though his poetry was so intense and weighty, the lauda- 
ble minuteness of a biographer has informed us, that his hand- 
writing, besides being neat and precise, was of a long and partic- 
ularly thin character : " meagre" is his word. 

There is a letter, said to be nearly coeval with his time, and to 
be written by the prior of a monastery to a celebrated Ghibelline 
leader, a friend of Dante's, which, though hitherto accounted 
apocryphal by most, has such an air of truth, and contains an 


image of the poet in his exile so exceedingly like what we con- 
ceive of the man, that it is difficult not to believe it genuine, 
especially as the handwriting has lately been discovered to be 
that of Boccaccio.* At all events, I am sure the reader will not 
be sorry to have the substance of it. The writer says, that he 
perceived one day a man coming into the monastery, whom none 
of its inmates knew. He asked him what he wanted ; but the 
stranger saying nothing, and continuing to gaze on the building 
as though contemplating its architecture, the question was put a 
second time ; upon which, looking round pn his interrogators, he 
answered, " Peace .'" The prior, whose curiosity was strongly 
excited, took the stranger apart, and discovering who he was, 
shewed him all the attention becoming his fame ; and then Dante 
took a little book out of his bosom, and observing that perhaps 
the prior had not seen it, expressed a wish to leave it with his 
new friend as a memorial. It was " a portion," he said, "of 
his work." The prior received the volume with respect; and 
politely opening it at once, and fixing his eyes on the contents, in 
order, it would seem, to shew the interest he took in it, appeared 
suddenly to check some observation which they suggested. 
Dante found that his reader was surprised at seeing the work 
written in the vulgar tongue instead of Latin. He explained, 
that he wished to address himself to readers of all classes; and 
concluded with requesting the prior to add some notes, with the 
spirit of which he furnished him, and then forward it (transcri- 
bed, I presume, by the monks) to their common friend, the Ghib- 
elline chieftain — a commission, which, knowing the prior's inti- 
macy with that personage, appears to have been the main object 
of his coming to the place. "j" 

Tliis letter has been adduced as an evidence of Dante's poem 
having transpired during his lifetime : a thing which, in the 
teeth of Boccaccio's statement to that effect, and indeed the poet's 
own testimony,:}: Foscolo holds to be so impossible, that he turns 

* Opere Minori, ut sup. vol. iii. p. 186. 

t Veltro Allegorico di Dante, ut sup. p. 208, where the Appendix contains 
tlie Latin original. 

X See Fraticeili's Dissertation on the Convito, in Opere Minori, ut sup. vol. 
ii, p. 560. 


18 DANTE. 

the evidence against the letter. He thinks, that if such bitter in- 
vectives had been circulated, a hundred daggers would have been 
sheathed in the bosom of the exasperating poet.* But I cannot 
help being of opinion, with some writer whom T am unable at 
present to call to mind (Schlegel, I think), that the strong critical 
reaction of modern times in favour of Dante's genius has tended 
to exaggerate the idea conceived of him in relation to his own. 
That he was of importance, and bitterly hated in his native city, 
was a distinction he shared with other partisans who have ob- 
tained no celebrity, though his poetry, no doubt, must have in- 
creased the bitterness ; that his genius also became more and 
more felt out of the city, by the few individuals capable of esti- 
mating a man of letters in those semi-barbarous times, may be 
regarded as certain ; but that busy politicians in general, war- 
making statesmen, and princes constantly occupied in fighting for 
their existence with one another, were at all alive either to his 
merits or his invectives, or would have regarded him as any thing 
but a poor wandering scholar, solacing his foolish interference in 
the politics of this world with the old clerical threats against his 
enemies in another, will hardly, I think, be doubted by any one who 
reflects on the difference between a fame accumulated by ages, 
and the living poverty that is obliged to seek its bread. A writer 
on a monkish subject may have acquired fame with monks, and 
even with a few distinguished persons, and yet have been little 
known, and less cared for, out of the pale of that very private 
literary public, which was almost exclusively their own. When 
we read, now-a-days, of the great poet's being so politely received 
by Can Grande, lord of Verona, and sitting at his princely table, 
we are apt to fancy that nothing but his great poetry procured 
him the reception, and that nobody present competed with him in 
the eyes of his host. But, to say nothing of the different kinds 
of retainers, that could sit at a prince's table in those days. Can, 
who was more ostentatious than delicate in his munificence, kept 
a sort of caravansera for clever exiles, whom he distributed into 
lodgings classified according to their pursuits ;f and Dante only 
shared his bounty with the rest, till the more delicate poet could 

* Discorso sul Testo, p. 54. t Balbo, Naples edition, p. 132. 


no longer endure either the butlboncry of his companions, or tiie 
amusement derived from it by the master. On one occasion, his 
platter is slily heaped with their bones, which provokes him to 
call them dogs, as having none to shew for their own. Another 
time, Can Grande asks him how it is that his companions give 
more pleasure at court than himself; to which he answers, " Be- 
cause like loves like." He then leaves the court, and his dis- 
gusted superiority is no doubt regarded as a pedantic assumption. 
He stopped long nowhere, except with Guido Novello ; and 
when that prince, whose downfall was at hand, sent him on the 
journey above mentioned to Venice, the senate (whom the poet 
had never offended) were so little aware of his being of conse- 
quence, that they declined giving him an audience. He went 
back, and broke his heart. Boccaccio says, that he would get 
into such passions with the very boys and girls in the street, who 
plagued him with party- words, as to throw stones at them — a 
thing that would be incredible, if persons acquainted with his 
great but ultra-sensitive nation did not know what Italians could 
do in all ages, from Dante's own age down to the times of Alfieri 
and Foscolo. It would be as difficult, from the evidence of his 
own works and of the exasperation he created, to doubt the ex- 
tremest reports of his irascible temper, as it would be not to give 
implicit faith to his honesty. The charge of peculation which his 
enemies brought against this great poet, the world has universally 
scouted with an indifijnation that does it honour. He himself 
seems never to have condescended to allude to it ; and a biogra- 
pher would feel bound to copy his silence, had not the accusation 
been so atrociously recorded. But, on the other hand, who can 
believe that a man so capable of doing his fellow-citizens good 
and honour, would have experienced such excessive enmity, had 
he not carried to excess the provocations of his pride and scorn ? 
His whole history goes to prove it, not omitting the confession he 
makes of pride as his chief sin, and the eulogies he bestows on 
the favourite vice of the age — revenge. His Christianity (at least 
as shewn in his poem) was not that of Christ, but of a furious 
polemic. His motives for changing his party, though probably 
of a mixed nature, like those of most human beings, may reason- 
ably be supposed to have originated in something better than in- 

20 DANTE. 

terest or indignation. He had most likely not agreed thoroughly 
with any party, and had become hopeless of seeing dispute^ 
brought to an end, except by the representative of the Coesars. 
The inconsistency of the personal characters of the Popes with 
the sacred claims of the chair of St. Peter, was also calculated 
greatly to disgust him ; but still his own infirmities of pride and 
vindictiveness spoiled all ; and when he loaded every body else 
with reproach for the misfortunes of his country, he should have 
recollected that, had his own faults been kept in subjection to his 
understanding, he might possibly have been its saviour. Dante's 
modesty has been asserted on the ground of his humbling him- 
self to the fame of Virgil, and at the feet of blessed spirits ; but 
this kind of exalted humility does not repay a man's fellow-citi- 
zens for lording it over them with scorn and derision. We learn 
from Boccaccio, that when he was asked to go ambassador from 
his party to the pope, he put to them the following useless and 
mortifying queries — " If I go, who is to stay ? — and if I stay, 
who is to go ?"* Neither did his pride make him tolerant of 
pride in others. A neighbour applying for his intercession witli 

* " Di se stesso presunse maravigliosamente tanto, che essendo egli glorioso 
nel colmo del reggimento della republica, e ragionandosi tr&. maggiori cittadini 
di mandare, per alcuna gran bisogna, ambasciata a Bonifazio Papa VIII., e 
che principe della ambasciata fosse Daute, ed egli in cio in presenzia di tutti 
quegli che cio consigliavano ricliiesto, avvenne, che soprastando egli alia ris- 
posta, alcun disse, che pensi ? alle quali parole egli rispose : penso, se io vo, chi 
riniane ; e s' io rimango, chi va : quasi esso solo fosse colui che fra tutti valesse 
e per cui tutti gli altri valessero." And he goes on to say, respecting the stone- 
throwing — " Appresso, come che il nostro poeta nelle sua avversit^. paziente 
o no si fosse, in una fu impazientissimo : ed egli infino al cominciamento del 
suo esilio stato guelfissimo, non essendogii aperta la via del ritornare in casa 
sua, si fiior di modo diventf) ghibellino, che ogni femminella, ogni picciol fan- 
ciullo, e quante volte avesse voluto, ragionando di parte, e la guelfa proponendo 
alia ghibellina, I'avrebbe non solamente fatto turbare, ma a tanta insania com- 
mosso, che se taciuto non fosse, a gittar le pietre I'avrebbe condotto." (Vita di 
Dante, prefixed to the Paris edition of the Commedia, 1844, p. xxv.) And 
then the " biion Boccaccio," with his accustomed sweetness of nature, begs 
pardon of so great a man, for being obliged to relate such things of him, and 
doubts whether his spirit may not be looking down on him that moment dis- 
dainfully from heaven ! Such an association of ideas had Dante produced 
between the celestial and the scornful I 


a magistrate, wlio had summoned him for some offence, Dante, 
who disliked the man for riding in an overbearing manner along 
the streets (stretching out his legs as wide as he could, and hin- 
dering people from going by), did intercede with the magistrate, 
but it was in behalf of doubling the fine in consideration of the 
horsemanship. The neighbour, who was a man of family, was 
so exasperated, that Sacchetti the novelist says it was the princi- 
pal cause of Dante's expatriation. This will be considered the 
less improbable, if, as some suppose, the delinquent obtained pos- 
session of his derider's confiscated property ; but, at all events, 
nothing is more likely to have injured him. The bitterest ani- 
mosities are generally of a personal nature ; and bitter indeed 
must have been those which condemned a man of official dignity 
and of genius to such a penalty as the stake.* 

That the Florentines of old, like other half-Christianised peo- 
ple, were capable of any extremity against an opponent, burning 
included, was proved by the fates of Savonarola and others ; and 
that Dante himself could admire the burners is evident from his 
euloijies and beatification of such men as Folco and St. Dominic. 
The tragical as well as " fantastic tricks" which 

" Man, proud man, 
Drest in a little brief authority," 

plays with his energy and bad passions under the guise of duty, 
is among the most perplexing of those spectacles, which, accord- 
ing to a greater understanding than Dante's, " make the an- 
gels weep." (Dante, by the way, has introduced in his heaven 
no such angels as those ; though he has plenty that scorn and de- 
nounce.) Lope de Vega, though a poet, was an officer of the In- 
quisition, and joined the famous Armada that was coming to 
thumbscrew and roast us into his views of Christian meekness. 
Whether the author of the story of Paulo and Francesca could 
have carried the Dominican theories into practice, had he been 
the banisher instead of the banished, is a point that may happily 
be doubled ; but at all events he revejiged himself on his enemies 

* Novelle di Franco Sacchetti, Milan edition, 1804, vol. ii. p. 148. It forms 
the setting, or frame-work, of an inferior story, and is not mentioned in the 

22 DANTE. 

after their own fashion ; for he answered their decree of the 
stake by 'putting them into hell. 

Dante entitled the saddest poem in the world a Comedy, be- 
cause it was written in a middle style ; though some, by a strange 
confusion of ideas, think the reason must have been because it 
" ended happily !" that is, because, beginning with hell (to some), 
it terminated with " heaven" (to others). As well might they 
have said, that a morning's work in the Inquisition ended happily, 
because, while people were being racked in the dungeons, the of- 
ficers were making merry in the drawing-room. For the much- 
injured epithet of " Divine," Dante's memory is not responsible. 
He entitled his poem arrogantly enough, yet still not with that 
impiety of arrogance, " The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, a Flor- 
entine by nation but not by habits." The word " divine" was 
added by some transcriber ; and it heaped absurdity on absur- 
dity, too much of it, alas ! being literally infernal tragedy. I 
am not speaking in mockery, any further than the fact itself can- 
not help so speaking. I respect what is to be respected in Dante ; 
I admire in him v/hat is admirable ; would love (if his infernali- 
ties would let me) what is loveable ; but this must not hinder 
one of the human race from protesting against what is erroneous 
in his fame, when it jars against every best feeling, human and 
divine. Mr. Cary thinks that Dante had as much right to avail 
himself of " the popular creed in all its extravagance" as Homer 
had of his gods, or Shakspeare of his fairies. But the distinc- 
tion is obvious. Homer did not personally identify himself with 
a creed, or do his utmost to perpetuate the worst parts of it in 
behalf of a ferocious inquisitorial church, and to the risk of en- 
dangering the peace of millions of gentle minds. 

The great poem thus misnomered is partly a system of theol- 
ogy,' partly an abstract of the knowledge of the day, but chiefly 
a series of passionate and imaginative pictures, altogether form- 
ing an account of the author's times, his friends, his enemies, 
and himself, written to vent the spleen of his exile, and the rest 
of his feelings, good and bad, and to reform church and state by 
a spirit of resentment and obloquy, which highly needed reform 
itself. It has also a design strictly self- referential. The author 
feigns, that the beatified spirit of his mistress has obtained leave 



to warn and purify his soul by shewing him the state of things in 
the next world. She deputes the soul of his master Virgil to 
conduct iiiin througii hell and purgatory, and then takes him her- 
self through the spheres of heaven, where St. Peter catechises 
and confirms him, and where he is fmally honoured with sights 
of the Virgin Mary, of Christ, and even a glimpse of the Su- 
preme Being ! 

His hell, considered as a place, is, to speak geologically, a 
most fantastical formation. It descends from beneath Jerusalem 
to the centre of the earth, and is a funnel graduated in circles, each 
circle being a separate place of torment for a different vice or its 
co-ordinates, and the point of the funnel terminating with Satan 
stuck into ice. Purgatory is a corresponding mountain on the 
other side of the globe, commencing with the antipodes of Jeru- 
salem, and divided into exterior circles of expiation, which end 
m a table-land forming the terrestrial paradise. From this the 
hero and his mistress ascend by a flight, exquisitely conceived, to 
the stars ; where the sun and the planets of the Ptolemaic sys- 
tem (for the true one was unknown in Dante's time) form a se- 
ries of heavens for different virtues, the whole terminating in the 
empyrean, or region of pure light, and the presence of the Be- 
atific Vision. 

The boundaries of old and new, strange as it may now 
seem to us, were so confused in those days, and books were so 
rare, and the Latin poets held in such invincible reverence, that 
Dante, in one and the same poem, speaks of the false gods of Pa- 
ganism, and yet retains much of its lower mythology ; nay, in- 
vokes Apollo himself at the door of paradise. There was, per- 
haps, some mystical and even philosophical inclusion of the past 
in this medley, as recognising the constant superintendence of 
Providence ; but that Dante partook of what may be called the 
literary superstition of the time, even for want of better know- 
ledge, is clear from the grave historical use he makes of poetic 
fables in his treatise on Monarchy, and in the very arguments 
which he puts into the mouths of saints and apostles. There are 
lingering feelings to this effect even now among the peasantry of 
Italy ; where, the reader need not be told. Pagan customs of all 
sorts, including religious and most reverend ones, are existing 

24 DANTE. 

under the sanction of other names ; — heathenisms christened. A 
Tuscan postilion, once enumerating to me some of the native 
poets, concluded his list with Apollo; and a plaster-cast man 
over here, in London, appeared much puzzled, when conversing 
on the subject with a friend of mine, how to discrepate Samson 
from Hercules. 

Dante accordingly, while, with the frightful bigotry of the 
schools, he puts the whole Pagan world into hell-borders (with 
the exception of two or three, whose salvation adds to the absur- 
dity), mingles the hell of Virgil with that of Tertullian and St. 
Dominic ; sets Minos at the door as judge ; retains Charon in his 
old office of boatman over the Stygian lake ; puts fabulous peo- 
ple with real among the damned, Dido, and Cacus, and Ephialtes, 
with Ezzelino and Pope Nicholas the Fifth ; and associates the 
Centaurs and the Furies with the agents of diabolical torture. 
It has pleased him also to elevate Cato of Utica to the office of 
warder of purgatory, though the censor's poor good wife, Marcia, 
is detained in the regions below. By these and other far greater 
inconsistencies, the whole place of punishment becomes a reduc- 
iio ah absurdum, as ridiculous as it is melancholy ; so that one 
is astonished how so great a man, and especially a man who 
thought himself so far advanced beyond his age, and who pos- 
sessed such powers of discerning the good and beautiful, could 
endure to let his mind live in so foul and foolish a region for any 
length of time, and there wreak and harden the unworthiest of 
his passions. Genius, nevertheless, is so commensurate with absur- 
dity throughout the book, and there are even such sweet and balmy 
as well as sublime pictures in it occasionally, nay often, that not 
only will the poem ever be worthy of admiration, but when those 
increasing purifications of Christianity which our blessed refor- 
mers began, shall finally precipitate the whole dregs of the au- 
thor into the mythology to which they belong, the world will de- 
rive a pleasure from it to an amount not to be conceived till the 
arrival of that day. Dante, meantime, with an impartiality 
which has been admired by those who can approve the assumption 
of a theological tyranny at the expense of common feeling and de- 
cency, has put friends as well as foes into hell : tutors of his child- 
hood, kinsmen of those who treated him hospitably, even the father 


of his beloved friend, Guido Cavalcantc — the last for not believ- 
ing in a God : therein doing the worst thing possible in behalf of 
the belief, and totally ditlering both with the pious heathen Plu- 
tarch, and the great Christian philosopher Bacon, who were of 
opinion that a contumelious belief is worse than none, and that 
it is far better and more pious to believe in " no God at all," than 
in a God who would " cat his children as soon as they were 
born." And Dante makes him do worse ; for the whole unbap- 
tised infant world. Christian as well as Pagan, is in his Tartarus. 

Milton has spoken of the " milder shades of Purgatory ;" and 
truly they possess great beauties. Even in a theological point 
of view they are something like a bit of Christian refreshment 
after the horrors of the Inferno, The first emerging from the 
hideous gulf to the sight of the blue serenity of heaven, is paint- 
ed in a manner inexpressibly charming. So is the sea-shore 
with the coming of the angel ; the valley, with the angels in 
green ; the repose at night on the rocks ; and twenty other pic- 
tures of gentleness and love. And yet, special and great has 
been the escape of the Protestant world from this part of Roman 
Catholic belief; for Purgatory ij the heaviest stone that hangs 
about the neck of the old and feeble in that communion. Hell 
is avoidable by repentance ; but Purgatory, what modest con- 
science shall escape '? Mr. Cary, in a note on a passage in which 
Dante recommends his readers to think on what follows this ex- 
piatory state, rather than what is suffered there,* looks upon the 
poet's injunction as an " unanswerable objection to the doctrine 
of purgatoiy," it being difficult to conceive " how the best can 
meet death without horror, if they believe it must be followed by 
immediate and intense suffering." Luckily, assent is not belief; 
and mankind's feelings are for the most part superior to their 
opinions ; otherwise the world would have been in a bad way in- 
deed, and nature not been vindicated of her children. But let 
us watch and be on our guard against all resuscitations of su- 

As to our Florentine's Heaven, it is full of beauties also, 

* The Vision; or. Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri, ^c 
Smith's edition, 1844, p. 90. 

26 DANTE. 

though sometimes of a more questionable and pantomimical sort 
than is to be found in either of the other books. I shall speak of 
some of them presently ; but the general impression of the place 
is, that it is no heaven at all. He says it is, and talks much of 
its smiles and its beatitude ; but always excepting the poetry — 
especially the similes brought from the more heavenly earth — we 
realise little but a fantastical assemblage of doctors and doubtful 
cliaractcrs, far more angry and theological than celestial ; giddy 
raptures of monks and inquisitors dancing in circles, and saints 
denouncing popes and Florentines ; in short, a heaven libelling 
itself with invectives against earth, and terminating in a great 
presumption. Many of the people put there, a Calvinistic Dante 
would have consigned to' the "other place;" and some, if now 
living, would not be admitted into decent society. At the begin- 
ning of one of the cantos, the poet congratulates himself, with a 
complacent superiority, on his being in heaven and occupied with 
celestial matters, while his poor fellow-creatures are wandering 
and blundering on earth. But he had never got there ! A di- 
vine — worthy of that name — of the Church of England (Dr. 
Whichcote), has beautifully said, that " heaven is first a temper, 
and then a place." According to this truly celestial topography, 
the implacable Florentine had not reached its outermost court. 
Again, his heavenly mistress, Beatrice, besides being far too di- 
dactic to sustain the womanly part of her character properly, al- 
ternates her smiles and her sarcasms in a way that jars horribly 
against the occasional enchantment of her aspect. She does not 
scruple to burst into taunts of the Florentines in the presence of 
Jesus himself ; and the spirit of his ancestor, Cacciaguida, in the 
very bosom of Christian bliss, promises him revenge on his ene- 
mies ! Is this the kind of zeal that is to be exempt from objec- 
tion in a man who objected to all the world ? or will it be thought 
a profaneness against such profanity, to remind the reader of the 
philosopher in Swift, who " while gazing on the stars, was betray- 
ed by his lower parts into a ditch !" 

The reader's time need not be wasted with the allegorical and 
other mystical significations given to the poem ; still less on the 
question whether Beatrice is theology, or a young lady, or both ; i 
and least of all on the discovery of the ingenious Signor Rossetti, 



hat Dante and all the other great old Italian writers meant no- 
.hing, either by their mistresses or their mythology, but attacks 
m the court of Rome. Suffice it, that besides all other possible 
neanings, Dante himself has told us that his poem has its obvi- 
ous and literal meaning ; that he means a spade by a spade, pur- 
gatory by purgatory, and truly and unaffectedly to devote his 
iriends to the infernal regions whenever he does so. I confess I ' 
:hink it is a great pity that Guido Cavalcante did not live to read 
he poem, especially the passage about his father. The under- 
itanding of Guido, who had not the admiration for Virgil that 
Dante had (very likely for reasons that have been thought sound 
n modern times), was in all probability as good as that of his 
Hend in many respects, and perhaps more so in one or two ; and 
nodern criticism might have been saved some of its pains of 
)bjection by the poet's contemporary. 

The author did not live to publish, in any formal manner, his 
Extraordinary poem, probably did not intend to do so, except un- 
ier those circumstances of political triumph which he was al- 
vays looking for ; but as he shewed portions of it to his friends, 
t was no doubt talked of to a certain extent, and must have ex- 
isperated such of his enemies as considered him worth their hos- 
ility. No wonder they did all they could to keep him out of 
Florence. What would they have said of him, could they have 
vritten a counter poem ? What would even his friends have 
jaid of him ? for we see in what manner he has treated even 
:hose ; and yet how could he possibly know, with respect either 
.0 friends or enemies, what passed between them and their con- 
jciences ? or who was it that gave him his right to generate the 
X)asted distinction between an author's feelings as a man and his 
issumed office as a theologian, and parade the latter at the for- 
mer's expense ? His own spleen, hatred, and avowed sentiments 
)f vengeance, are manifest throughout the poem ; and there is 
his, indeed, to be said for the moral and religious inconsistencies 
x)th of the man and his verse, that in those violent times the 
jpirit of Christian charity, and even the sentiment of personal 
ihame, were so little understood, that the author in one part of it 
s made to bliWi by a friend for not having avenged him ; and it 
s said to have been thought a compliment to put a lady herself 

28 DANTE. 

into hell, that she might be talked of, provided it was for som 
thing not odious. An admirer of this infernal kind of celebrit 
even in later times, declared that he would have given a sum ( 
money (I forget to what amount) if Dante had but done as mu< 
for one of his ancestors. It has been argued, that in all the pa 
ties concerned in these curious ethics there is a generous love < 
distinction, and a strong craving after life, action, and sympatl 
of some kind or other. Granted ; there are all sorts of half-goo 
half-barbarous feelings in Dante's poem. Let justice be done 
the good half; but do not let us take the ferocity for wisdom ai 
piety ; or pretend, in the complacency of our own freedom fro 
superstition, to see no danger of harm to the less fortunate amoi 
our fellow-creatures in the support it receives from a man of g 
nius. Bedlams have been filled with such horrors ; thousanc 
nay millions of feeble minds are suffering by them or from thei 
at this minute, all over the world. Dante's best critic, Fosco] 
has said much of the heroical nature of the age in which tl 
poet lived ; but he adds, that its mixture of knowledge and a 
surdity is almost inexplicable. The truth is, that like every thii 
else which appears harsh and unaccountable in nature, it was i 
excess of the materials for good, working in an over-active ai 
inexperienced manner ; but knowing this, we are bound, for tl 
sake of the good, not to retard its improvement by ignoring exis 
ing impieties, or blind ourselves to the perpetuating tendencies ( 
the bigotries of great men. Oh ! had the first indoctrinators c 
Christian feeling, while enlisting the " divine Plato" into the se 
vice of diviner charity, only kept the latter just enough in mil 
to discern the beautiful difference between the philosopher's u: 
malignant and improvable evil, and their own malignant ar 
eternal one, what a world of folly and misery they might ha) 
saved us ! But as the evil has happened, let us hope that ev€ 
this form of it has had its uses. If Dante thought it salutary 
the world to maintain a system of religious terror, the same cha 
ity which can hope that it may once have been so, has taught i 
how to commence a better. But did he, after all, or did he nc 
think it salutary ? Did he think so, believing the creed himself 
or did he think it from an unwilling sense of its necessity ? O 
lastly, did he write only as a mythologist, and care for nothir 


but the exercise of his spleen and genius ? If he had no other 
object than that, his conscientiousness would be reduced to a low 
pitch indeed. Foscolo is of opinion he was not only in earnest, 
but that he was very near taking himself for an apostle, and 
^vould have done so had his prophecies succeeded, perhaps with 
success to the pretension.* Thank heaven, his " Hell" has not 
?mbittered the mild reading-desks of the Church of England. 

^ [f King George the Third himself, with all his arbitrary notions, 
ind willing religious acquiescence, could not endure the creed of 
5t. Athanasius with its damnatory enjoinments of the impossible, 
-vhat would have been said to the inscription over Dante's hell- 

' ^ate, or the account of TJgolino eating an archbishop, in the gen- 
ie chapels of Queen Victoria ? May those chapels have every 
ieauty in them, and every air of heaven, that painting and music 
;an bestow — divine gifts, not unworthy to be set before their Di- 
vine Bestower ; but far from them be kept the foul fiends of in- 
mmanity and superstition ! 
It is certainly impossible to get at a thorough knowledge of 

^iie opinions of Dante even in theology; and his morals, if 
udged according to the received standard, are not seldom puz- 
ling. He rarely thinks as the popes do ; sometimes not as the 
Church does ; he is lax, for instance, on the subject of absolution 
)y the priest at death. f All you can be sure of is, the predomi- 
iance of his will, the most wonderful poetry, and the notions he 
sntertained of the degrees of vice and virtue. Towards the 
rrors of love he is inclined to be so lenient (some think because 
le had indulged in them himself), that it is pretty clear he would 
lOt have put Paulo and Francesca into hell, if their story had 
lOt been too recent, and their death too sudden, to allow him to 
.ssume their repentance in the teeth of the evidence required. 
e avails himself of orthodox license to put " the harlot Rahab" 
ato heaven (" cette bonne fille de Jericho," as Ginguene calls 
er) ; nay, he puts her into the planet Venus, as if to compli- 
lent her on her profession ; and one of her companions there is 


ill i^ 





lit 11 


'^'*'J » Discorso sul Tcsto, pp. 64, 77-90, 335-338. 

_T t Purgatorio, canto iii. 118, 138; referred to by Foscolo, in the Discorso 
mul Testo, p. 383. 

30 DANTE. 

a fair Ghibelline, sister of the tyrant Ezzelino, a lady famous for 
her gallantries, of whom the poet good-naturedly says, that she 
" was overcome by her star" — to wit, the said planet Venus ; 
and yet he makes her the organ of the most unfeminine triumphs 
over the Guelphs. But both these ladies, it is to be understood, 
repented — for they had time for repentance ; their good fortune 
saved them. Poor murdered Francesca had no time to repent ; 
therefore her mischance was her damnation ! Such are the com- 
pliments theology pays to the Creator. In fact, nothing is really 
punished in Dante's Catholic hell but impenitence, deliberate or 
accidental. No delay 'of repentance, however dangerous, hin- 
ders the most hard-hearted villain from reaching his heaven. The 
best man goes to hell for ever, if he does not think he has sinned 
as Dante thinks ; the worst is beatified, if he agrees with him : 
the only thing which every body is sure of, is some dreadful du- 
ration of agony in purgatory — the great horror of Catholic death- 
beds. Protestantism may well hug itself on having escaped it. 
O Luther ! vast was the good you did us. O gentle Church of 
England ! let nothing persuade you that it is better to preach 
frightful and foolish ideas of God from your pulpits, than loving- 
kindness to all men, and peace above all things. 

If Dante had erred only on the side of indulgence, humanity 
could easily have forgiven him — for the excesses of charity are 
the extensions of hope ; but, unfortunately, where he is sweet- 
natured once, he is bitter a hundred times. This is the impres- 
sion he makes on universalists of all creeds and parties ; that is 
to say, on men who having run the whole round of sympathy 
with their fellow-creatures, become the only final judges of sove- 
reign pretension. It is very well for individuals to make a god 
of Dante for some encouragement of their own position or pre- 
tension ; but a god for the world at large he never was, or can 
be ; and I doubt if an impression to this effect was not always 
from the very dawn of our literature, the one entertained of hin 
by the genius of our native country, which could never lon^ 
endure any kind of unwarrantable dictation. Chaucer evidently 
thought him a man who would spare no unnecessary probe to th( 
feelings (see the close of his version of Ugolino). Spenser say 
not a word of him, though he copied Tasso, and eulogised Ariosto 


Shakspeare would assuredly h6,ve put him into the list of those 
presumptuous lookers into eternity who " take upon themselves to 
know'' (Cymbeline, act v. so. 4). Milton, in his sonnet to Henry 
Lawes, calls iiim "that sad Florentine" — a lamenting epithet, by 
which we do not designate a man whom we desire to resemble. 
The historian of English poetry, admirably applying to him a 
passage out of Milton, says that 

" Hell grows darker at his frown."* 

Walter Scott could not read him, at least not with pleasure. He 
tells Miss Seward that the " plan" of the poem appeared to him 
" unhappy ; the personal malignity and strange mode of revenge 
presumptuous and uninteresting. "f Uninteresting, I think, it is 
impossible to consider it. The known world is there, and the 
unknown pretends to be there ; and both are surely interesting 
to most people. 

Landor, in his delightful book the Pentameron — a book full of 
the profoundest as well as sweetest humanity — makes Petrarch 
follow up Boccaccio's eulogies of the episode of Paulo and Fran- 
cesca with ebullitions of surprise and horror : 

^'■Petrarca. Perfection of poetry ! The greater is my won- 
der at discovering nothing else of the same order or cast in this 
whole section of the poem. He who fainted at the recital of 

* And he who fell as a dead body falls,' 

would exterminate all the inhabitants of every town in Italy ! 
What execrations against Florence, Pistoia, Pisa, Siena, Genoa ! 
what hatred against the whole human race ! what exultation and 
merriment at eternal and immitigable sufferings ! Seeing this, I 
cannot but consider the Inferno as the most immoral and impious 
book that ever was written. Yet, hopeless that our country shall 
ever see again such poetry, and certain that without it our future 
poets would be more feebly urged forward to excellence, I would 

* Warton's History of English Poetry, edition of 1840, vol. iii. p. 214. 
t Memoirs of the Life of Sir Waller Scott, Bart. vol. ii. p. 122. 

32 DANTE. 

have dissuaded Dante from cancelling it, if this had been his in- 

Most happily is the distinction here intimated between the un- 
desirableness of Dante's book in a moral and religious point of 
view, and the greater desirableness of it, nevertheless, as a pat- 
tern of poetry ; for absurdity, however potent, wears itself out in 
the end, and leaves what is good and beautiful to vindicate even 
so foul an origin. 

Again, Petrarch says, " What an object of sadness and of con- 
sternation, he who rises up from hell like a giant refreshed ! 

^''Boccaccio. Strange perversion ! A pillar of smoke by day 
and of fire by night, to guide no one. Paradise had fewer wants 
for him to satisfy than hell had, all which he fed to repletion ; but 
let us rather look to his poetry than his temper." 

See also what is said in that admirable book further on (p. 50), 
respecting the most impious and absurd passage in all Dante's 
poem, the assumption about Divine Love in the inscription over 
hell-gate — one of those monstrosities of conception which none 
ever had the effrontery to pretend to vindicate, except theologians 
who profess to be superior to the priests of Moloch, and who yet 
defy every feeling of decency and humanity for the purpose of 
explaining their own worldly, frightened, or hard-hearted sub- 
mission to the mistakes of the most wretched understandings. 

Ugo Foscolo, an excellent critic where his own temper and vi- 
olence did not interfere, sees nothing but jealousy in Petrarch's 
dislike of Dante, and nothing but Jesuitism in similar feelings en- 
tertained by such men as Tiraboschi. But all gentle and con- 
siderate hearts^must dislike the rage and bigotry in Dante, even 
were it true (as the Dantesque Foscolo thinks) that Italy will never 
be regenerated till one-half of it is baptised in the blood of the 
other If Such men, with all their acuteness, are incapable of 
seeing what can be effected by nobler and serener times, and the 
progress of civilisation. They fancy, no doubt, that they are vin- 
dicating the energies of Nature herself, and the inevitable neces- 
sity of " doing evil that good may come." But Dante in so do- 

* Pentameron and Pentalogia, pp. 44-50. 

t Discorso sul Testo, p. 226. The whole passage (sect, ex.) is very elo- 
quent, horrible, and self -betraying. 


ing violated the Scripture he professed to revere ; and men must 
not assume to themselves that final knowledge of results, which 
is the only warrant of the privilege, and the possession of which 
is to be arrogated by no earthly wisdom. One calm discovery 
of science may do away with all the boasted eternal necessities 
of the angry and the self-idolatrous. The passions that may be 
necessary to savages are not bound to remain so to civilised men, 
any more than the eating of man's flesh or the worship of Jug- 
ghernaut. When we think of the wonderful things lately done 
by science for the intercourse of the world, and the beautiful and 
tranquil books of philosophy written by men of equal energy and 
benevolence, and opening the peacefulest hopes for mankind, and 
views of creation to which Dante's universe was a nutshell, — 
such a vision as that of his poem (in a theological point of view) 
seems no better than the dream of an hypochondriacl savage, and 
his nutshell a rottenness to be spit out of the mouth. 

Heaven send that the great poet's want of charity has not made 
myself presumptuous and uncharitable ! But it is in the name 
of society I speak ; and words, at all events, now-a-days are not 
the terrible, stake-preceding things they were in his. Readers in 
general, however — even those of the literary world — have little 
conception of the extent to which Dante carries either his cruelty 
or his abuse. The former (of which I shall give some examples 
presently) shews appalling habits of personal resentment ; the 
latter is outrageous to a pitch of the ludicrous — positively scream- 
ing. I will give some specimens of it out of Foscolo himself, 
who collects them for a different purpose ; though, with all his 
idolatry of Dante, he was far from being insensible to his mis- 

" The people of Sienna," according to this national and Chris- 
tian poet, were " a parcel of coxcombs ; those of Arezzo, dogs ; 
and of Casentino, hogs. Lucca made a trade of perjury. Pis- 
toia was a den of beasts, and ought to be reduced to ashes ; and 
the river Arno should overflow and drown every soul in Pisa. 
Almost all the women in Florence walked half-naked in public, 
and were abandoned in private. Every brother, husband, son, 
and father, in Bologna, set their women to sale. In all Lombardy 
were not to be found three men who were not rascals ; and in 


34 DANTE. 

Genoa and Romagna people went about pretending to be men, 
but in reality were bodies inhabited by devils, their souls having 
gone to the ' lowest pit of hell' to join the betrayers of their 
friends and kinsmen."* 

So much for his beloved countrymen. As for foreigners, par- 
ticularly kings, " Edward the First of England, and Robert of 
Scotland, were a couple of grasping fools ; the Emperor Albert 
was an usurper ; Alphonso the Second, of Spain, a debauchee ; 
the King of Bohemia a coward ; Frederick of Arragon a coward 
and miser ; the Kings of Portugal and Norway forgers ; the 
King of Naples a man whose virtues were expressed by a unit, 
and his vices by a million ; and the King of France, the de- 
scendant of a Paris butcher, and of progenitors who poisoned St. 
Thomas Aquinas, their descendants conquering with the arms of 
Judas rather than of soldiers, and selling the flesh of their daugh- 
ters to old men, in order to extricate themselves from a danger, "j" 

When we add to these invectives, damnations of friends as 
well as foes, of companions, lawyers, men of letters, princes, 
philosophers, popes, pagans, innocent people as well as guilty, 
fools and wise, capable and incapable, men, women, and chil- 
dren, — it is really no better than a kind of diabolical sublimation 
of Lord Thurlow's anathemas in the Rolliad, which begins with 

" Damnation seize ye all ;" 
and ends with 

" Damn them beyond what mortal tongue can tell, 
Confound, sink, plunge them all to deepest, blackest hell."t 

In the gross, indeed, this is ridiculous enough. No burlesque 
can beat it. But in the particular, one is astonished and sad- 
dened at the cruelties in which the poet allows his imagination to 
riot : horrors generally described with too intense a verisimili- 
tude not to excite our admiration, with too astounding a perse- 
verance not to amaze our humanity, and sometimes with an 
amount of positive joy and delight that makes us ready to shut 

* Discorso, as above, p. 101. t Discorso, p. 103. 

- t Criticisms on the Rolliady and Probationary Odes for the Laureateship. 
Third edit. 1785, p. 317. 


the book with disgust and indignation. Tlius, in a circle in hell, 
where traitors are stuck up to their chins in ice (canto xxxii.), 
the visitor, in walking about, happens to give one of their faces 
a kick ; the suHerer weeps, and then curses him — with such in- 
fernal truth does the writer combine the malignant with the pa- 
thetic ! Dante replies to the curse by asking the man his name. 
He is refused it. He then seizes the miserable wretch by the 
hair, in order to force him to the disclosure ; and Virgil is rep- 
resented as commending the barbarity !* But he does worse. 
To barbarity he adds treachery of his own. He tells another 
poor wretch, whose face is iced up with his tears, as if he had worn 
a crystal vizor, that if he will disclose his name and offence, he 
will relieve his eyes awhile, that he may weep. The man does 
so ; and the ferocious poet then refuses to perform his promise, 
adding mockery to falsehood, and observing that ill manners are 
the only courtesy proper towards such a fellow !f It has been 
conjectured that Macchiavelli apparently encouraged the enormi- 
ties of the princes of his time, with a design to expose them to 
indignation. It might have been thought of Dante, if he had 
not taken a part in the cruelty, that he detailed the horrors of his 
hell out of a wish to disgust the world with its frightful notions 
of God. This is certainly the effect of the worse part of his de- 
scriptions in an age like the present. Black burning gulfs, full 
of outcries and blasphemy, feet red-hot with fire, men eternally 
eating their fellow-creatures, frozen wretches malignantly dash- 
ing their iced heads against one another, other adversaries mu- 
tually exchanging shapes by force of an attraction at once irre- 
sistible and loathing, and spitting with hate and disgust when it is 
done — Enough, enough, for God's sake ! Take the disgust out 
of one's senses, O flower of true Christian wisdom and charity, 
now beginning to fill the air with fragrance ! 

But it will be said that Dante did all this out of his hate of 

* The writer of the article on Dante in the Foreign Quarterly Review (as 
above) concedes that his hero in this passage becomes " almost cruel." Almost I 
Tormenting a man further, who is up to his chin in everlasting ice, and whose 
face he has kicked I 

t " Cortesia fu lui esser villano." 

Inferno, canto xxxiii. 150. 

36 DANTE. 


cruelty itself, and of treachery itself. Partly no doubt he di(^ ; 
and entirely he thought he did. But see how the notions of sucfi 
retribution react upon the judge, and produce in him the bad pas- 
sions he punishes. It is true the punishments are imaginary. 
Were a human being actually to see such things, he must be de- 
humanised or he would cry cut against them with horror and de- 
testation. But the poem draws them as truths ; the writer's 
creed threatened them ; h'e himself contributed to maintain the 
belief; and however we may suppose such a belief to have had 
its use in giving alarm to ruffian passions and barbarously igno- 
rant times, an age arrives when a beneficent Providence permits 
itself to be better understood, and dissipates the superfluous horror. 

Many, indeed, of the absurdities of Dante's poem are too ob- 
vious now-a-days to need remark. Even the composition of the 
poem, egotistically said to be faultless by such critics as Alfieri, 
who thought they resembled him, partakes, as every body's style 
does, of the faults as well as good qualities of the man. It is 
nervous, concise, full almost as it can hold, picturesque, mighty, 
primeval ; but it is often obscure, often harsh, and forced in its 
constructions, defective in melody, and wilful and superfluous in 
the rhyme. Sometimes, also, the writer is inconsistent in cir- 
cumstance (probably from not having corrected the poem) ; and 
he is not above being filthy. Even in the episode of Paulo and 
Francesca, which has so often been pronounced faultless, and 
which is unquestionably one of the most beautiful pieces of wri- 
ting in the world, some of these faults are observable, particular- 
ly in the obscurity of the passage about tolta forma, the cessation 
of the incessant tempest, and the non- adjuration of the two lovers 
in the manner that Virgil prescribes. 

But truly it is said, that when Dante is great, nobody surpass- 
es him. I doubt if anybody equals him, as to the constant inten- 
sity and incessant variety of his pictures ; and whatever he 
paints, he throws, as it were, upon its own powers ; as though an 
artist should draw figures that started into life, and proceeded to 
action for themselves, frightening their creator. Every motion, 
word, and look of these creatures becomes full of sensibility and 
suggestions. The invisible is at the back of the visible ; dark- 
ness becomes palpable ; silence describes a character, nay, forms 


the most striking part of a story ; a word acts as a flash of light- 
ning, which disph\ys some gloomy neighbourhood, where a tower 
is standing, with dreadful faces at the window ; or where, at 
your feet, full of eternal voices, one abyss is beheld dropping out 
of another in the lurid light of torment. In the present volume 
a story will be found which tells a long tragedy in half-a-dozen 
lines. Dante has the minute probabilities of a Defoe in the 
midst of the loftiest and most generalising poetry ; and this feel- 
ing of matter-of-fact is impressed by fictions the most improbable, 
nay, the most ridiculous and revolting. You laugh at the ab- 
surdity ; you are shocked at the detestable cruelty ; yet, for the 
moment, the thing almost seems as if it must be true. You feel 
as you do in a dream, and after it ; — you wake and laugh, but 
the absurdity seemed true at the time ; and while you laugh you 

Enough of this crueller part of his genius has been exhibited ; 
but it is seldom you can have the genius without sadness. In 
the circle of hell, soothsayers walk along weeping, with their 
faces turned the wrong way, so that their tears fall between their • 
shoulders. The picture is still more dreadful. Warton thinks 
it ridiculous. But I cannot help feeling with the poet, that it is 
dreadfully pathetic. It is the last mortifying insult to human 
pretension. Warton, who has a grudge against Dante natural to 
a man of happier piety, thinks him ridiculous also in describing 
the monster Geryon lying upon the edge of one of the gulfs 
of hell " like a beaver" (canto xvii.). He is of opinion that the 
.writer only does it to show his knowledge of natural history. 
But surely the idea of so strange and awful a creature (a huge 
mild-faced man ending in a dragon's body) lying familiarly on 
the edge of the gulf, as a beaver does by the water, combines the 
supernatural with the familiar in a very impressive manner. It 
is this combination of extremes which is the life and soul of the 
whole poem ; you have this world in the next ; the same persons, 
passions, remembrances, intensified by superhuman despairs or 
beatitudes ; the speechless entrancements of bliss, the purgatorial 
trials of hope and patience ; the supports of hate and anger (such 
as they are) in hell itself; nay, of loving despairs, and a self- 
pity made unboundedly pathetic by endless suffering. Hence 

38 DANTE. 

there is no love-story so affecting as that of Paulo and Francesca 
thus told and perpetuated in another world ; no father's misery 
so enforced upon as Ugolino's, who, for hundreds of years, has 
not grown tired of the revenge to which it wrought him. Dante 
even puts this weight and continuity of feeling into passages of 
mere transient emotion or illustration, unconnected with the next 
world ; as in the famous instance of the verses about evening, 
and many others which the reader will meet with in this volume. 
Indeed, if pathos and the most impressive simplicity, and grace- 
ful beauty of all kinds, and abundant grandeur, can pay (as the 
reader, I believe, will think it does even in a prose abstract), for 
the pangs of moral discord and absurdity inflicted by the perusal 
of Dante's poem, it may challenge competition with any in point 
of interest. His Heaven, it is true, though containing both sub- 
lime and lovely passages, is not so good as his Earth. The 
more unearthly he tried to make it, the less heavenly it became. 
When he is content with earth in heaven itself, — when he literal- 
ises a metaphor, and with exquisite felicity finds himself arrived 
there in consequence of fixing his eyes on the eyes of Beatrice, 
then he is most celestial. But his endeavours to express degrees 
of beatitude and holiness by varieties of flame and light, — of 
dancing lights, revolving lights, lights of smiles, of stars, of star- 
ry crosses, of didactic letters and sentences, of animal figures 
made up of stars full of blessed souls, with saints forming am 
eagle's beak and David in its eye ! — such superhuman attempt 
become for the most part tricks of theatrical machinery, on which] 
we gaze with little curiosity and no respect. 

His angels, however, are another matter. Belief was prepare 
for those winged human forms, and they furnished him with some 
of his most beautiful combinations of the natural with the super- 
natural. Ginguene has remarked the singular variety as well as 
beauty of Dante's angels. Milton's, indeed, are commonplace in 
the comparison. In the eighth canto of the Inferno, the devils in- 
solently refuse the poet and his guide an entrance into the city of 
Dis : — an angel comes sweeping over the Stygian lake to enforce 
it ; the noise of his wings makes the shores tremble, and is like 
a crashing whirlwind such as beats down the trees and sends the 
peasants and their herds flying before it. The heavenly messen- 


ger, after rebuking the devils, touches the portals of the city with 
his wand ; they fly open ; and he returns the way he came with- 
out uttering a word to the two companions. His face was that 
of one occupied with other thoughts. This angel is announced 
by a tempest. Another, who brings the souls of the departed to 
Purgatory, is first discovered at a distance, gradually disclosing 
white splendours, which are his wings and garments. He comes 
in a boat, of which his wings are the sails ; and as he approaches, 
it is impossible to look him in the face for its brightness. Two 
other angels have green wings and green garments, and the dra- 
pery is kept in motion like a flag by the vehement action of the 
wiijgs. A fifth has a face like the morning star, casting forth 
quivering beams. A sixth is of a lustre so oppressive, that the 
poet feels a weight on his eyes before he knows what incoming. 
Another's presence affects the senses like the fragrance of a May- 
morning ; and another is in garments dark as cinders, but has a' 
sword in his hand too sparkling to be gazed at. Dante's occa- 
sional pictures of the beauties of external nature are worthy of 
these angelic creations, and to the last degree fresh and lovely. 
You long to bathe your eyes, smarting with the fumes of hell, in 
his dews. You gaze enchanted on his green fields and his celes- 
tial blue skies, the more so from the pain and sorrow in midst of 
which the visions are created. 

Dante's grandeur of every kind is proportionate to that of his 
angels, almost to his ferocity ; and that is saying every thing. 
It is not always the spiritual grandeur of Milton, the subjection 
of the material impression to the moral ; but it is equally such 
when he chooses, and far more abundant. His infernal precipices 
— his black whirlwinds — his innumerable cries and claspings of 
hands — his very odours of huge loathsomeness — his giants at twi- 
light standing up to the middle in pits, like towers, and causing 
earthquakes when they move — his earthquake of the mountain in 
Purgatory, when a spirit is set free for heaven — his dignified 
Mantuan Sordello, silently regarding him and his guide aS they 
go by, " like a lion on his watch" — his blasphemer, Capaneus, 
lying in unconquered rage and sullenness under an eternal rain 
of flakes of fire (human precursor of Milton's Satan) — his aspect 
of Paradise, " as if the universe had smiled" — his inhabitants of 

40 DANTE. 

the whole planet Saturn crying out so loud, in accordance with 
the anti-papal indignation of Saint Pietro Damiano, that the poet, 
though among them, could not hear what they said — and the blush- 
ing eclipse, like red clouds at sunset, which takes place at the 
apostle Peter's denunciation of the sanguinary filth of the court 
of Rome — all these sublimities, and many more, make us not 
know whether to be more astonished at the greatness of the poet 
or the raging littleness of the man. Grievous is it to be forced 
to bring two such opposites together ; and I wish, for the honour 
and glory of poetry, I did not feel compelled to do so. But the 
swarthy Florentine had not the healthy temperament of his 
brethren, and he fell upon evil times. Compared with Homer 
/and Shakspeare, his very intensity seems only superior to theirs 
i from an excess of the morbid ; and he is inferior to both in other 
^sovereign qualities of poetry — to the one, in giving you the health- 
iest general impression of nature itself — to Shakspeare, in bound- 
less universality — to most great poets, in thorough harmony and 
delightfulness. He wanted (generally speaking) the music of a 
happy and a happy-making disposition. Homer, from his large 
vital bosom, breathes like a broad fresh air over the world, amidst 
alternate storm and sunshine, making you aware that there is 
rough work to be faced, but also activity and beauty to be en- 
joyed. The feeling of health and strength is predominant. Life 
laughs at death itself, or meets it with a noble confidence — is not 
taught to dread it as a malignant goblin. Shakspeare has all the 
smiles as well as tears of nature, and discerns the " soul of good- 
ness in things evil." He' is comedy as well as tragedy — the en- 
tire man in all his qualities, moods, and experiences ; and he 
beautifies all. And both those truly divine poets make nature 
their subject through her own inspiriting medium — not through 
the darkened glass of one man's spleen and resentment.^ Dante, 
in constituting himself the hero of his poem, not only renders 
her, in the general impression, as dreary as himself, in spite of 
the occasional beautiful pictures he draws of her, but narrows her 
very immensity into his pettiness. He fancied, alas, that he could 
build her universe over again out of the politics of old Rome and 
the divinity of the schools ! 

Dante, besides his great poem, and a few Latin eclogues, of no 


great value, wrote lyrics full of Platonical sentiment, some of 
which anticipated the loveliest of Petrarch's ; and he was the 
author of various prose works, political and philosophical, all 
more or less masterly for the time in which he lived, and all co- 
adjutors of his poetry in fixing his native toni^ue. His account 
of his Early Life (the Vita Nuova) is a most engaging history 
of a boyish passion, evidently as real and true on his own side as 
love and truth can be, whatever might be its mistake as to its ob- 
ject. The treatise on the Vernacular Tongue (de Vulgari Elo- 
quio) shews how critically he considered his materials for im- 
pressing the world, and what a reader he was of every production 
of his contemporaries. The Banquet (Convito) is but an abstruse 
commentary on some of his minor poems ; but the book on Mon- 
archy (de Monarchia) is a compound of ability and absurdity, in 
which his great genius is fairly overborne by the barbarous ped- 
antry of the age. It is an argument to prove that the world must 
all be governed by one man ; that this one man must be the suc- 
cessor of the Roman Emperor — God having manifestly designed 
the world to be subject for ever to the Roman empire ; and last- 
ly, that this Emperor is equally designed by God to be indepen- 
dent of the Pope — spiritually subject to him, indeed, but so far 
only as a good son is subject to the religious advice of his father ; 
and thus making Church and State happy for ever in the two di- 
vided supremacies. And all this assumption of the obsolete and 
impossible the author gravely proves in all the forms of logic, by 
arguments drawn from the history of ^neas, and the providential 
cackle of the Roman geese ! 

How can the patriots of modern Italy, justified as they are in 
extolling the poet to the skies, see him plunge into such depths of 
bigotry in his verse and childishness in his prose, and consent to 
perplex the friends of advancement with making a type of their 
success out of so erring though so great a man ? Such slavish- 
ness, even to such greatness, is a poor and unpromising thing, 
compared with an altogether unprejudiced and forward-looking 
self-reliance. To have no faith in names has been announced as 
one of their principles ; and " God and Humanity " is their motto. 
What, therefore, has Dante's name to do with their principles ? 
or what have the semi-barbarisms of the thirteenth century to do 

42 DANTE. 

with the final triumph of " God and Humanity ?" Dante's lauded 
wish for that union of the Italian States, which his fame has led 
them so fondly to identify with their own, was but a portion of 
his greater and prouder wish to see the whole world at the feet 
of his boasted ancestress, Rome. Not, of course, that he had no 
view to what he considered good and just government (for what 
sane despot purposes to rule without that ?) ; but his good and 
just government was always to be founded on the sine qua non 
principle of universal Italian domination.* 

All that Dante said or did has its interest for us in spite of his 
errors, because he was an earnest and suffering man and a great 
genius ; but his fame must ever continue to lie where his greatest 
blame does, in his principal work. He was a gratuitous logician, 
a preposterous politician, a cruel theologian ; but his wonderful 
imagination, and (considering the bitterness that was in him) still 
more wonderful sweetness, have gone into the hearts of his fel- 
low-creatures, and will remain there in spite of the moral and 
religious absurdities with which they are mingled, and of the in- 
ability which the best-natured readers feel to associate his entire 
memory, as a poet, with their usual personal delight in a poet 
and his name. 

* Every body sees this who is not wilfully blind. " Passionate," says the editor 
of the Opere Minori, " for the ancient Italian glories, and the greatness of the 
Roman name, he was of opinion that it was only by means of combined strength, 
and one common government, that Italy could be finally secured from discord 
in its own bosom and enemies from without, and recover its ancient empire 
over the whole world." " Amantissimo delle antiche glorie Italiane, e della 
grandezza del noma romano, ei considerava, che soltanto pel mezzo d' una gen- 
eral forza ed autorit^ poteva 1' Italia dalle interne contese e dalle straniere in- 
vasioni restarsi sicura, e recuperate V antico imperio sopra tutte le genti" — Ut 
sup. vol. iii. p. & 





The infernal regions, according to Dante, are situate in the globe we inhabit, 
directly beneath Jerusalem, and consist of a succession of giilfs or circles, nar- 
rowing as they descend, and tenninating in the centre ; so that the general 
shape is that of a funneL Commentators have differed as to their magnitude ; 
but the latest calculation gives 315 miles for the diameter of the mouth or cra- 
ter, and a quarter of a mile for that of its terminating point. In the middle is 
the abyss, p>ervading the whole depth, and 245 miles in diameter at the open- 
ing ; which reduces the different platforms, or territories that surround it, to a 
size comparatively small. These territories are more or less varied with land 
and water, lakes, precipices, &c. A precipice, fourteen miles high, divides the 
first of them from the second. The peissages from the upper world to the en- 
trance are various ; and the descents from one circle to another are effected by 
the poet and his guide in different manners — sometimes on foot through by- 
ways, sometimes by the conveyance of supernatural beings. The crater he 
finds to be the abode of those who have done neither good nor evil, caring for 
nothing but themselves. In the first circle are the whole unbaptised world — 
heathens and infants — melancholy, though not tormented. Here also is found 
the Elysium of Virgil, whose Charon and other infernal beings are among the 
agents of torment. In the second circle the torments commence with the sin 
of incontinence ; and the punishment goes deepening with the crime from cir- 
cle to circle, through gluttony, avarice, prodigality, wrath, sullenness, or unwil- 
lingness to be pleased with the creation, disbelief in God and the soul (with 
which the punishment by fire commences), usur>', murder, suicide, blas- 
phemy, seduction and other carnal enormities, adulation, simony, soothsaying, 
astrology-, witchcraft, trafficking with the public interest, hypocrisy, highway 
robbery (on the great Italian scalej, sacrilege, evil counsel, disturbance of the 
Church, heresy, false apostleship, alchemy, forgery, coining (all these, from se- 
duction downwards, in one circle) ; then, in the frozen or lowest circle of all, 


treachery ; and at the bottom of this is Satan, stuck into the centre of the 

With the centre of the globe commences the antipodean attraction of its 
opposite side, together with a rocky ascent out of it, through a huge ravine. 
The poet and his guide, on their arrival at this spot, accordingly find their po- 
sition reversed ; and so conclude their downward journey upwards, till they 
issue forth to light on the borders of the «ea which contains the island of Pur- 


Dante says, that when he was half-way on his pilgrimage 
through this life, he one day found himself, towards nightfall, in a 
wood where he could no longer discern the right path. It was a 
place so gloomy and terrible, every thing in it growing in such a 
strange and savage manner, that the horror he felt returned on 
him whenever he thought of it. The pass of death could hardly 
be more bitter. Travelling through it all night with a beating 
heart, he at length came to the foot of a hill, and looking up, as 
he began to ascend it, he perceived the shoulders of the hill clad 
in the beams of morning ; a sight which gave him some little 
comfort. He felt like a man who has buffeted his way to land 
out of a shipwreck, and who, though still anxious to get farther 
from his peril, cannot help turning round to gaze on the wide wa- 
ters. So did he stand looking back on the pass that contained 
that dreadful wood. 

After resting a while, he again betook him up the hill ; but 
had not gone far when he beheld a leopard bounding in front of 
him, and hindering his progress. After the leopard came a lion, 
with his head aloft, mad with hunger, and seeming to frighten 
the very air ;* and after the lion, more eager still, a she-wolf, so 
lean that she appeared to be sharpened with every wolfish want. 
The pilgrim fled back in terror to the wood, where he again 
found himself in a darkness to which the light never penetrated. 
In that place, he said, the sun never spoke word.f But the wolf 
was still close upon him.:|: 

* ** Parea che l' aer ne temesse." 
t '♦ La dove '1 sol tace." 

" The sun to me is dark, 
And silent is the moon, , « 

Hid in her vacant interlunar cave." — Milton. 
t There is great difTerence among tiae commentators respecting tlie mean- 


While thus flying, he beheld coming towards him a man, who 
spoke something, but he knew not what. The voice sounded 
strange and feeble, as if from disuse. Dante loudly called out to 
him to save him, whether he was a man or only a spirit. The 
apparition, at whose sight the wild beasts disappeared, said that 
he was no longer man, though man he had been in the time of the 
false gods, and sung the history of the offspring of Anchises. 

" And art thou, then, that Virgil," said Dante, " who has filled 
the world with such floods of eloquence ? O glory and light of 
all poets, thou art my master, and thou mine author ; thou alone 
the book from which I have gathered beauties that have gained 
me praise. Behold the peril I am in, and help me, for I tremble 
in every vein and pulse." 

Virgil comforted Dante. He told him that he must quit the 
wood by another road, and that he himself would be his guide, 
leading him first to behold the regions of woe underground, and 
then the spirits that lived content in fire because it purified them 
for heaven ; and then that he would consign him to other hands 
worthier than his own, which should raise him to behold heaven 
itself; for as the Pagans, of whom he was one, had been rebels 
to the law of him that reigns there, nobody could arrive at Par- 
adise by their means.* 

ing of the three beasts ; some supposing them passions, others political troubles, 
others personal enemies, &lc. The point is not of much importance, especially 
as a mystery was intended ; but nobody, as Mr. Gary says, can doubt that the 
passage was suggested by one in the prophet Jeremiah, v. 6 : " Wherefore a 
lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil 
them ; a leopard shall watch over their cities." 

* " Che quelle 'mperador che \k su regna 

Perch' i' fu' ribellante a la sua legge, 

Non vuol che 'n sua cittJi per me si vegna." 

The Pagans could not be rebels to a law they never heard of, any more than 

Dante could be a rebel to Luther. But this is one of the absurdities with which 

the impious eHrontery or scarcely less impious admissions of Dante's teachers 

avowrdly set reason at defiance,— retaining, meanwhile, their right of contempt 

for the impieties of Mahometans and Brahmins ; " which is odd," as the poet 

» Bays ; for beii»g not less absurd, or, as the others argued, much more so, they 

had at least an equal claim on the submission of the reason ; since the greater 

the irrationality, the higher the theological triumph. 


So saying, Virgil moved on his way, and Dante closely fol- 
lowed. He expressed a fear, however, as tliey went, lest being 
"neither ^neas nor St. Paul." his journey could not be worthily 
undertaken, or end in wisdom. But Virgil, after sharply rebu- 
king him for his faintheartedness, told him, that the spirit of her 
whom he loved, Beatrice, had come down from heaven, on pur- 
pose to commend her lover to his care ; upon which the drooping 
courage of the pilgrim was raised to an undaunted confidence ; 
as flowers that have been closed and bowed down by frosty nights, 
rise all up on their stems in the morning sun.* 

" Through me is the road to the dolorous city ; 
Through me is the road to the everlasting sorrows ; 
Through me is the road to the lost people. 
Justice was the motive of my exalted maker ; 

I was made by divine power, by consummate wisdom, and by primal love ; 
Before me was no created thing, if not eternal ; and eternal am I also. 
Abandon hope, all ye who enter." 

Such were the words which Dante beheld written in dark 
characters over a portal. " Master," said he to Virgil, " I find 
their meaning hard." 

" A man," answered Virgil, " must conduct himself at this 
door like one prepared. Hither must he bring no mistrust. 
Hither can come and live no cowardice. We have arrived at 
the place I told thee of. Here thou art to behold the dolorous 
people who have lost all intellectual good.""}" 

* " Quale i fioretti dal notturno gelo 

Chinati e chiusi, poi che '1 sol gl' unbianca, 
Si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo." 
Like as tlie flowers that with the frosty night 
Are bowed and closed, soon as the sun returns, 
Rise on their stems, all open and upright, 
t This loss of intellectual good, and the confession of the poet that he finds 
the inscription over hell-portal hard to understand {il senso lor m' e duro), are 
among the passages in Dante which lead some critics to suppose that his hell 
is nothing but an allegory, intended at once to imply his own disbelief in it as 
understood by tlie vulgar part of mankind, and his employment of it, neverthe- 
less, as a salutary check both to the foolish and the reflecting; — to the foolish, 
as an alarm ; and to the reflecting, as a parable. It is possible, in the teeth 
of many appearances to the contrary, that such may have been the case ; but 



So saying, Virgil placed his hand on Dante's, looking on him 
with a cheerful countenance ; and the Florentine passed with 
him through the dreadful gate. 

They entered upon a sightless gulf, in which was a black air 
without stars ; and immediately heard a hubbub of groans, and 
wailings, and terrible things said in many languages, words of 
wretchedness, outcries of rage, voices loud and hoarse, and 
sounds of the smitings of hands one against another. Dante 
began to weep. The sound was as if the sand in a whirlwind 
were turned into noises, and filled the blind air with incessant 

Yet these were not the souls of the wicked. They were those 
only who had lived without praise or blame, thinking of nothing 
but themselves. These miserable creatures were mixed with the 
angels who stood neutral in the war with Satan. Heaven would 
not dull its brightness with those angels, nor would lower hell i 
receive them, lest the bad ones should triumph in their company. 

" And what is it," said Dante, " which makes them so griev- J 
ously suffer?" 

" Hopelessness of death," said Virgil. " Their blind existence 
here, and immemorable former life, make them so wretched, that 
they envy every other lot. Mercy and justice alike disdain 
them. Let us speak of them no more. Look, and pass." 

The companions went on till they came to a great river with a 
multitude waiting on the banks. A hoary old man appeared 
crossing the river towards them in a boat ; and as he came, he 
oaid, " Woe to the wicked. Never expect to see heaven. I 
come to bear you across to the dark regions of everlasting fire 
and ice." Then looking at Dante, he said, " Get thee away 
from the dead, thou who standest there, live spirit." 

"Torment thyself not, Charon," said Virgil. "He has a 
passport beyond thy power to question." 

The shaggy cheeks of the boatman of the livid lake, who had 

ill the doubt that it affects either the foolish or the wise to any good purpose, 
and in the certuinty that such doctrines do a world of mischief to tender con- 
sciences and the cause of sound piety, such monstrous contradictions, in terms, 
of every sense of justice and charity which God has implanted in the heart of 
man, are not to be passed over witiiout iudigrnant comment. 



wheels of fire about his eyes, fell at these words ; and he was 
silent. But the naked multitude of souls whom he had spoken to 
changed colour, and gnashed their teeth, blaspheming God, and 
their parents, and the human species, and the place, and the hour, 
and the seed of the sowing of their birth ; and all the while they 
felt themselves driven onwards, by a fear which became a desire, 
towards the cruel river-side, which awaits every one destitute of 
the fear of God. The demon Charon, beckoning to them with 
eyes like brasiers, collected them as they came, giving blows to 
those that lingered, with his oar. One by one they dropped into 
the boat like leaves from a bough in autumn, till the bough is 
left bare ; or as birds drop into the decoy at the sound of the 

There was then an earthquake, so terrible that the recollection 
of it made the poet burst into a sweat at every pore. A whirl- 
wind issued from the lamenting ground, attended by vermilion 
flashes ; and he lost his senses, and fell like a man stupified. 

A crash of thunder through his brain woke up the pilgrim so 
hastily, that he shook himself like a person roused by force. He 
found that he was on the brink of a gulf, from which ascended 
a thunderous sound of innumerable groanings. He could see 
nothincr down it. It was too dark with sootv clouds. Virgil 
himself turned pale, but said, " We are to go down here. I will 
lead the way." 

" O master," said Dante, " if even thou fearest, what is to be- 
come of myself?" 

" It is pity, not fear," replied Virgil, "that makes me change 

With these words his guide led him into the first circle of hell, 
surrounding the abyss. The great noise gradually ceased to be 
heard, as they journeyed inwards, till at last they became aware 
of a world of sighs, which produced a trembling in the air. 
They were breathed by the souls of such as had died without 
baptism, men, women, and infants ; no matter how good ; no mat- 
ter if they worshipped God before the coming of Christ, for they 
worshipped him not " properly." Virgil himself was one of 
them. They were all lost for no other reason ; and their " only 
suffering" consisted in " hopeless desire !" 


Dante was struck with great sorrow when he heard this, know- 
infT how many good men must be in that place. He inquired if 
no one had ever been taken out of it into heaven. Virgil told him 
there had, and he named them ; to wit, Adam, Abel, Noah, 
Moses, King David, obedient Abraham the patriarch, and Isaac, 
and Jacob, with their children, and Rachel, for whom Jacob did 
so much, — and " many more ;" adding, however, that there was 
no instance of salvation before theirs. 

Journeying on through spirits as thick as leaves, Dante per- 
ceived a lustre at a little distance, and observing shapes in it evi- 
dently of great dignity, inquired who they were that thus lived 
apart from the rest. Virgil said that heaven thus favoured them 
by reason of their renown on earth. A voice was then heard 
exclaiming, " Honour and glory to the lofty poet ! Lo, his shade 
returns." Dante then saw four other noble figures coming to- 
wards them, of aspect neither sad nor cheerful. 

" Observe him with the sword in his hand," said Virgil, as 
they were advancing. " That is Homer, the poets' sovereign. 
Next to him comes Horace the satirist ; then Ovid • and the last 
is Lucan." 

" And thus I beheld," says Dante, " the bright school of the 
loftiest of poets, who flies above the rest like an eagle." 

For a while the illustrious spirits talked together, and then 
turned to the Florentine with a benign salutation, at which his 
master smiled : and " further honour they did me," adds the 
father of Italian poetry, " for they admitted me of their tribe ; so 
that to a band of that high account I added a sixth."* 

The spirits returned towards the bright light in which they 
lived, talking with Dante by the way, and brought him to a mag- 
nificent castle, girt with seven lofty walls, and further defended 
with a river, which they all passed as if it had been dry ground. 
Seven gates conducted them into a meadow of fresh green, the 
resort of a race whose eyes moved with a deliberate soberness, and 
whose whole aspects were of great authority, their voices sweet, 

* It is seldom tliut a Iwast of this kind — not, it must be owned, bashfnl — has 
been allowed by poBterity to be just ; nay, in four out of the five instances, be- 
low its claims. 


and their speech seldom.* Dante was taken apart to an eleva- 
tion in the ground, so that he could behold them all distinctly ; 
and there, on the " enamelled green, "f were pointed out to him 
the great spirits, by the sight of whom he felt exalted in his own 
esteem. He saw Electra with many companions, among whom 
were Hector and ^neas, and Caesar in armour with his hawk's 
eyes ; and on another side he beheld old King Latinus with his 
daughter Lavinia, and the Brutus that expelled Tarquin, and Lu- 
cretia, and Julia, and Cato's wife Marcia, and the mother of the 
Gracchi, and, apart by himself, the Sultan Saladin. He then 
raised his eyes a little, and beheld the " master of those who 
know":}: (Aristotle), sitting amidst the family of philosophers, 
and honoured by them all. Socrates and Plato were at his side. 
Among the rest was Democritus, who made the world a chance, 
and Diogenes, and Heraclitus, &c. and Dioscorides, the good 
gatherer of simples. Orpheus also he saw, and Cicero, and the 
moral Seneca, and Euclid, and Hippocrates, and Avicen, and 
Averroes, who wrote the great commentary, and others too nume- 
rous to mention. The company of six became diminished to 
two, and Virgil took him forth on a far different road, leaving that 
serene air for a stormy one ; and so they descended again into 

It was the second circle into which they now came — a sphere 
narrower than the first, and by so much more the wretcheder. 
Minos sat at the entrance, gnarling — he that gives sentence on 
every one that comes, and intimates the circle into which each is 
to be plunged by the number of folds into which he casts his tail 
round about him. Minos admonished Dante to beware how he 
entered unbidden, and warned him against his conductor ; but 
Virgil sharply rebuked the judge, and bade him not set his will 
against the will that was power. 

* " Genti v' eran, con occhi tardi e gravi, 
Di j^rande autoriti ne' lor sembianti : 
Parlavan rado, con voci soavi." 

t " Sopra '1 verde sinalto." Mr. Gary has noticed the appearance, for the 
first time, of this beautiful but now commonplace image. 

t " II maestro di color che sanno." • 


The pilgrims then descended through hell-mouth, till they came 
to a place dark as pitch, that bellowed with furious cross-wmds, 
like a sea in a tempest. It was the first place of torment, and 
the habitation of carnal sinners. The winds, full of stifled 
voices, buffeted the souls for ever, whirling them away to and 
fro, and dashing them against one another. Whenever it seized 
them for that purpose, the wailing and the shrieking was loudest, 
crying out against the Divine Power. Sometimes a whole mul- 
titude came driven in a body like starlings before the wind, now 
hither and thither, now up, now down ; sometimes they went in a 
line like cranes, when a company of those birds is beheld sailing 
along in the air, uttering its dolorous clangs. 

Dante, seeing a group of them advancing, inquired of Virgil 
who they were. " Who are these," said he, " coming hither, 
scourged in the blackest part of the hurricane ?" 

" She at the head of them," said Virgil, " was empress over 
many nations. So foul grew her heart with lust, that she or- 
dained license to be law, to the end that herself might be held 
blameless. She is Semiramis, of whom it is said that she gave 
suck to Ninus, and espoused him. Leading the multitude next 
to her is Dido, she that slew herself for love, and broke faith to 
the ashes of Sichseus ; and she that follows with the next is the 
luxurious woman, Cleopatra." 

Dante then saw Helen, who produced such a world of misery ; 
and the great Achilles, who fought for love till it slew him ; and 
Paris ; and Tristan ; and a thousand more whom his guide 
pointed at, naming their names, every one of whom was lost 
through love. 

The poet stood for a while speechless for pity, and like one 
bereft of his wits. He then besought leave to speak to a particu- 
lar couple who went side by side, and who appeared to be borne 
before the wind with speed lighter than the rest. His conduc- 
tor bade him wait till they came nigher, and then to entreat them 
gently by the love which bore them in that manner, and they 
would stop and speak with him. Dante waited his time, and then 
lifted up his voice between the gusts of wind, and adjured the 
two " weary souls" to halt and have speech with him, if none 


forbade their doing so ; upon which they came to him, like doves 
to the nest.* 

There was a lull in the tempest, as if on purpose to let thern 
speak ; and the female addressed Dante, saying, that as he shew- 
ed, such pity for their state, they would have prayed heaven to 
give peace and repose to his life, had they possessed the friend- 
ship of heaven. f 

" Love," she said, " which is soon kindled in a gentle heart, 
seized this my companion for the fair body I once inhabited — how 
deprived of it, my spirit is bowed to recollect. Love, which 
compels the beloved person upon thoughts of love, seized me in 
turn with a delight in his passion so strong, that, as thou seest, 
even here it forsakes me not. Love brought us both to one end. 
The punishment of Cain awaits him that slew us." 

The poet was struck dumb by this story. He hung down his 
head, and stood looking on the ground so long, that his guide 

* This is the famous episode of Paulo and Francesca. She was daughtei 
to Count Guido da Polenta, lord of Ravenna, and wife to Giovanni Malatesta 
one of the sons of the lord of Rimini. Paulo was her brother-in-law. They 
were surprised together by the husband, and slain on the spot. Particulars of 
their history will be found in the Appendix, together with the whole original 

" Quali colombe, dal disio chiamate, 
Con r ali aperte e femie, al dolce nido 
Volan per 1' aer dal voler portate : 

Cotali uscir de la schiera ov' 6 Dido, "^ 

A noi venendo per 1' aer maligno, 
Si forte fu 1' afFettuoso grido." 

As doves, drawn home from where they circled still, 
Set firm their open wings, and through the air 
Come sweeping, wafted by their pure good-will : 

So broke from Dido's flock that gentle pair, 
Cleaving, to where we stood, the air malign. 
Such strength to bring them had a loving prayer. 

t Francesca is to be conceived telling her story in anxious intermitting sen- 
tences — now all tenderness for her lover, now angry at their slayer ; watching 
the poet's face, to see what he thinks, and at times averting her own. I take 
this excellent direction from Ugo Foscolo. 


asked him what was in his mind. *' Alas !" answered he, " such 
then was this love, so full of sweet thoughts ; and such the pass 
to which it brought them ! Oh, Francesca !" he cried, turnino- 
again to the sad couple, " thy sufferings make me weep. But 
tell me, I pray thee, what was it that first made thee know, for a 
certainty, that his love was returned ? — that thou couldst refuse 
him thine no longer ?" 

" There is not a greater sorrow,"' answered she, " than calling 
to mind happy moments in the midst of wretchedness.* But since 
thy desire is so great to know our story to the root, hear me 
tell it as well as I may for tears. It chanced, one day, that we 
sat reading the tale of Sir Launcelot, how love took him in thrall. 
We were alone, and had no suspicion. Often, as we read, our 
eyes became suspended,"!- and we changed colour ; but one pas- 
sage alone it was that overcame us. When we read how Gene- 
vra smiled, and how the lover, out of the depth of his love, could 
not help kissing that smile, he that is never more to be parted 
from me kissed me himself on the mouth, all in a tremble. 
Never had we go-between but that book. The writer was the 
betrayer. That day we read no more." 

While these words were being uttered by one of the spirits, 
the other wailed so bitterly, that the poet thought he should have 

* " Nessim inaggior dolore, 
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice 
Ne la miseria." 

t " Per piu fiate gli occhi ci sospinse 
Quella lettura." 

" To look at one another," says Boccaccio ; and his interpretation has been fol- 
lowed by Gary and Foscolo ; but, with deference to such authorities, I beg 
leave to think that the poet meant no more than he says, namely, that their 
eyes were simply - 8uspended"-hung, as it were, over the book, without be- 
mjr able to read on ; which is what I intended to express (if I may allude to a 
production of which both those critics were pleased to speak well), when, in my 
youthful attempt to enlarge this story, I wrote 

«' And o'er the book they hung, and nothing said, 
And every lingering page grew longer as they read." 

Story oj Rimini. 


lied for pity. His senses forsook him, and he fell flat on the 
fround, as a dead body falls.* 

On regaining his senses, the poet found himself in the third 
lircle of hell, a place of everlasting wet, darkness, and cold, one 
leavy slush of hail and mud, emitting a squalid smell. The 
riple-headed dog Cerberus, with red eyes and greasy black 
eard, large belly, and hands with claws, barked above the heads 
f the wretches who floundered in the mud, tearing, skinninof, 
nd dismembering them, as they turned their sore and soddened 
odies from side to side. When he saw the two living men, he 
hewed his fangs, and shook in every limb for desire of their 
esh. Virgil threw lumps of dirt into his mouth, and so they 
assed him. 

It was the place of Gluttons. The travellers passed over them, 
s if they had been ground to walk upon. But one of them sat 
p, and addressed the Florentine as his acquaintance. Dante did 
ot known him, for the agony in his countenance. He was a man 
icknamcd Hog (Ciacco), and by no other name does the poet, or 
ny one else, mention him. His countryman addressed him by it, 
lough declaring at the same time that he wept to see him. Hog 
rophesied evil to his discordant native city, adding that there 

* " Mentre che 1' uno spirto questo disse, 
L' altro piangeva si, che di pietade 
I' venni men cosi com' io morisse, 
E caddi come corpo morto cade." 

'his last line has been greatly admired for the corresponding deadness of its 

While thus one spoke, the otlier spirit mourn'd 
With wail so woful, that at his remorse 
I felt as though I should have died. I tnrn'd 
Stone-stifF; and to the ground, fell like a corse. 

'he poet fell thus on the ground (some of the commentators think) because 
e had sinned in the same way ; and if Foscolo's opinion could be established 
-that tlie incident of the book is invention — their conclusion would receive 
urious collateral evidence, the circumstance of tlie perusal of the romance in 
ompany with a lady being likely enough to have occurred to Dante. But the 
ime probability applies in the case of the lovers. The reading of such books 
^as equally the taste of their own times : and nothing is more likely than the 
olume's having been found in the room where they perished. 


were but two just men in it — all the rest being given up to ava- 
rice, envy, and pride. Dante inquired by name respecting the 
fate of five other Florentines, who had done good, and was in- 
formed that they were all, for various offences, in lower gulfs of 
hell. Hog then begged that he would mention having seen him 
when he returned to the sweet world ; and so, looking at him a 
little, bent his head, and disappeared among his blinded compan- 

" Satan ! hoa, Satan !" roared the demon Plutus, as the poets 
were descending into the fourth circle. 

" Peace !" cried Virgil, " with thy swollen lip, thou accursed 
wolf No one can hinder his coming down. God wills it."* 

Flat fell Plutus, collapsed, like the sails of a vessel when the 
mast is split. \ 

This circle was the most populous one they had yet come to. 
The sufferers, gifted with supernatural might, kept eternally roll- 
ing round it, one against another, with terrific violence, and so 
dashing apart, and returning. " Why grasp ?" cried the one — 
" Why throw away ?" cried the other ; and thus exclaiming, 
they dash furiously together. ' 

They were the Avaricious and the Prodigal. Multitudes of 
them were churchmen, including cardinals and popes. Not all 
the gold bcneatli the moon could have purchased them a mo- 
ment's rest. Dante asked if none of them were to be recognised 
by their countenances. Virgil said, "No;" for the stupid and 
sullied lives which they led on earth swept their faces away from 
all distinction for ever. 

In discoursing of fortune, they descend by the side of a tor- 
rent, black as ink, into the fifth circle, or place of torment for the 
Angry, the Sullen, and the Proud. Here they first beheld a 
filthy marsh, full of dirty naked bodies, that in everlasting rage 

* Plutus's exclamation about Satan is a great choke-pear to the commenta- 
tors. Tlie line in the original is 

" Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe." 
The words, as thus written, are not Italian. It is not the business of this ab- 
stract to discuss such points ; and therefore I content myself with believing 
that the context implies a call of alarm on the Prince of Hell at the sight of 
the living creature and his guide. 


tore one another to pieces. In a quieter division of the pool were 
seen nothing but bubbles, carried by the ascent, from its slimy 
bottom, of the stifled words of the sullen. They were always 
saying, " We were sad and dark within us in the midst of the 
sweet sunshine, and now we live sadly in the dark bogs." The 
poets walked on till they came to the foot of a tower, which hung 
out two blazing signals to another just discernible in the distance. 
A boat came rapidly towards them, ferried by the wrathful 
Phlegyas ;* who cried out, " Aha, felon ! and so thou hast come 
at last !" 

'' Thou errest," said Virgil. " We come for no longer time 
than it will take thee to ferry us across thy pool." 

Phlegyas looked like one defrauded of his right ; but proceeded 
to convey them. During their course a spirit rose out of the 
mire, looking Dante in the face, and said, " Who art thou, that 
comest before thy time ?" 

" Who art thou ?" said Dante. 

" Thou seest who I am," answered the other ; " one among 
the mourners." 

" Then mourn still, and howl, accursed spirit," returned the 
Florentine. " I know thee, — all over filth as thou art." 

The wretch in fury laid hold of the boat, but Virgil thrust 
him back, exclaiming, " Down with thee ! down among the other 
dogs !" 

Then turning to Dante, he embraced and kissed him, saying, 
*' O soul, that knows how to disdain, blessed be she that bore 
thee ! Arrogant, truly, upon earth was this sinner, nor is his 
memory graced by a single virtue. Hence the furiousness of 
his spirit now. How many kings are there at this moment lord- 
ing it as gods, who shall wallow here, as he does, like swine in 
the mud, and be thought no better of by the world !" 

* Phlegyas, a son of Mars, was cast into hell by Apollo for setting the god's 
temple on fire in resentznent for the violation of his daughter Coronis. The 
actions of gods were not to be questioned, in Dante's opinion, even though the 
gods turned otit to be false. Jugghanaut is as good as any, while he lasts. It 
is an ethico-theological puzzle, involving very nice questions ; but at any rate, 
had our poet been a Brahmin of Benares, we know how he would have \vt\X* 
ten about it in Sanscrit. 


" I should like to see him smothering in it," said Dante, " be- 
fore we go." 

" A right wish," said Virgil, " and thou shalt, to thy heart's 


On a sudden the wretch's muddy companions seized and 
drenched him so horribly that (exclaims Dante) " I laud and 
thank God for it now at this moment." 

" Have at him !" cried they ; " have at Filippo Argenti ;" and 
the wild fool of a Florentine dashed his teeth for rage into his 
own flesh.* 

The poet's attention was now drawn off by a noise of lamenta- 
tion, and he perceived that he was approaching the city of Dis.f 
The turrets glowed vermilion with the fire within it, the walls 
appeared to be of iron, and moats were round about them. The 
boat circuited the walls till the travellers came to a gate, which 
Phlegyas, with a loud voice, told them to quit the boat and enter. 
But a thousand fallen angels crowded over the top of the gate, 
refusing to open it, and making furious gestures. At length 
they agreed to let Virgil speak with them inside ; and he left 
Dante for a while, standing in terror without. The parley was 

* Filippo Argenti (Philip Silver, — so called from his shoeing his horse with 
the precious metal) was a Florentine remarkable for bodily strength and ex- 
treme irascibility. What a barbarous strength and confusion of ideas is there 
in this whole passage about him ! Arrogance punished by arrogance, a 
Christian mother blessed for the unchristian disdainfulness of her son, revenge 
boasted of and enjoyed, passion arguing in a circle ! Filippo himself might 
have written it. Dante says, 

" Con piangere e con lutto 
Spirito maladetto, ti rimani. — 

Via cost&, con gli altri cani," &c. 

Then Virgil, kissing and embracing him, 

" Alma sdegnosa 
Benedetta colei che 'n te s' incinse," &c. 

And Dante again, 

" Maestro, molto sarei vago 
Di vederlo attirfFare in questa broda," &c. 

t Dis, one of the Pagan names of Pluto, here used for Satan. Within the 
walls of the city of Dis commence the punishments by fire. 


in vain. They would not let them pass. Virgil, however, bade 
his companion be of good cheer, and then stood listening and 
talking to himself; disclosing by his words his expectation of 
some extraordinary assistance, and at the same time his anxiety 
for its arrival. On a sudden, three raging figures arose over the 
gate, coloured with gore. Green hydras twisted about them ; 
and their fierce temples had snakes instead of hair. 

" Look," said Virgil. " The P'uries ! The one on the left is 
MegGera ; Alecto is she that is wailing on the right ; and in the 
middle is Tisiphone." Virgil then hushed. The Furies stood 
clawing their breasts, smiting their hands together, and raising 
such hideous cries, that Dante clung to his friend. 

" Bring the Gorgon's head !" cried the Furies, looking down ; 
" turn him to adamant !" 

" Turn round," said Virgil, " and hide thy face ; for if thou 
beholdest the Gorgon, never again wilt thou see the light of day." 
And with these words he seized Dante and turned him round him- 
self, clapping his hands over his companion's eyes. 

And now was heard coming over the water a terrible crashing 
noise, that made the banks on either side of it tremble. It was 
like a hurricane which comes roaring through the-vain shelter of 
the woods, splitting and hurling away the boughs, sweeping along 
proudly in a huge cloud of dust, and making herds and herdsmen 
fly before it. " Now stretch your eyesight across the water," 
said Virgil, letting loose his hands ; — '• there, where the smoke 
of the foam is thickest." Dante looked ; and saw a thousand of 
the rebel angels, like frogs before a serpent, swept away into a 
heap before the coming of a single spirit, who flew over the tops 
cf the billows with unwet feet. The spirit frequently pushed 
the gross air from before his face, as if tired of the base obstacle ; 
^^uid as he came nearer, Dante, who saw it was a messenger from 
leaven, looked anxiously at Virgil. Virgil motioned him to be 
silent and bow down. 

The angel, with a face full of scorn, as soon as he arrived at 
the gate, touched it with a wand that he had in his hand, and it 
flew open. 

" Outcasts of heaven," said he ; " despicable race ! whence 
this fantastical arrogance ? Do ye forget that your torments are 


laid on thicker every time ye kick against the Fates ? Do ye 
fortret how your Cerberus was bound and chained till he lost the 
hair oil his neck like a common dog ?" 

So saying he turned swiftly and departed the way he came, 
not addressing a word to the travellers. His countenance had 
suddenly a look of some other business, totally different from the 
one he had terminated. 

The companions passed in, and beheld a place full of tombs 
red-hot. It was the region of Arch-heretics and their followers. 
Dante and his guide passed round betwixt the walls and the sep- 
ulchres as in a churchyard, and came to the quarter which held 
Epicurus and his sect, who denied the existence of spirit apart ^ 
from matter. The lids of the tombs remaining unclosed till the 
day of judgment, the soul of a noble Florentine, Farinata degli 
Uberti, hearing Dante speak, addressed him as a countryman, 
asking him to stop.* Dante, alarmed, beheld him rise half out 
of his sepulchre, looking as lofty as if he scorned hell itself. 
Finding who Dante was, he boasted of having three times ex- 
pelled the Guelphs. " Perhaps so," said the poet ; " but they 
came back again each time ; an art which their enemies have 
not yet acquired." 

A visage then appeared from out another tomb, looking ea- 
gerly, as if it expected to see some one else. Being disappointed, 
the tears came into its eyes, and the sufferer said, " If it is thy 
genius that conducts thee hither, where is my son, and why is he 
not with thee ?" 

" It is not my genius that conducts me," said Dante, " but that 
of one, whom perhaps thy son held in contempt." 

" How say est thou ?" cried the shade ; — " held in contempt ? 
He is dead then ? He beholds no longer the sweet light ?" And 
with these words he dropped into his tomb, and was seen no more. 
It was Cavalcante Cavalcanti, the father of the poet's friend. Guide. f 

* Farinata was a Ghibelline leader before the time of Dante, and had van- 
quished the poet's connexions at the battle of Montaperto. 

t What would Guido have said to this? More, I suspect, than Dante would 
have liked to hear, or known how to answer. But he died before the verses 
transpired ; probably before they were written ; for Dante, in the chronologfy 
of his poem, assumes what times and seasons he finds most convenient. 


The shade of Farinata, who had meantime been lookinir on, 
now replied to the taunt of Dante, prophesying that he should 
soon have good reason to know that the art he spoke of had been 
acquired ; upon which Dante, speaking with more considerate- 
ness to the lofty sufferer, requested to know how the gift of pro- 
phecy could belong to spirits who were ignorant of the time pres- 
ent. Farinata answered that so it was ; just as there was a kind 
of eyesight which could discern things at a distance though not 
at hand. Dante then expressed his remorse at not having in- 
ibrmed Cavalcante that his son was alive. He said it was owing 
to his being overwhelmed with thought on the subject he had just 
mentioned, and entreated Farinata to tell him so. 

Quitting this part of the cemetery, Virgil led him through the 
midst of it towards a descent into a valley, from which there as- 
cended a loathsome odour. They stood behind one of the tombs 
for a while, to accustom themselves to the breath of it ; and then 
began to descend a wild fissure in a rock, near the mouth of 
which lay the infamy of Crete, the Minotaur. The monster be- 
holding them gnawed himself for rage ; and on their persisting 
to advance, began plunging like a bull when he is stricken by the 
knife of the butcher. They succeeded, however, in entering the 
fissure before he recovered sufficiently from his madness to run 
at them ; and at the foot of the descent, came to a river of boil- 
ing blood, on the strand of which ran thousands of Centaurs armed 
with bows and arrows. In the blood, more or less deep accord- 
ing to the amount of the crime, and shrieking as they boiled, 
were the souls of the Inflicters of Violence ; and if any of them 
emerged from it higher than he had a right to do, the Centaurs 
drove him down with their arrows. Nessus, the one that be- 
queathed Hercules the poisoned garment, came galloping towards 
the pilgrims, bending his bow, and calling out from a distance to 
know who they were ; but Virgil, disdaining his hasty charac- 
ter, would explain himself only to Chiron, the Centaur who in- 
structed Achilles. Chiron, in consequence, bade Nessus accom- 
pany them along the river ; and there they saw tyrants immersed 
up to the eyebrows ; — Alexander the Great among them, Diony- 
sius of Syracuse, and Ezzelino the Paduan. There was one of 
the Pazzi of Florence, and Rinieri of Corneto (infestors of the 


public ways), now shedding bloody tears, and Attila the Scourge, 
and Pyrrhus king of Epirus. Further on, among those immersed 
up to the throat, was Guy de Montfort, the Englishman, who slew 
his father's slayer, Prince Henry, during divine service, in the 
bosom of God ; and then by degrees the river became shallower 
and siiallower till it covered only the feet ; and here the Centaur 
quitted the pilgrims, and they crossed over into a forest. 

The forest was a trackless and dreadful forest — the leaves not 
green, but black — the boughs not freely growing, but knotted and 
twisted — the fruit no fruit, but thorny poison. The Harpies wail- 
ed among the trees, occasionally shewing their human faces ; and 
on every side of him Dante heard lamenting human voices, but 
could see no one from whom they came. " Pluck one of the 
boughs," said Virgil. Dante did so ; and blood and a cry fol- 
lowed it. 

" Why pluckest thou me ?" said the trunk. " Men have we 
been, like thyself; but thou couldst not use us worse, had we been 
serpents." The blood and words came out together, as a green 
bough hisses and spits in the fire. 

The voice was that of Piero delle Vigne, the good chancellor 
of the Emperor Frederick the Second. Just though he had been 
to others, he was thus tormented for having been unjust to him- 
self; for, envy having wronged him to his sovereign, who sen- 
tenced him to lose his eyes, he dashed his brains out against a 
wall. Piero entreated Dante to vindicate his memory. The 
poet could not speak for pity ; so Virgil made the promise for 
him, inquiring at the same time in what manner it was that Sui- 
cides became thus identified with trees, and how their souls were 
to rejoin their bodies at the day of judgment. Piero said, that 
the moment the fierce self-murderer's spirit tore itself from the 
body, and passed before Charon, it fell, like a grain of corn, into 
that wood, and so grew into a tree. The Harpies then fed on its 
leaves, causing both pain and a vent for lamentation. The body 
it would never again enter, having thus cast away itself, but it 
would finally drag the body down to it by a violent attraction ; 
and every suicide's carcass will be hung upon the thorn of its 
wretched shade. 

The naked souls of two men, whose profusion had brought 


them to u violent end, here came runninn- throuirh the wood from 
tlie fanjjs of bhick female mastitis — Icavinir that of a suicide to 
mourn the havoc which their passage had made of his tree. He 
begged his countryman to gather his leaves up, and lay them at 
the foot of his trunk, and Dante did so ; and then he and Virgil 
proceeded on their journey. 

They issued from the wood on a barren sand, flaming hot, on 
which multitudes of naked souls lay down, or sat huddled up, or 
restlessly walked about, tryino; to throw from them incessant 
flakes of Are, which came down like a fall of snow. They were 
the souls of the Impious. Among them was a great spirit, who 
lay scornfully submitting himself to the fiery shower, as though 
it had not yet ripened him.* Overhearing Dante ask his guide 
who he was, he answered for himself, and said, " The same dead 
as living. Jove will tire his flames out before they conquer me." 

" Capaneus," exclaimed Virgil, " thy pride is thy punishment. 
No martyrdom were sufficient for thee, equal to thine own rage." 
The besieger of Thebes made no reply. 

In another quarter of the fiery shower the pilgrims met a 
crowd of Florentines, mostly churchmen, whose offence is not to 
be named ; after which they beheld Usurers ; and then arrived 
at a huge waterfall, which fell into the eighth circle, or that of 
the Fraudulent. Here Virgil, by way of bait to the monster 
Geryon, or Fraud, let down over the side of the waterfall the 
cord of St. Francis, which Dante wore about his waist,f and pres- 
ently the dreadful creature came up, and sate on the margin of 
the fall, with his serpent's tail hanging behind him in the air, af- 
ter the manner of a beaver ; but the point of the tail was occa- 

* " Si che la pioggia non par che 'I maturi." 

This is one of the grandest passages in Dante. It was probably (as English 
commentators have observed) in Milton's recollection when he conceived the 
character of Satan. 

t The satire of friarly hypocrisy is at least as fine as Ariosto's discovery of 
Discord in a monEistery. 

The monster Geryon, son of Chrysaor {Golden-sword), and the Ocean-nymph 
Callirhoe {Fair- flowing), was rich in the possession of sheep. His wealth, 
and perhaps his derivatives, rendered him this instrument of satire. The mon- 
strosity, the mild face, the glancing point of venom, and the beautiful skin, 
make it as fine as can be. 



sionally seen glancing upwards. He was a gigantic reptile, with 
the face of a just man, very mild. He had shaggy claws for 
arms, and a body variegated all over with colours that ran in 
knots and circles, each within the other, richer than any Eastern 
drapery. Virgil spoke apart to him, and then mounted on his 
back, bidding his companion, who was speechless for terror, do 
the same. Geryon pushed back with them from the edge of the 
precipice, like a ship leaving harbour ; and then, turning about, 
wheeled, like a sullen successless falcon, slowly down through 
the air in many a circuit. Dante would not have known that he 
was going downward, but for the air that struck upwards on his 
face. Presently they heard the crash of the waterfall on the cir- 
cle below, and then distino-uished flamino; fires and the noises of 
suffering. The monster Geryon, ever sullen as the falcon who 
seats himself at a distance from his dissatisfied master, shook his 
riders from off his back to the water's side, and then shot away 
like an arrow. 

This eighth circle of hell is called Evil-Budget,* and consists of 
ten compartments, or gulfs of torment, crossed and connected 
with one another by bridges of flint. In the first were beheld 
Pimps and Seducers, scourged like children by horned devils ; 
in the second. Flatterers, begrimed with ordure ; in the third, 
Simonists, who were stuck like plugs into circular apertures, with 
their heads downwards, and their legs only discernible, the soles 
of their feet glowing with a fire which made them incessantly 
quiver. Dante, going down the side of the gulf with Virgil, 
was allowed to address one of them who seemed in greater agony 
than the rest ; and doing so, the sufferer cried out in a malignant 

* " Malcbolge,'' literally Evil-Budget. Bolgia is an old form of the modern 
baule, the common term for a valise or portmanteau. " Bolgia" (says the 
Vocaholario delta Crusca, compendiato, Ven. 1792), " a valise ; Latin, bulga, 
hippopera ; Greek, [mro-nfipa. In reference to valises which open lengthways 
like a chest, Dante uses the word to signify those compartments which he feigns 
in his Ilell." (Per similitudine di quelle valigie, che s' aprono per lo lungo, a 
guisa di cassa, significa quegli spartimenti, che Dante finge nell' Inferno.) The 
reader will think of the homely figurative names in Bunyan, and the contempt 
which great and awful states of mind have for conventional notions of rank in 
phraseology. It is a part, if well considered, of their grandeur. 


rapture, " Aha, is it thou that standest there, Boniface ?* Thou 
hast come sooner than it was prophesied." It was the soul of 
Pope Nicholas the Third that spoke. Dante undeceived and then 
sternly rebuked him for his avarice and depravity, telling him 
that nothing but reverence for the keys of St. Peter hindered him 
from using harsher words, and that it was such as he that the 
Evangelist beheld in the vision, when he saw the woman with 
seven heads and ten horns, who committed whoredom with the 
kings of the earth. 

" O Constantine !" exclaimed the poet, " of what a world of 
evil was that dowry the mother, which first converted the pastor 
of the church into a rich man !"f The feet of the guilty pope 
spun with fiercer agony at these words ; and Virgil, look- 
ing pleased on Dante, returned with him the way he came, till 
they found themselves on the margin of the fourth gulf, the hab- 
itation of the souls of False Prophets. 

It was a valley, in which the souls came walking along, silent 
and weeping, at the pace of choristers who chant litanies. 
Their faces were turned the wrong way, so that the backs of their 
heads came foremost, and their tears fell on their loins. Dante 
was so overcome at the sight, that he leant against a rock and 
wept ; but Virgil rebuked him, telling him that no pity at all was 
the only pity fit for that place.:}: There was Amphiaraus, whom 
the earth opened and swallowed up at Thebes ; and Tiresias, 
who was transformed from sex to sex ; and Aruns, who lived in 

* Boniface the Eighth was the pope then living, and one of the causes of 
Dante's exile. It is thus the poet contrives to put his enemies in hell before 
their time. 

t An allusion to the pretended gift of the Lateran by Constantine to Pope 
Sylvester, ridiculed so strongly by Ariosto and others. 

t A truly infernal sentiment. The original is, 

" Qui vive la pietS. quand' b ben morta." 
Here pity lives when it is quite dead. 

" Chi b piu scellerato," continues the poet, " di colui, 
Ch' al giudicio divin passion porta." 

That is: " Who is wickeder than he that sets his impa.ssioned feelings against 
the judgments of God ?" The answer is : He that attributes judgments to God 
which are to render humanity pitiless. 


a ciivcrii on the side of the marble mountains of Carrara, looking 
out on the stars and ocean ; and Manto, daughter of Tiresias 
(her Jiind tresses over her bosom), who wandered through the 
world till she came and lived in the solitary fen, whence after- 
wards arose the city of Mantua ; and Michael Scot, the ixiagician, 
w ith his slender loins ;* and Eurypylus, the Grecian augur, who 
gave the signal with Calchas at Troy when to cut away the ca- 
bles for home. He came stooping along, projecting his face over 
liis swarthy shoulders. Guido Bonatti, too, was there, astrologer 
of Forli ; and Ardente, shoemaker of Parma, who now wishes he 
had stuck to his last ; and the wretched women who quit the 
needle and the distaff to wreak their malice with herbs and -^ 
images. Such was the punishment of those who, desiring to see 
too far before them, now looked only behind them, and walked 
the reverse way of their looking. 

The fifth gulf was a lake of boiling pitch, constantly heaving 
and subsiding throughout, and bubbling with the breath of those 
within it. They were Public Peculators. Winged black devils 
were busy about the lake, pronging the sinners when they occa- 
sionally darted up their backs for relief like dolphins, or thrust 
out their jaws like frogs. Dante at first looked eagerly down into 
the gulf, like one who feels that he shall turn away instantly out 
of the very horror that attracts him. " See — look behind thee !'" 
said Virgil, dragging him at the same time from the place where 
he stood, to a covert behind a crag. Dante looked round, and 
beheld a devil coming up with a newly-arrived sinner across his 
shoulders, whom he hurled into the lake, and then dashed down 
afler him, like a mastiff let loose on a thief. It was a man from 
Lucca, where every soul was a false dealer except Bonturo.f 

* Nc'fianchi cost poco. Michael Scot had been in Florence ; to which cir- 
cumstance we are most probably indebted for this curious particular respecting 
his shape. The consinrnment of such men lo hell is a mortifying instance of 
the great poet's participation in the vulgarest errors of his time. It is hardly, 
liowever, worth notice, considering what we see him swallowing every moment, 
or pretending to swallow. 

t " IJonliiro must have sold him something cheap," exclaimed a hearer of 
this passage. No : — the exception is an irony ! There was not one honest 
man in all Lucca ! 


riie devil eallctl out to other devils, and a heap of them fell upon 
the wretch with hooks as he rose to the surface ; telling him, tiiat 
[le must practise there in secret, if he practised at all ; and 
Jirustiiig him back into the boiling pitch, as cooks thrust back 
lesh into the pot. The devils were of the lowest and most re- 
volting habits, of which they made disgusting jest and parade. 
Some of them, on a sudden, perceived Dante and his guide, and 
ivere going to seize them, when Virgil resorted to his usual holy 
'ebuke. For a while they let him alone ; and Dante saw one 
)f them haul a sinner out of the pitch by the clotted locks, and 
lold him up sprawling like an otter. The rest then fell upon 
lim and flayed him. 

It was Ciampolo, a peculator in the service of the good Thie- 
)ault, king of Navarre. One of his companions under the 
)itch was Friar Gomita, governor of Gallura; and another, 
Vlichael Zanche, also a Sardinian. Ciampolo ultimately escaped 
)v a trick out of the hands of the devils, who were so enra"-ed 
hut they turned upon the two pilgrims ; but Virgil, catching up 
3ante with supernatural force, as a mother does a child in a 
)urning house, plunged with him out of their jurisdiction intf 
he borders of gulf the sixth, the region of Hypocrites. 

The hypocrites, in perpetual tears, walked about in a weari- 
lome and exhausted manner, as if ready to faint. They wore 
mge cowls, which hung over their eyes, and the outsides of 
vhich were gilded, but the insides of lead. Two of them had 
)een rulers of Florence ; and Uante was listening to their story, 
vhen his attention was called off by the sight of a cross, or 
viiich Caiaphas the High Priest was writhing, breathing hard all 
he while through his beard with sighs. It was his office to see 
hat every soul which passed him, on its arrival in the place, was 
>ppressed with the due weight. His father-in-law, Annas, and 
dl his council, were stuck in like manner on crosses round the 
jorders of the gulf. The pilgrims beheld little else in this region 
»f weariness, and soon passed into the borders of one of the most 
errible portions of Evil-budget, the land of the transformation 
>f Robbers. 

The place was thronged with serpents of the most appalling and 
m wonted description, among which ran tormented the naked 


spirits of the robbers, agonised with fear. Their hands were 
bound behind them with serpents — their bodies pierced and en- 
folded with serpents. Dante saw one of the monsters leap up 
and transfix a man through the nape of the neck ; when, lo ! 
sooner than a pen could write o or i, the sufferer burst into flames, 
burnt up, fell to the earth a heap of ashes — was again brought 
together, and again became a man, aghast with his agony, and 
staring about him, sighing.* Virgil asked him who he was. 

'• I was but lately rained down into this dire gullet," said the 
man, " amidst a shower of Tuscans. The beast Vanni Fucci 
am I, who led a brutal life, like the mule that I was, in that den 

" Compel him to stop," said Dante, " and relate what brought 
him hither. I knew the bloody and choleric wretch when he 
was alive." 

The sinner, who did not pretend to be deaf to these words, 
turned round to the speaker with the most painful shame in his 
face, and said, " I feel more bitterly at being caught here by thee 
in this condition, than when I first arrived. A power which I 
cannot resist compels me to let thee know, that I am here because 
I committed sacrilege and charged another with the crime ; but 
now, mark me, that thou mayest hear something not to render 
this encounter so pleasant : Pistoia hates thy party of the Whites, 
and longs for the Blacks back again. It will have them, and so 
will Florence ; and there will be a bloody cloud shall burst over 
the battle-field of Piceno, which will dash many Whites to the 
eai'th. I tell thee this to make thee miserable." 

So saying, the wretch gave a gesture of contempt with his 
thumb and finger towards heaven, and said, " Take it, God — a 
fig for thee !"t 

* " Intorno si mira 
Tutto smarrito da la grande angoscia 
Cli' egli ha sofferta, e guardaiido sospira." 

This is one of the most terribly natural pictures of agonised astonishment ever 

t I retain this passage, horrible as it is to Protestant ears, because it is not 
only an instance of Dante's own audacity, but a salutary warning specimen of 
the extremes of impiety generated by extreme superstition ; for their first cause 


"From that instant," said Dante, "the serpents and I were 
friends ; for one of them throttled him into silence, and another 
dashed his hands into a knot behind his back. O Pistoia ! Pis- 
toia ! why art not thou thyself turned into ashes, and swept from 
the face of the earth, since thy race has surpassed in evil thine 
ancestors ? Never, through the whole darkness of hell, beheld I 
a blasphemer so dire as this — not even Capaneus himself." 

The Pistoian fled away with the serpents upon him, followed 
by a Centaur, who came madly galloping up, crying, " Where is 
the caititf?" It was the monster-thief Cacus, whose den upon 
earth often had a pond of blood before it, and to whom Hercules, 
in his rage, when he slew him, gave a whole hundred blows with 
his club, though the wretch perceived nothing after the ninth. 
He was all over adders up to the mouth ; and upon his shoulders 
lay a dragon with its wings open, breathing fire on whomsoever 
it met. 

The Centaur tore away ; and Dante and Virgil were gazing 
after him, when they heard voices beneath the bank on which 
they stood, crying, " Who are ye?" The pilgrims turned their 
eyes downwards, and beheld three spirits, one of whom, looking 
about him, said, " Where's Cianfa ?" Dante made a sign to 
Virgil to say nothing. 

Cianfa came forth, a man lately, but now a serpent with six 

'•If thou art slow to believe, reader, what I am about to tell 
thee," says the poet, " be so ; it is no marvel ; for I myself, even 
now, scarcely credit what I beheld.' 


is the degradation of the Divine character. Another, no doubt, is the impul- 
sive vehemence of the South. I have heard more blasphemies, in the course 
of half an hour, from the lips of an Italian postilion, than are probably uttered 
in England, by people not out of their senses, for a whole year. Yet the 
words, after all, were mere words ; for the man was a good-natured fellow, and 
I believe presented no image to his mind of anything he was saying. Dante, 
however, would certainly not have taught him better by attempting to frighten 
him. A violent word would have only produced more violence. Yet this was 
the idle round which the great poet thought it best to run I 

* Cianfa, probably a condottiere of Mrs. Radcliffe's sort, and robber, on a 
large scale, is said to have been one of the Donati family, connexions of the 
poet by marriage. 



The six-footed serpent sprang at one of the three men front to 
front, clasping him tightly witli all its legs, and plunging liis 
fun'^s into either cheek. Ivy never stuck so close to a tree as the 
horrible monster grappled with every limb of that pinioned man. 
The two forms then gradually mingled into one another like 
meltinfT wax, the colours of their skin giving way at the same time 
tu u third colour, as the white in a piece of burning paper re- 
cedes before the brown, till it all becomes black. The other J 
two human shapes looked on, exclaiming, " Oh, how thou changest/ 
Afmello! See, thou art neither two nor yet one." And truly, 
thouidi the two heads first became one, there still remained two 
countenances in the face. The four arms then became but 
two, and such also became the legs and thighs ; and the two 
trunks became such a body as was never beheld ; and the hideous 
two-fold monster walked slowly away.* 

A small black serpent on fire now flashed like lightning on to 
the body of one of the other two, piercing him in the navel, and 
then falling on the ground, and lying stretched before him. The 
wounded man, fascinated and mute, stood looking at the adder's 
eyes, and endeavouring to stand steady on his legs, yawning the 
while as if smitten with lethargy or fever ; the adder, on his part, 
looked up at the eyes of the man, and both of them breathed 
hard, and sent forth a smoke that mingled into one volume. 

And now, let Lucan never speak more of the wretched Sabel- 
lus or Nisidius, but listen and be silent ; and now, let Ovid be 
silent, nor speak again of his serpent that was Cadmus, or his 
fountain that was Arethusa ; for, says the Tuscan poet, I envy 
him not. Never did he change the natures of two creatures face 
to face, so that each received the form of the other. 

With corresponding impulse, the serpent split his train into a 
fork, while the man drew his legs together into a train ; the skin 
of the serpent grew soft, while the man's hardened ; the serpent 
acquired tresses of hair, the man grew hairless; the claws of the 
one projected into legs, while the arms of the other withdrew into 

* This, and tlio Irans&irniatiou that follows, may well excite the pride of 
such a poet as Dante ; though it is curious to see how he selects inventions of 
this kind as special grounds of self-complacency. They are the most appalling 
•ver yet produced. 


his shoulders ; the face of the serpent, as it rose from the ground, 
retreated towards the temples, pushing out human ears ; that of 
the man, as he fell to the ground, thrust itself forth into a muzzle, 
withdrawing at the same time its ears into its head, as the slug 
does its horns ; and each creature kept its impious eyes fixed on 
the other's, while the features beneath the eyes were changing. 
The soul which had becc^iie the serpent then turned to crawl 
away, hissing in scorn as he departed ; and the serpent, which 
had become the man, spat after him, and spoke words at him. 
The new human-looking soul then turned his back on his late 
adversary, and said to the third spirit, who remained unchanged, 
" Let Buoso now take to his crawl, as I have done." 

The two then hastened away together, leaving Dante in a state 
of bewildered amazement, yet not so confused but that he recog- 
nised the unchanged one for another of his countiymen, Puccio 
the Lame. " Joy to thee, Florence !" cried the poet ; " not con- 
tent with havino; thy name bruited over land and sea, it flourishes 
throughout hell." 

The pilgrims now quitted the seventh, and looked down from 
its barrier into the eighth gulf, where they saw innumerable 
flames, distinct from one another, flickering all over the place 
like fire-flies, 

" In those flames," said Virgil, " are souls, each tormented 
with the fire that swathes it." 

*' I observe one," said Dante, " divided at the summit. Are 
the Theban brothers in it ?" 

" No," replied Virgil ; " in that flame are Diomed and Ulys- 
ses." The sinners punished in this gulf were Evil Counsellors ; 
and those two were the advisers of the stratagem of the Trojan 


Viro-il addressed Ulysses, who told him the conclusion of his 
adventures, not to be found in books : how he tired of an idle life, 
and sailed forth again into the wide ocean ; and how he sailed so 
far that he came into a region of new stars, and in sight of a 
mountain, the loftiest he ever saw ; when, unfortunately, a hurri- 
cane fell upon them from the shore, thrice whirled their vessel 
round, then dashed the stern up in air and the prow under water, 
and sent the billows over their heads. 


" Enouf^li," said Virgil ; " I trouble thee no more." The soul 
of Guido di Montefeltro, overhearing the great Mantuan speak 
in a Lombard dialect, asked him news of the state of things in 
Romagna ; and then told him how he had lost his chance of para- 
dise, by thinking Pope Boniface could at once absolve him from 
his sins, and use them for his purposes.* He was going to hea- 
ven, he said, by the help of St. Francis, who came on purpose to 
fetch him, when a black angel met them, and demanded his ab- 
solved, indeed, but unrepented victim. " To repent evil, and to 
will to do it, at one and the same time, are," said the dreadful 
angel, " impossible : therefore wrong me not." " Oh, how I 
shook," said the unhappy Guido, " when he laid his hands upon 
me !" And with these words the flame writhed and beat itself 
about for agony, and so took its way. 

The pilgrims crossed over to the banks of the ninth gulf, 
where the Sowers of Scandal, the Schismatics, Heretics, and 
Founders of False Religions, underwent the penalties of such as 
load themselves with the sins of those whom they seduce. 

The first sight they beheld was Mahomet, tearing open his own 
bowels, and calling out to them to mark him. Before him walked 
liis son-in-law, Ali, weeping, and cloven to the chin ; and the di- 
visions in the cliurch were punished in like manner upon all the 
schismatics in the place. They all walked round the circle, 
their gashes closing as they went ; and on their reaching a cer- 
tain point, a fiend hewed them open again with a sword. The 
Arabian prophet, ere he passed on, bade the pilgrims warn Friar 
Dolcino how he suffered himself to be surprised in his mountain- 
hold by the' starvations of winter-time, if he did not wish speedily 
to follow him.j- 

* Guido, Conte di Montefeltro, a celebrated soldier of that day, became a 
Franciscan in his old age, in order to repent of his sins ; but, being consulted in 
his cloister by Pope Boniface on the best mode of getting possession of an estate 
belonging to the Colonna family, and being promised absolution for his sins in 
the lump, including the opinion requested, he recommended the holy father to 
" promise much, and perform nothing" {molto proitietiere, e nulla attendere). 

t Dolcino was a Lombard friar at the beginning of the fourteenth century, 
who is said to have preached a community of goods, including women, and to 
have pretended to a divine mission for reforming the church. He appeare to 
have made a considerable impression, having thousands of followers, but was 


Among other mangled wretches, they beheld Piero of Medicina, 
L sower of dissension, exhibiting to them his face and throat all 
»ver wounds ; and Curio, compelled to shew his tongue cut out 
or advising Caesar to cross the Rubicon ; and Mosca de' Lam- 
)erti, an adviser of assassination, and one of the authors of the 
jruelf and Ghibellinc miseries, holding up the bleeding stumps of 
lis arms, which dripped on his face. " Remember Mosca," cried 
le ; " remember him, alas ! who said, ' A deed done is a thing 
inded.' A bad saying of mine was that for the Tuscan nation." 

" And death to thy family," cried Dante. 

The assassin hurried away like a man driven mad with grief 
ipon grief; and Dante now beheld a sight, which, if it were not, 
le says, for the testimony of a good conscience — that best of 
riends, which gives a man assurance of himself under the breast- 
>late of a spotless innocence* — he should be afraid to relate 
vithout further proof. He saw — and while he was writing the 
Lccount of it he still appeared to see — a headless trunk about 
come past him with the others. It held its severed head by 
he hair, like a lantern ; and the head looked up at the two pil- 
grims, and said, " Woe is me !" The head was, in fact, a lantern 

the paths of the trunk ; and thus there were two separated 
hings in one, and one in two ; and how that could be, he only 

iltimately seized in the mountains where they lived, and burnt with his female 
lompanion Margarita, and many others. Landino says he was very eloquent, 
md that " both he and Margarita endured their fate with a firmness worthy of 
L better cause." Probably his real history is not known, for want of somebody 
n such times bold enough to write it. 
* Literally, " under the breastplate of knowing himself to be pure :" 

" Sotto 1' osbergo del sentirsi pnra." 

Phe expression is deservedly admired ; but it is not allowable in English, and 
t is the only one admitting no equivalent which I have met with in the whole 
loem. It might be argued, perhaps, against the perfection of the passage, that 

1 good " conscience," and a man's " knowing himself to be pure," are a tau- 
oIofiM ; for Dante himself has already used that word ; 

" Conscienzia m' assicura ; 
La buona compagnia che 1' uom francheggia 
Sotto r o.sbergo," &c. 

But still we feel the impulsive beauty of the phrase ; and I wish I could have 
kept it. 


can tell who ordained it. As the figure came nearer, it liftei 
the head aloft, that the pilgrims might hear better what it said. 

" Behold," it said, " behold, thou that walkest living among th( 
dead, and say if there be any punishment like this. I am Ber 
trand de Born, he that incited John of England to rebel agains 
his father. Father and son I set at variance — closest affections 
set at variance — and hence do I bear my brain severed from the 
body on which it grew. In me behold the work of retribution.""' 

The eyes of Dante were so inebriate with all that diversity of 
bleeding wounds, that they longed to stay and weep ere his guide 
proceeded further. Something also struck them on the suddei 
which added to his desire to stop. But Virgil asked what ailec 
him, and why he stood gazing still on the wretched multitude 
" Thou hast not done so," continued he, " in any other portion of 
this circle ; and the valley is twenty-two miles further about, anc 
the moon already below us. Thou hast more yet to see than 
thou wettest of, and the time is short." 

Dante, excusing himself for the delay, and proceeding to follow 
his leader, said he thought he had seen, in the cavern at which 
he was gazing so hard, a spirit that was one of his own family — 
and it was so. It was the soul of Geri del Bello, a cousin of the 
poet's. Virgil said that he had observed him, while Dante was 
occupied with Bertrand de Born, pointing at his kinsman in a 
threatening manner. " Waste not a thought on him," concluded 
the Roman, "but leave him as he is." 

" O honoured guide !" said Dante, " he died a violent death, 
which his kinsmen have not yet avenged ; and hence it is that he 
disdained to speak to me ; and I must needs feel for him the more 
on that account. "f 

They came now to the last partition of the circle of Evil-budgJ 
et, and their ears were assailed with such a burst of sharp wail-' 
ings, that Dante was fain to close his with his hands. Thei 
misery there, accompanied by a horrible odour, was as if all the 

hospitals in the sultry marshes of Valdichiana had brought\heir 


* This ghastly fiction is a rare instance of the meeting of physical horror' 
with the truest pathos. 

t The reader will not fail to notice this characteristic instance of the ferocity 
of the time. 


aladies together into one infernal ditch. It was the place of 
mishment for pretended Alchemists, Coiners, Personators of 
her people, False Accusers, and Impostors of all such descrip- 
)ns. They lay on one another in heaps, or attempted to crawl 
>out — some itching madly with leprosies — some swollen and 
.sping with dropsies — some wetly reeking, like hands washed 
winter-time. One was an alchemist of Sienna, a nation vainer 
an the French ; another a Florentine, who tricked a man into 
aking a wrong will ; another, Sinon of Troy ; another, Myrrha ; 
lOther, the wife of Potiphar. Their miseries did not hinder 
em from giving one another malignant blows ; and Dante was 
tening eagerly to an abusive conversation between Sinon and a 
•escian coiner, when Virgil rebuked him for the disgraceful con- 
scension, and said it was a pleasure fit only for vulgar minds.* 
The blushing poet felt the reproof so deeply, that he could not 
eak for shame, though he manifested by his demeanour that he 
iged to do so, and thus obtained the pardon he despaired of. 
3 says he felt like a man that, during an unhappy dream, wish- 
himself dreaming while he is so, and does not know it. Virgil 
iderstood his emotion, and, as Achilles did with his spear, healed 
3 wound with the tongue that inflicted it. 

A silence now ensued between the companions ; for they had 
litted Evil-budget, and arrived at the ninth great circle of hell, 
the mound of which they passed along, looking quietly and 
;adily before them. Daylight had given place to twilight ; and 
inte was advancing his head a little, and endeavouring to dis- 
rn objects in the distance, when his whole attention was called 
one particular spot, by a blast of a horn so loud, that a thunder- 
ip was a whisper in comparison. Orlando himself blew no 
ch terrific blast, after the dolorous rout, when Charlemagne 
is defeated in his holy enterprise."!" The poet raised his head. 

* This is admirable sentiment ; and it must have been no ordinary conscious- 
5S of dignity in general wliich could have made Dante allow himself to be 
) person rebuked for having forgotten it. Perhaps it was a sort o^ penance 
his having, on some occasion, fallen into the unworthiness. 
t By the Saracens in Roncesvalles ; afterwards so favourite a topic with the 
sts. The circumstance of the horn is taken from the Chronicle of the pre- 
»ded Archbishop Turpi n, chapter xxiv. 


thinkinfT he perceived a multitude of lofty towers. He asked 
Virgil to what region they belonged ; but Virgil said, " Those 
are no towers : they are giants, standing each up to his middle in 
the pit that goes round this circle." Dante looked harder ; and 
as objects clear up by little and little in the departing mist, he 
saw, with alarm, the tremendous giants that warred against Jove, 
standing half in and half out of the pit, like the towers that 
crowned the citadel of Monteseggione. The one whom he saw 
plainest, and who stood with his arms hanging down on each side, 
appeared to him to have a face as huge as the pinnacle of St. 
Peter's, and limbs throughout in proportion. The monster, as 
the pilgrims were going by, opened his dreadful mouth, fit for no 
sweeter psalmody, and called after them, in the words of some 
unknown tongue, Rafel, maee a mech zahee almee.^ " Dull 
wretch !" exclaimed Virgil, " keep to thine horn, and so vent 
better whatsoever frenzy or other passion stuff thee. Feel the 
chain round thy throat, thou confusion ! See, what a clenching 
hoop is about thy gorge !" Then he said to Dante, " His howl is 
its own mockery. This is Nimrod, he through whose evil am- 
bition it was that mankind ceased to speak one language. Pass 
him, and say nothing ; for every other tongue is to him as his is 
to thee." 

The companions went on for about the length of a sling'a 
throw, when they passed the second giant, who was much fiercer 
and huger than Nimrod. He was fettered round and round 
with chains, that fixed one arm before him and the other behind 
him — Ephialtes his name, the same that would needs make trial 
of his strength against Jove himself. The hands which he then' 
wielded were now motionless, but he shook with passion ; and 
Dante thought he should have died for terror, the effect on the 
ground about him was so fearful. It surpassed that of a tower 
shaken by an earthquake. The poet expressed a wish to look at 
Briareus, but he was too far off. He saw, however, Antaeus, 
who, not having fought against heaven, was neither tongue-con- 
founded nor shackled ; and Virgil requested the " taker of a 

* The gaping monotony of this jargon, full of the vowel a, is admirably 
suited to the mouth of the vast, half-stupid speaker. It is like a babble of the 
gigantic infancy of the world. 


thousand lions," by the fiime which the living poet had it in his 
power to give him, to bear the travellers in his arms down the 
steep descent into this deeper portion of hell, which was the re- 
gion of tormenting cold. Antieus, stooping, like the leaning tower 
)f Bologna, to take them up, gathered them in his arms, and, de- 
positing them in the gulf below, raised himself to depart like the 
iiast of a ship.* 

Had 1 hoarse and rugged words equal to my subject, says the 
Doet, I would now make them fuller of expression, to suit the 
'ocky horror of this hole of anguish ; but I have not, and there- 
fore approach it with fear, since it is no jesting enterprise to de- 
scribe the depths of the universe, nor fit for a tongue that babbles 
)f father and mother. f Let such of the Muses assist me as 
urned the words of Amphion into Theban walls ; so shall the 
ipeech be not too far different from the matter. 

Oh, ill-starred creatures ! wretched beyond all others, to in- 
labit a place so hard to speak of — better had ye been sheep or 


The poet was beginning to walk with his guide along the place 
n which the giant had set them down, and was still looking up at 
he height from which he had descended, when a voice close to 
lim said, " Have a care where thou treadest. Hurt not with thy 
eet the heads of thy unhappy brethren." 

Dante looked down and before him, and saw that he was walk- 
ng on a lake of ice, in which were Murderous Traitors up to 
heir chins, their teeth chattering, their faces held down, their 
lyes locked up frozen with tears. Dante saw two at his feet so 
dosely stuck together, that the very hairs of their heads were 
ningled. He asked them who they were, and as they lifted up 

* " N6 si chinato li fece tlimora, 
E come albero in nave si lev6." 

I magnificent image I I have retained the idiomatic expression of the original 
aised himself, instead of saying rose, because it seemed to me to give the 
lore grand and deliberate image. 

t Of " mdmma" and " hdhho,^'' says the primitive poet. We have corres- 
onding words in English, but the feeling they produce is not identical. The 
?sser fervour of the northern nations renders them, in some respects, more so- 
liisticate than they suspect, compared with the " artful'' Italians. 


their heads for astonishment, and felt the cold doubly congeal 
them, they dashed their heads against one another for hate and 
fury. They were two brothers who had murdered each other.* 
Near them were other Tuscans, one of whom the cold had de- 
prived of his ears ; and thousands more were seen grinning like 
dogs, for the pain. 

Dante, as he went along, kicked the face of one of them, 
whether by chance, or fate, or i^///,| he could not say. The 
sutierer burst into tears, and cried out, " Wherefore dost thou 
torment me ? Art thou come to revenge the defeat at Monta- 
perto ?" The pilgrim at this question felt eager to know who he 
was ; but the unhappy wretch would not tell. His countryman 
seized him by the hair to force him ; but still he said he would 
not tell, were he to be scalped a thousand times. Dante, uj)on 
this, began plucking up his hairs by the roots, the man harking^X 
with his eyes squeezed up, at every pull ; when another soul ex- 
claimed, " Why, Bocca, what the devil ails thee ? Must thou 
needs bark for cold as well as chatter V'^ 

" Now, accursed traitor, betrayer of thy country's standard," 
said Dante, " be dumb if thou wilt ; for I shall tell thy name to 
the world." 

" Tell and begone !" said Bocca ; '' but carry the name of this 
babbler with thee ; 'tis Buoso, who left the pass open to the en- 
emy between Piedmont and Parma ; and near him is the traitor 
for the pope, Beccaria ; and Ganellone, who betrayed Charle- 

* Alessandro and Napoleon degli Alberti, sons of Alberto, lord of the valley 
of Faltcrona in Tuscany. After their father's death they tyrannised over the 
neighbouring districts, and finally had a mortal quarrel. The name of Napo- 
leon used to be so rare till of late years, even in Italian books, that it gives 
one a kind of interesting surprise to meet with it. 

t " Se roler fu, o destine o fortuna, 
Non so." 

What does tlio Christian reader think of that? 

\ Latrando. 

§ Bocca dogli Abbati, whose soul barks like a dog, occasioned the defeat of 
the Guelfs at Montaperto, in the year 1260, by treacherously cutting oif the 
hand of the standard-bearer. 


eigne ; and Tribaldello, who opened Faenza to the enemy at 

The pilgrims went on, and beheld two other spirits so closely 
eked up together in one hole of the ice, that the head of one 
as right over the other's like a cowl ; and Dante, to his horror, 
LW that the upper head was devouring the lower with all the 
igerncss of a man who is famished. The poet asked what could 
)ssibly make him shew a hate so brutal ; adding, that if there 
ere any ground for it, he would tell the story to the world.* 

The sinner raised his head from the dire repast, and after wi- 
ng his jaws with the hair of it, said, " You ask a thing which 

shakes me to the heart to think of. It is a story to renew all 
ly misery. But since it will produce this wretch his due in- 
,my, hear it, and you shall see me speak and weep at the same 
me. How thou camest hither I know not ; but I perceive by 
ly speech that thou art Florentine. 

" Learn, then, that I was the Count Ugolino, and this man was 
.uggieri the Archbishop. How I trusted him, and was betrayed 
ito prison, there is no need to relate ; but of his treatment of 
le there, and how cruel a death I underwent, hear ; and then 
idge if he has offended me. • 

" I had been imprisoned with my children a long time in the 
»wer which has since been called from me the Tower of Fam- 
le ; and many a new moon had I seen through the hole that 
jrved us for a window, when I dreamt a dream that foreshadow, 
i to me what was coming. Methought that this man headed a 
reat chase against the wolf, in the mountains between Pisa and 
(Ucca. Among the foremost in his party were Gualandi, Sis- 
londi, and Lanfranchi, and the hounds were thin and eager, and 
igh-bred ; and in a little while I saw the hounds fasten on the 
anks of the wolf and the wolfs children, and tear them. At 
lat moment I awoke with the voices of my own children in my 
ars, asking for bread. Truly cruel must thou be, if thy heart 
oes not ache to think of what I thought then. If thou feel not 
5r a pang like that, what is it for which thou art accustomed to 

* This is the famous story of Ugolino, who betrayed the castles of Pisa to 
lie Florentines, and was starved with his children in the Tower of Famine. 



feel ? We were now all awake ; and the time was at hand when 
they brought us bread, and we had all dreamt dreams which 
made us anxious. At that moment I heard the key of the horri- 
ble tower turn in the lock of the door below, and fasten it. I 
looked at my children, and said not a word. I did not weep. I 
made a strong effort upon the soul within me. But my little 
Ansclm said, 'Father, why do you look so? Is any thing the 
matter V Nevertheless I did not weep, nor say a word all the 
day, nor the night that followed. In the morning a ray of light 
fell upon us through the window of our sad prison, and I beheld 
in those four little faces the likeness of my own face, and then _ 
[ began to gnaw my hands for misery. My children, thinking 
I did it for hunger, raised themselves on the floor, and said, ' Fa- 
ther, we should be less miserable if you would eat our own flesh. 
[t was you that gave it us. Take it again.' Then I sat still, 
in order not to make them unhappier : and that day and the 
next we all remained without speaking. On the fourth day, 
Gaddo stretched himself at my feet, and said, ' Father, why 
won't you help me V and there he died. And as surely as 
thou lookest on me, so surely I beheld the whole three die in 
the same manner. So I began in my misery to grope about 
in the dark for them, for I had become blind ; and three days I 
kept calling on them by name, though they were dead ; till fam- 
ine did for me what grief had been unable to do." 

With these words, the miserable man, his eyes starting from 
his head, seized that other wretch again with his teeth, and 
ground them against the skull as a dog does with a bone. 

O Pisa! scandal of the nations! since thy neighbours are so 
slow to punish thee, may the very islands tear themselves up 
from their roots in the sea, and come and block up the mouth of 
thy river, and drown every soul within thee. What if this Count 
Ugolino did, as report says he did, betray thy castles to the 
enemy? his children had not betrayed them ; nor ought they to 
have been put to an agony like this. Their age was their inno- 
cence ; and their deaths have given thee the infamy of a second 

* I should be loath to disturb the inimitable pathos of this story, if there did; 
not seem grounda for believing that the poet was too hasty in giving credit to 


The pilgrims passed on, and beheld other traitors frozen up in 
swathes of ice, with their heads upside down. Their very tears 
had hindered them from shedding more ; for their eyes were en- 
crusted with the first they shed, so as to be enclosed with them as 
in a crystal visor, which forced back the others into an accumula- 
tion of anguish. One of the sufferers begged Dante to relieve him 
of this ice, in order that he might vent a little of the burden 
which it repressed. The poet said he would do so, provided he 
would disclose who he was. The man said he was the friar Al- 
berigo, who invited some of his brotherhood to a banquet in order 
to slay them. 

" What !" exclaimed Dante, " art thou no longer, then, among 
the living ?" 

" Perhaps I appear to be," answered the friar ; " for the mo- 
ment any one commits a treachery like mine, his soul gives up 
his body to a demon, who thenceforward inhabits it in the man's 
likeness. Thou knowest Branca Doria, who murdered his father- 
in-law, Zanche 1 He seems to be walking the earth still, and yet 
he has been in this place many years."'*' 

" Impossible !" cried Dante ; " Branca Doria is still alive ; he 
eats, drinks, and sleeps, like any other man." 

*' I tell thee," returned the friar, " that the soul of the man he 
slew had not reached that lake of boiling pitch in which thou 
sawest him, ere the soul of his slayer was in this place, and his 
body occupied by a demon in its stead. But now stretch forth 
thy hand, and relieve mine eyes." 

Dante relieved them not. Ill manners, he said, were the only 
courtesy fit for such a wretch. f 

parts of it, particularly the ages of some of his fellow-prisoners, and the guilt 
of the archbishop. See the Appendix to this volume. 

* This is the most tremendous lampoon, as far as I am aware, in the whole 
circle of literature. 

t " Cortesia fu lui esser villano." This is the foulest blot which Dante has 
cast on his own character in all his poem (short of the cruelties he thinks fit to 
attribute to God). It is argued that he is cruel and false, out of hatred to cru- 
elty and falsehood. But why then add to the sum of both ? and towards a 
man, too, supposed to be suffering eternally? It is idle to discern in such bar- 
barous inconsistencies any thing but the writer's own contributions to the stock 


O ye Genoese ! he exclaims, — men that are perversity all 
over, and full of every corruption to the core, vi^hy are ye not 
swept from the face of the earth ? There is one of you whom 
you fancy to be walking about like other men, and he is all the 
while in the lowest pit of hell ! 

" Look before thee," said Virgil, as they advanced : " behold 
the banners of the King of Hell." 

Dante looked, and beheld something which appeared like a 
windmill in motion, as seen from a distance on a dark night. A 
wind of inconceivable sharpness came from it. 

The souls of those who had been traitors to their benefactors 
were here frozen up in depths of pellucid ice, where they were 
seen in a variety of attitudes, motionless ; some upright, some 
downward, some bent double, head to foot. 

At length they came to where the being stood who was once 
eminent for all fair seeming.* This was the figure that seemed 
tossing its arms at a distance like a windmill. 

" Satan," whispered Virgil ; and put himself in front of Dante 
to re-assure him, halting him at the same time, and bidding him 
summon all his fortitude. Dante stood benumbed, though con- 
scious ; as if he himself had been turned to ice. He felt neither 
alive nor dead. 

The lord of the dolorous empire, each of his arms as big as a 
giant, stood in the ice half-way up his breast. He had one head, 

of them. The utmost credit for right feeling is not to be given on every occa- 
sion to a man who refuses it to every one else. 

* " La creatura ch' ebbe il bel sembiante." 

This is touching ; but the reader may as well be prepared for a total failure in 
Dante's couce|)tion of Satan, especially the Englis'i reader, accustomed to the 
sublimity of Milloirs. Griiuting that the Roman Catholic poet intended to 
honour the ftiUen ungcl with no sublin)ity, but to render him an object of mere 
hate and dread, ho has overdone and degraded the picture into caricature. A 
great stupid being, stuck up in ice, with three faces, one of which is yellow, 
and three mouilis, each eating a sinner, one of those sinners being Brutus, — is 
an object for derision ; and the way in which ho eats these, his everlasting 
bonnes-houcliLS, divides derision with disgust. The passage must be given, 
otherwise the abstract of the poem would be incomplete ; but I cannot help 
thinking it the worst anti-climax ever fallen into by a great poet. 


but three faces ; the middle, vermilion ; the one over the right 
shoulder a pale yellow ; the other black. His sails of wings, 
huger than ever were beheld at sea, were in shape and texture 
those of a bat ; and with these he constantly flapped, so as to 
send forth the wind that froze the depths of Tartarus. From his 
six eyes the tears ran down, mingling at his three chins with 
bloody foam ; for at every mouth he crushed a sinner with his 
teeth, as substances are broken up by an engine. The middle 
sinner was the worst punished, for he was at once broken and 
flayed, and his head and trunk were inside the mouth. It was 
Judas Iscariot. Of the other two, whose heads were hanging 
out, one was Brutus, and the other Cassius. Cassius was very 
large-limbed. Brutus writhed with agony, but uttered not a 

" Night has returned," said Virgil, " and all has been seen. 
It is time to depart onward." 

Dante then, at his bidding, clasped, as Virgil did, the huge in- 
attentive being round the neck ; and watching their opportunity, 
as the wings opened and shut, they slipped round it, and so down 
his shaggy and frozen sides, from pile to pile, clutching it as they 
went ; till suddenly, with the greatest labour and pain, they were 
compelled to turn themselves upside down, as it seemed, but in 
reality to regain their proper footing ; for they had passed the 
centre of gravity, and become Antipodes. Then looking down at 
what lately was upward, they saw Lucifer with his feet towards 
them ; and so taking their departure, ascended a gloomy vault, 

* This silence is, at all events, a compliment to Brutus, especially from a 
man like Dante, and the more because it is extorted. Dante, no doubt, hated 
all treachery, particularly treachery to the leader of his beloved Roman em- 
perors ; forgetting three things ; first, that Caesar was guilty of treachery him- 
self to the Roman people ; second, that he, Dante, has put Curio in hell for ad- 
vising Caesar to cross the Rubicon, though he has put the crosser amono- the 
good Pagans ; and third, that Brutus was educated in the belief that the pun- 
ishment of such treachery as Ctesar's by assassination was one of the first of 
duties. How differently has Shakspeare, himself an aristocratic rather than 
democratic poet, and full of just doubt of the motives of assassins in general, 
treated the error of the thoughtful, conscientious, Platonic philosopher I 


till at a distance, through an opening above their heads, they be- 
held the loveliness of the stars.* 

* At the close of this medley of genius, pathos, absurdity, sublimity, horror, 
and revoltingness, it is impossible for any reflecting heart to avoid asking, Cui 
bono ? What is the good of it to the poor wretches, if we are to suppose it true ? 
and what to the world — except, indeed, as a poetic study and a warning against 
degrading notions of God — if we are to take it simply as a fiction ? Theology, 
disdaining both questions, has an answer confessedly incomprehensible. Hu- 
manity replies: Assume not premises for which you have worse than no proofs. 




Purgatory, in the system of Dante, is a mountain at the Antipodes, on the 
top of which is the Terrestrial Paradise, once the seat of Adam and Eve. It 
forms the principal part of an island in a sea, and possesses a pure air. Its 
lowest region, with one or two exceptions of redeemed Pagans, is occupied by 
Excommunicated Penitents and by Delayers of Penitence, all of whom are 
compelled to lose time before their atonement commences. The other and 
greater portion of the ascent is divided into circles or plains, in which are expi- 
ated the Seven Deadly Sins. The Poet ascends from circle to circle with 
Virgil and Statins, and is met in a forest on the top by the spirit of Beatrice, 
who transports him to Heaven. 


When the pilgrims emerged from the opening through which 
they beheld the stars, they found themselves in a scene which en- 
chanted them with hope and joy. It was dawn : a sweet pure 
air came on their faces ; and they beheld a sky of the loveliest 
oriental sapphire, whose colour seemed to pervade the whole 
serene hollow from earth to heaven. The beautiful planet which 
encourages loving thoughts made all the orient laugh, obscuring 
by its very radiance the stars in its train ; and among those 
which were still lingering and sparkling in the southern horizon, 
Dante saw four in the shape of a cross, never beheld by man 
since they gladdened the eyes of our first parents. Heaven seem- 
ed to rejoice in their possession. O widowed northern pole ! be- 
reaved art thou, indeed, since thou canst not gaze upon them !* 

* " Dolce color d' oriental zaffiro 

Che s' accoglieva nel sereno aspetto 
De 1' aer puro infino al primo giro, 

A gli occhi miei ricomincif) diletto, 
Tosto ch' io usci' Tuor de 1' aura morta 
Che m' avea contristati gli occhi e '1 petto. 

Lo bel pianeta, ch' ad amar conforta, 
Faceva tutto rider 1' oriente, 
Velando i Pesci, ch' erano in sua scoria. 

Io mi volsi a man destra, e posi mente 
AH' altro polo, e vidi quattro stelle 
Non viste mai, fuor ch' a la prima gente ; 

(ioder pareva '1 ciel di lor fiammelle. 
O settentrional vedovo sito, 
Poi che private sei di mirar quelle 1" 


The poet turned to look at the north where he had been accus- 
tomed to see stars that no longer appeared, and beheld, at his side, 
an old man, who struck his beholder with a veneration like that 
of a son for his father. He had grey hairs, and a long beard 
which parted in two down his bosom ; and the four southern stars 

The sweetest oriental sapphire blue, 
Which the whole air in its pure bosom had, 
Greeted mine eyes, far as the heavens withdrew ; 

So that again they felt assured and glad, 
Soon as they issued forth from the dead air, 
Where every sight and thought had made them sad. 

The beauteous star, which lets no love despair, 
Made all the orient laugh with loveliness. 
Veiling the Fish that glimmered in its hair. 

I turned me to the right to gaze and bless. 
And saw four more, never of living wight 
Beheld, since Adam brought us our distress ; 

Heaven seemed rejoicing in their happy light. 
O widowed northern pole, bereaved indeed. 
Since thou heist had no power to see that sight ! 

Readers who may have gone thus far with the " Italian Pilgrim's Progress," 
will allow me to congratulate them on arriving at this lovely scene, one of the 
most admired in the poem. 

This is one of the passages which make the religious admirers of Dante in- 
clined to pronounce him divinely inspired ; for how could he otherwise have 
seen stars, they eisk us, which were not discovered till after his time, and 
which compose the constellation of the Cross ? But other commentators are 
of opinion, that the Cross, though not so named till subsequently (and Dante, 
we see, gives no prophetic hint about the name), had been seen probably by 
Btray navigators. An Arabian globe is even mentioned by M. Artaud (see 
Cary), in which the Southern Cross is set down. Mr. Cary, in his note on the 
passage, refers to Seneca's prediction of the discovery of America ; most likely 
suggested by similar information. " But whatever," he adds, *' may be thought 
of this, it is certain that the four stars are here symbolical of the four cardinal 
virtues ;" and he refers to canto xxxi., where those virtues are retrospectively 
associated with these stars. The symbol, however, is not necessary. Dante 
was a very curious inquirer on all subjects, and evidently acquainted with ships 
and seamen as well as geography ; and his imagination would eagerly have 
seized a magnificent novelty like this, and used it the first opportunity. Co- 
lumbus's discovery, as the reader will see, was anticipated by Pulci. 


beamed on his flice with such lustre, that his aspect was as radi- 
ant as if he had stood in the sun. 

" Who are ye ?" said the old man, " that have escaped from 
the dreadful prison-house ? Can the laws of the abyss be viola- 
ted ? Or has heaven changed its mind, that thus ye are allowed 
to come from the regions of condemnation into mine ?" 

It was the spirit of Cato of Utica, the warder of the ascent of 

The Roman poet explained to his countryman who they were, 
and how Dante was under heavenly protection ; and then he 
prayed leave of passage of him by the love he bore to the chaste 
eyes of his Marcia, who sent him a message from the Pagan cir- 
cle, hoping that he would still own her. 

Cato replied, that although he was so fond of Marcia while on 
earth that he could deny her nothing, he had ceased, in obedience 
to new laws, to have any affection for her, now that she dwelt be- 
yond the evil river ; but as the pilgrim, his companion, was un- 
der heavenly protection, he would of course do what he desired.* 
He then desired him to gird his companion with one of the sim- 
plest and completest rushes he would see by the water's side, and 
to wash the stain of the lower world out of his face, and so take 
their journey up the mountain before them, by a path which the 
rising sun would disclose. And with these words he disap- 

The pilgrims passed on, with the eagerness of one who thinks 
every step in vain till he finds the path he has lost. The full 
dawn by this time had arisen, and they saw the trembling of the 

* Generous and disinterested 1 — Cato, the republican enemy of Cassar, and 
committer of suicide, is not luckily chosen for his present office by the poet, 
who has put Brutus into the devil's mouth in spite of his agreeing with Cato, 
and the suicide Piero delle Vigne into hell in spite of his virtues. But Dante 
thought Cato's austere manners like his own. 

t The girding with the rush (giunco schietto) is supposed by the commen- 
tators to be an injunction of simplicity and patience. Perhaps it is to enjoin 
sincerity ; especially as the region of expiation has now been entered, and sin- 
cerity is the first step to repentance. It will be recollected that Dante's for- 
mer girdle, the cord of the Franciscan friars, has been left in the hands of 


sea in the distance.* Virgil tlien dipped his hands into a spot of 
dewy grass, where the sun had least affected it, and with the 
moisture bathed the face of Dante, who held it out to him, suffused 
witJi tears ;f and then they went on till they came to a solitary 
shore, whence no voyager had ever returned, and there the loins 
of the Florentine were girt with the rush. 

On this shore they were standing in doubt how to proceed, — 
moving onward, as it were, in mind, while yet their feet were 
staying, — when they beheld a light over the water at a distance, 
rayless at first as the planet Mars when he looks redly out of the 
horizon through a fog, but speedily growing brighter and brighter 
with amazing swiftness. Dante had but turned for an instant to 
ask his guide what it was, when, on looking again, it had grown 
far brighter. Two splendid phenomena, he knew not what, then 
developed themselves from it on either side ; and, by degrees, 
another below it. The two splendours quickly turned out to be 
wings ; and Virgil, who had hitherto watched its coming in si- 
lence, cried out, " Down, down, — on thy knees ! It is God's 
angel. Clasp thine hands. Now thou shalt behold operancy 
indeed. Lo, how he needs neither sail nor oar, coming all this 
way with nothing but his wings ! Lo, how he holds them aloft, 
using the air with them at his will, and knowing they can never 
be weary." 

The " divine bird " grew brighter and brighter as he came, so 
that the eye at last could not sustain the lustre ; and Dante 
turned his to the ground. A boat then rushed to shore which the 

* " L' alba vinceva I' ora mattutina 
Che fuggia 'nnanzi, si che di lontano 
Conobbi il tremolar de la marina." 

The lingering shadows now began to flee 
Before the whitening dawn, so that mine eyes 
Discerned far ofF the trembling of the sea. 

*' Conobbi il tremolar de la marina" 
is a beautiful verse, both for the picture and the sound. 

t This evidence of humility and gratitude on the part of Dante would be 
very affecting, if we could forget all the pride and passion he has been shew- 
ing elsewhere, and the torments in which he has left his fellow-creatures. With 
these recollections upon us, it looks like an overweening piece of self-congratu- 
lation at other people's expense. 


angel had brought with him, so light that it drew not a drop of 
water. The celestial pilot stood at the helm, with bliss written in 
his face ; and a hundred spirits were seen within the boat, who, 
lifting up their voices, sang the psalm beginning " When Israel 
came out of Egypt." At the close of the psalm, the angel bless- 
ed them with the sign of the cross, and they all leaped to shore ; 
upon which he turned round, and departed as swiftly as he came. 
The new-comers, after gazing about them for a while, in the 
manner of those who are astonished to see new sights, inquired of 
Virgil and his companion the best May to the mountain. Virgil 
explained who they were ; and the spirits, pale with astonishment 
at beholding in Dante a living and breathing man, crowded about 
him, in spite of their anxiety to shorten the period of their trials. 
One of them came darting out of the press to embrace him, in a 
manner so affectionate as to move the poet to return his warmth ; 
but his arms again and as^ain found themselves crossed on his 
own bosom, having encircled nothing. The shadow, smiling at 
the astonishment in the other's face, drev/ back ; and Dante 
hastened as much forward to shew his zeal in the greeting, when 
the spirit in a sweet voice recommended him to desist. The Flor- 
entine then knew who it was, — Casella, a musician, to whom he 
had been much attached. After mutual explanations as to their 
meeting, Dante requested his friend, if no ordinance opposed it, 
to refresh his spirit awhile with one of the tender airs that used to 
charm away all his troubles on earth. Casella immediately began 
one of his friend's own productions, commencing with the words, 

" Love, tliat delights to talk unto my soul 
Of all the wonders of my lady's nature." 

And he sang it so beautifully, that the sweetness rang within 
the poet's heart while recording the circumstance. The other 
spirits listened with such attention, that they seemed to have for- 
gotten the very purpose of their coming ; when suddenly the 
voice of Cato was heard, sternly rebuking their delay ; and the 
whole party speeded in trepidation towards the mountain.* 

* " Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona 
De la mia donna disiosamente," 
is the beginning of the ode sung by Dante's friend. The incident is beautifully 


The two pilgrims, who had at first hastened with the others, in 
a little while slackened their steps ; and Dante found that his 
body projected a shadow, while the form of Virgil had none. 
When arrived at the foot of the mountain, they were joined by a 
second party of spirits, of whom Virgil inquired the way up it. 
One of the spirits, of a noble aspect, but with a gaping wound in 
his forehead, stepped forth, and asked Dante if he remembered 
him. The poet humbly answering in the negative, the stranger 
disclosed a second wound, that was in his bosom ; and then, with 
a smile, announced himself as Manfredi, king of Naples, who was 
slain in battle against Charles of Anjou, and died excommuni- 
cated. iVIanfredi gave Dante a message to his daughter Co- 
stanza, queen of Arragon, begging her to shorten the consequen- 
ces of the excommunication by her prayers ; since he, like the 
rest of the party with him, though repenting of his contumacy 
against the church, would have to wander on the outskirts of 
Purgatory three times as long as the presumption had lasted, un- 
less relieved by such petitions from the living.* 

Dante went on, with his thoughts so full of this request, that 
he did not perceive he had arrived at the path which Virgil asked 
for, till the wandering spirits called out to them to say so. The 

introduced ; and Casella's being made to select a production from the pen of 
the man who asks him to sing, very deUcately implies a graceful cordiality in 
the musician's character. 

Milton alludes to the passage in his sonnet to Henry Lawes 

" Thou honour'st verse, and verse must lend her wing 
To honour thee, the priest of Phoebus' quire. 
That tun'st their happiest lines in hymn or story. 
Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher 
Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing, 
Met in the milder shades of Purgatory." 

* Manfredi was the natnral son of the Emperor Frederick the Second. " He 
was lively and agreeable in his manners," observes Mr. Gary," and delighted in 
poetry, music, and dancing. But he was luxurious and ambitious, void of re- 
ligion, and in his philosophy an epicurean." Translation of Dante, Smith's 
edition, p. 77. Thus King Manfredi ought to have been in a red-hot tomb, 
roasting for ever with Epicurus himself, and with the father of the poet's be- 
loved friend, Guido Cavalcante: but he was the son of an emperor, and a foe 
to the house of Anjou ; so Dante gives him a passport to heaven. There ia 
no ground whatever for the repentance assumed in the text. 


pilgrims then, witli great difficulty, began to ascend through an 
extremely narrow passage ; and Virgil, after explaining to Dante 
how it was that in this antipodal region his eastward face beheld 
the sun in the north instead of the south, was encouraging him to 
proceed manfully in the hope of finding the path easier by de- 
grees, and of reposing at the end of it, when they heard a voice 
observing, that they would most likely find it expedient to repose 
a little sooner. The pilgrims looked about them, and observed 
close at hand a crag of a rock, in the shade of which some spir- 
its were standing, as men stand idly at noon. Another was sit- 
ting down, as if tired out, with his arms about his knees, and his 
face bent down between them.* 

" Dearest master !" exclaimed Dante to his guide, " what 
thinkest thou of a croucher like this, for manful journeying ? 
Verily he seems to have been twin-born with Idleness herself." 

The croucher, lifting up his eyes at these words, looked hard 
at Dante, and said, "Since thou art so stout, push on." 

Dante then saw it was Belacqua, a pleasant acquaintance of 
his, famous for his indolence. 

"That was a good lesson," said Belacqua, " that was given 
thee just now in astronomy." 

The poet could not help smiling at the manner in which his 
acquaintance uttered these words, it was so like his ways of oM. 
Belacqua pretended, even in another world, that it was of no use 
to make haste, since the angel had prohibited his going higher up 
the mountain. He and his companions had to walk round the 
foot of it as many years as they had delayed repenting ; unless, 
as in the case of Manfredi, their time was shortened by the pray- 
ers of good people. 

A little further on, the pilgrims encountered the spirits of such 
Delayers of Penitence as, having died violent deaths, repented at 
the last moment. One of them, Buonconte da Montefeltro, who 
died in battle, and whose body could not be found, described 
how the devil, having been hindered from seizing him by the 
shedding of a single tear, had raised in his fury a tremendous 

* The unexpected bit of comedy here ensuing is very remarkable and pleas- 
ant. Belacqua, according to an old commentator, was a musician. 


tempest, which sent the body down the river Arno, and buried it 

in the mud.* 

Another spirit, a female, said to Dante, " Ah ! when thou re- 
turnest to earth, and shalt have rested from thy long journey, re- 
member me, — Pia. Sienna gave me life ; the Marshes took it 
from me. This he knows, who put on my finger the wedding, 

* Buonconte was the son of that Guido da Montefeltro, whose soul we have 
seen carried ofF from St. Francis by a devil, for having violated the conditions 
of penitence. It is cuiious that both father and son should have been contested 
for in this manner. 

t This is the most affecting and comprehensive of all brief stories. 

" Deh quando tu sarai tomato al mondo, 
E riposato de la lunga via, 
Seguit6 'I terzo spirito al secondo, 

Ricorditi di me che son la Pia : 
Siena mi f6 ; disfecemi Maremma ; 
Salsi colui che 'nnanellata pria 

Disposando m' avea con la sua gemma." 

Ah, when thou findest thee again on earth 
(Said then a female soul), remember me — 
Pia. Sienna was my place of birth, 

The Marshes of my death. This knoweth he, 
Who placed upon my hand the spousal ring. 

" Nello della Pietra," says M. Beyle, in his work entitled De V Amour, " ob 
tained in marriage the hand of Madonna Pia, sole heiress of the Ptolomei, thr 
richest and most noble family of Sienna. Her beauty, which was the admira 
tion of all Tuscany, gave rise to a jealousy in the breast of her husband, that 
envenomed by wrong reports and suspicions continually reviving, led to a fright- 
ful catastrophe. It is not easy to determine at this day if his wife was altogethei 
innocent ; but Dante has represented her as such. Her husband carried her 
with him into the marshes of Volterra, celebrated then, as now, for the pestifer- 
ous cfTocts of the air. Never would he tell his wife the reason of her banish- 
ment into so dangerous a place. His pride did not deign to pronounce either 
complaint or accusation. He lived with her alone, in a deserted tower, of which 
I have been to see the ruins on the sea-shore ; he never broke his disdainful si- 
lence, never replied to the questions of his youthful bride, never listened to her 
entreaties. Ho waited, unmoved by her, for the air to produce its fatal effects. 
The vapours of this unwholesome swamp were not long in tarnishing features 
the most beautiful, they say, that in that ago had appeared upon earth. In a 


The majority of this party were so importunate with the Flor- 
entine to procure them the prayers of their friends, that he had 
as much ditlicuhy to get away, as a winner at dice has to free 
himself from the mercenary congratulations of the by-standers. 
On resuming their way, Dante quoted to Virgil a passage in the 
^neid, decrying the utility of prayer, and begged him to explain 
how it was to be reconciled with what they had just heard. Vir- 
gil advised him to wait for the explanation till he saw Beatrice, 
whom, he now said, he should meet at the top of the mountain. 
Dante, at this information, expressed a desire to hasten their prog- 
ress ; and Virgil, seeing a spirit looking towards them as they 
advanced, requested him to acquaint them with the shortest road. 

The spirit, maintaining a lofty and reserved aspect, was as si- 
lent as if he had not heard the request ; intimating by his man- 
ner that they might as well proceed without repeating it, and 
eyeing them like a lion on the watch. Virgil, however, went up 
to him, and gently urged it ; but the only reply was a question 
as to who they were and of what country. The Latin poet be- 
ginning to answer him, had scarcely mentioned the word " Man- 
tua,'*' when the stranger went as eagerly up to his interrogator 
as the latter had done to him, and said, " Mantua ! My own 
country! My name is Sordello." And the compatriots em- 

O degenerate Italy ! exclaims Dante ; land without affections, 
without principle, without faith in any one good thing ! here was 
a man who could not hear the sweet sound of a fellow-citizen's 
voice without feeling his heart gush towards him, and there are 
no people now in any one of thy towns that do not hate and tor- 
ment one another. 

Sordello, in another tone, now exclaimed, " But who are ye ?" 

Virgil disclosed himself, and Sordello fell at his feet.* 

few months she died. Some chroniclers of those remote times report that 
Nello employed the dagger to hasten her end : she died in the marshes 
n some horrible manner ; but the mode of her death remained a mystery, 
jven to her contemporaries. Nello della Pietra survived, to pass the rest of his 
lays in a silence which weis never broken." Hazlitt's Journey throvg/i France 
ind Italy, p. 315. 
* Sordello was a famous Provencal poet ; with whose writings the world 



Sordello now undertook to accompany the great Roman poet 
and his friend to a certain distance on their ascent towards the 
penal quarters of the mountain ; but as evening was drawing 
nigh, and the ascent could not be made properly in the dark, he 
proposed that they should await the dawning of the next day in 
a recess that overlooked a flowery hollow. The hollow was a 
lovely spot of ground, enamelled with flowers that surpassed the 
cxqnisitcst dyes, and green with a grass brighter than emeralds 
newly broken.* There rose from it also a fragrance of a thou- 
sand different kinds of sweetness, all mingled into one that was 
new and indescribable ; and with the fragrance there ascended 
the chant of the prayer beginning, " Hail, Queen of Heaven, "f 
which was sung by a multitude of souls that appeared sitting on 
the flowery sward. 

Virgil pointed them out. They were penitent delayers of pen- 
itence, of sovereign rank. Among them, however, were spirits 
who sat mute ; one of whom was the Emperor Rodolph, who 
ought to have attended better to Italy, the garden of the empire ; 
and another, Ottocar, king of Bohemia, his enemy, who now com- 
forted him ; and another, with a small nose,:j: Philip the Third of 
France, who died a fugitive, shedding the leaves of the lily ; he 
sat beating his breast ; and with him was Henry the Third of 
Navarre, sighing with his cheek on his hand. One was the 
father, and one the father-in-law of Philip the Handsome, the bane 
of France ; and it was on account of his unworthiness they 

But among the singers Virgil pointed out the strong-limbed 
King of Arragon, Pedro ; and Charles, king of Naples, with his 
masculine nose (these two were singing together) ; and Henry 

has but lately been made acquainted through the researches of M. Raynouard, 
in his Choix des Poesies des Troubadours, &c. 

* " Fresco smeraldo in 1' ora che si fiacca." 
An exquisite image of newness and brilliancy. 

t " Salve, Regina :" the beginning of a Roman-Catholic chant to the Virgin. 

X " With nose doprest," says Mr. Cary. But Dante says, literally, "small 
nose," — uaseito. So, further on, he says, " masculine nose," — maschio naso. 
Ho meant to imply the greater or less determination of character, which the 
fiize of that feature is suppo.'^ed to indicate. 



le Third of England, the king of the simple life, sitting by him- 
slf ;* and below these, but with his eyes in heaven, Guglielmo 
larquis of Montferrat. 

It was now the hour when men at sea think longingly of home, 
nd feel their hearts melt within them to remember the day on 
•hich they bade adieu to beloved friends ; and now, too, was the 
our when the pilgrim, new to his journey, is thrilled with the 
ke tenderness, when he hears the vesper-bell in the distance, 
•hich seems to mourn for the expiring day.| At this hour of 
le coming darkness, Dante beheld one of the spirits in the dow- 
ry hollow arise, and after giving a signal to the others to do as 

* An English reader is surprised to find here a sovereign for whom he has 
;en taught to entertain little respect. But Henry was a devout servant of 
le Church. 

t " Era gii 1' ora che volge '1 desio 
A' naviganti, e intenerisce '1 cuore 
Lo di ch' an detto a' dolci amici a Dio ; 

E che lo nuovo peregrin d' amore 
Punge, se ode squilla di lontano 
Che paia '1 giorno pianger che si muore." 

. famous passage, untiring in the repetition. It is, indeed, worthy to be tho 
oice of Evening herself. 

'Twas now the hour, when love of home melts through 
Men's hearts at sea, and longing thoughts portray 
The moment when they bade sweet friends adieu ; 

And the new pilgrim now, on his lone way, 
Thrills, if he hears the distant vesper-bell, 
That seems to mourn for the expiring day. 

Ivery body knows the line in Gray's Elegy, not imworthily echoed from 
•ante's — 

" The curfew tolls the knell of parting day." 

[othing can equal, however, the tone in the Italian original, — the 

" Piia '1 gi6mo piinger che si mu6re." 

Jas I why could not the great Tuscan have been superior enough to his per- 
)nal griefs to write a whole book full of such beauties, and so have left us a 
'ork truly to be called Divine ? 


he did, stretch forth both hands, palm to palm, towards the East, 
and with softest emotion commence the hymn beginning, 

" Thee before the closing light."* 

Upon which all the rest devoutly and softly followed him, keep- 
ing their eyes fixed on the heavens. At the end of it they re- 
mained, with pale countenances, in an attitude of humble expec- 
tation ; and Dante saw the angels issue from the quarter to which 
they looked, and descend towards them with flaming swords in 
their hands, broken short of the point. Their wings were as 
green as the leaves in spring ; and they wore garments equally 
green, which the fanning of the wings kept in a state of stream- 
ing fluctuation behind them as they came. One of them took his 
stand on a part of the hill just over where the pilgrims stood, and 
the other on a hill opposite, so that the party in the valley were 
between them. Dante could discern their heads of hair, notwith- 
standing its brightness ; but their faces were so dazzling as to be 

" They come from Mary's bosom," whispered Sordello, "to 
protect the valley from the designs of our enemy yonder, — the 

Dante looked in trepidation towards the only undefended side 
of the valley, and beheld the Serpent of Eve coming softly 
among the grass and flowers, occasionally turning its head^ and 
licking its polished back. Before he could take off* his eyes 
from the evil thing, the two angels had come down like falcons, 
and at the whirring of their pinions the serpent fled. The 
angels returned as swiftly to their stations. 

Aurora was now looking palely over the eastern cliff on the 
other side of the globe, and the stars of midnight shining over the 
heads of Dante and his friends, when they seated themselves for 
rest on the mountain's side. The Florentine, being still in the 
flesh, lay down for weariness, and was overcome with sleep. In 
his sleep he dreamt that a golden eagle flashed down like light-. 
ning upon him, and bore him up to the region of fire, where the 
heat was so intense that it woke him, staring and looking round 
about with a pale face. His dream was a shadowing of the 

• «' To lucis ante teiminum ;"— a hymn sung at evening service. 


truth. He had actually come to another place, — to the entrance 
of Purgatory itself. Sordello had been left behind, Virgil alone 
remained, looking him cheerfully in the face. Saint Lucy had 
come from heaven, and shortened the fatigue of his journey by 
carrying him upwards as he slept, the heathen poet following 
them. On arriving where they stood,, the fair saint intimated the 
enirance of Purgatory to Virgil by a glance thither of her beau- 
tiful eyes, and then vanished as Dante woke.* 

The portal by which Purgatory was entered was embedded in 
a clitf. It had three steps, each of a different colour ; and on 
the highest of these there sat, mute and watching, an angel in 
ash-coloured garments, holding a naked sword, which glanced 
with such intolerable brightness on Dante, whenever he attempt- 
ed to look, that he gave up the endeavour. The angel demanded 
who they were, and receiving the right answer, gently bade them 

Dante now saw, that the lowest step was of marble, so white 
and clear that he beheld his face in it. The colour of the next 
was a deadly black, and it was all rough, scorched, and full of 
cracks. The third was of flaming porphyry, red as a man's 
blood when it leaps forth under the lancet. f The angel, w^hose 
feet were on the porphyry, sat on a threshold which appeared to 
be rock-diamond. Dante, ascending the steps, with the encour- 
agement of Virgil, fell at the angel's feet, and, after thrice beat- 
ing himself on the breast, humbly asked admittance. The angel, 
with the point of his sword, inscribed the first letter of the word 
peccatum (sin) seven times on the petitioner's forehead ; then, 
bidding him pray with tears for their erasement, and be cautious 
how he looked back, opened the portal with a silver and a golden 

* Lucy, Lucia (supposed to be derived from lux, lucis), is the goddess (I 
was almost going to say) who in Roman Catholic countries may be said to pre- 
side over light, and who is really invoked in maladies of the eyes. She was 
Dante's favourite saint, possibly for that reason among others, for he had once 
hurt his eyes with study, and they had been cured. In her spiritual charac- 
ter she represents the light of grace. 

t The first step typifies consciousness of sin ; the second, horror of it ; the 
third, zeal to amend. 


key.* The hinges roared, as they turned, like thunder ; and the 
pilgrims, on entering, thought they heard, mingling with the 
sound, a chorus of voices singing, " We praise thee, O God I"! 
It was like the chant that mingles with a cathedral org^n, when 
the words that the choristers utter are at one moment to be distin- 
guished, and at another fade away. 

Tlie companions continued ascending till they reached a plain. 
It stretched as far as the eye could see, and was as lonely as 
roads across deserts. 

This was the first flat, or table-land, of the ascending grada- 
tions of Purgatory, and the place of trial for the souls of the 
Proud. It was bordered with a mound, or natural wall, of white 
marble, sculptured all over with stories of humility. Dante be- 
held among them the Annunciation, represented with so much 
life, that the sweet action of the angel seemed to be uttering the 
very word, " Hail. !" and the submissive, spirit of the Virgin to 
be no less impressed, like very wax, in her demeanour. The 
next story was that of David dancing and harping before the ark, 
— an action in which he seemed both less and greater than a king. 
Michal was looking out upon him from a window, like a lady full 
of scorn and sorrow. Next to the story of David was that of the 
Emperor Trajan, when he did a thing so glorious, as moved St. 
Gregory to gain the greatest of all his conquests — the delivering 
of the emperor's soul from hell. 

A widow, in tears and mourning, was laying hold of his bridle 
as he rode amidst his court with a noise of horses and horsemen, 
while the Roman eagles floated in gold over his head. The mis- 
erable creature spoke out loudly among them all, crying for ven- 
geance on tlie murderers of her sons. The emperor seemed to 
say, " Wait till I return." 

But she, in the hastiness of her misery, said, " Suppose thou 
returnest not?" 

" Then my successor will attend to thee," replied the em- 

* Thp keys of St. Peter. Tlie gold is said by the commentators to mean 
power to absolve ; the silver, the learning and judgment requisite to use it. 

t •' Te Deum laudimus," the well-known hymn of St. Ambrose and St. 


" And what hast tlioii to do with the duties of another man," 
cried she, " if thou attcndest not to thine own ?" 

" Now, be of fi^ood comfort," concluded Trajan, " for verily my 
duty shall be done before I go ; justice wills it, and pity arrests 

Dante was proceeding to delight himself further with these 
sculptures, when Virgil whispered him to look round and see 
what was coming. He did so, and beheld strange figures ad- 
vancing, the nature of which he could not make out at first, for 
they seemed neither human, nor aught else which he could call 
to mind. They were souls of the proud, bent double under enor- 
mous burdens. 

" O proud, miserable, woe-begone Christians !" exclaims the 
poet ; " ye who, in the shortness of your sight, see no reason for 
advancing in the right path ! Know ye not that we are worms, 
born to compose the angelic butterfly, provided we throw off the 
husks that impede our flight ?"* 

The souls came slowly on, each bending down in proportion to 
his burden. Thev looked like the crouching ficrures in architec- 
ture that are used to support roofs or balconies, and that excite 
piteous fancies in the beholders. The one that appeared to have 
the most patience, yet seemed as if he said, " I can endure no 

The sufferers, notwithstanding their anguish, raised their voices 
in a paraphrase on the Lord's Prayer, which they concluded with 
humbly stating, that they repeated the clause against temptation, 
not for themselves, but for those who were yet living. 

Virgil, wishing them a speedy deliverance, requested them to 
ahew the best way of going up to the next circle. Who it was 
that answered him could not be discerned, on account of their all 
being so bent down ; but a voice gave them the required direction ; 
the speaker adding, that he wished he could raise his eyes, so as 

* " Nou v' accorgete voi, che noi siam vermi, 
Nati a formar 1' angelica farfalla, 
Che vola a giustizia senza schermi ?" 

Know you not, we are worms 
Born to compose the angelic butterfly, 
That flies to heaven when freed from what deforms ? 


to see the living creature that stood near him. He said that his 
name was Omberto — that he came of the great Tuscan race of 
Aldobrandesco — and that his countrymen, the Siennese, murdered 
him on account of his arrogance. 

Dante had bent down his own head to listen, and in so doing he 
was recognised by one of the sufferers, who, eyeing him as well 
as he could, addressed him by name. The poet replied by ex- 
claiming, " Art thou not Oderisi, the glory of Agubbio, the mas- 
ter of the art of illumination ?" 

" Ah !" said Oderisi, " Franco of Bologna has all the glory 
now. His colours make the pages of books laugh with beauty, 
compared with what mine do.* I could not have owned it while 
on earth, for the sin which has brought me hither ; but so it is ; 
and so will it ever be, let a man's fame be never so green and 
flourishing, unless he can secure a dull age to come after him. 
Cimabue, in painting, lately kept the field against all comers, and 
now the cry is 'Giotto.' Thus, in song, a new Guido has de- 
prived the first of his glory, and he perhaps is born who shall 
drive both out of the nest.f Fame is but a wind that changes 
about from all quarters. What does glory amount to at best, that 
a man should prefer living and growing old for it, to dying in the 
days of his nurse and his pap-boat, even if it should last him a 
thousand years ? A thousand years ! — the twinkling of an eye. | 
Behold this man, who weeps before me ; his name resounded j 
once over all our Tuscany, and now it is scarcely whispered in J 
his native place. He was lord there at the time that your once 

* " Piti ridon le carte * 

Che penelleggia Franco Bolognese : 
L' onore 6 tutto or suo, e mio in parte." 
t The " new Guido" is his friend Guido Cavalcante (now dead) ; the " first" 
is Guido Guinicelli, for whose writings Dinte had an esteem ; and the poet, 
who is to " chase them from the nest," caccerd di nido (as the not very friend- 
ly metaphor states it), is with good reason supposed to be himself! He was 
right ; but was the statement becoming ? It was certainly not necessary. 
Danto, notwithstanding his friendship with Guido, appears to have had a grudge 
against both tlic Cavalcanti, probably for some scorn they had shewn to his 
superstition ; for they could be proud themselves ; and the son has the repu- 
tation of scepticism, as well as the father. See the DeQameron, Giorn. vi. 
Nov. 9. 


proud but now loathsome Florence had such a lesson given to its 
frenzy at the battle of Arbia." 

"And what is his name?" inquired Dante. 

" Salvani," returned the limner. "He is here, because he 
had the presumption to think that he could hold Sienna in the 
hollow of his hand. Fifty years has he paced in this manner. 
Such is the punishment for audacity." 

" But why is he here at all," said Dante, " and not in the outer 
region, among the delayers of repentance ?" 

" Because," exclaimed the other, " in the height of his ascend- 
ancy he did not disdain to stand in the public place in Sienna, 
and, trembling in every vein, beg money from the people to ran- 
som a friend from captivity. Do I appear to thee to speak with 
mysterious significance ? Thy countrymen shall too soon help 
thee to understand me."* 

Virgil now called Dante away from Oderisi, and bade him 
notice the ground on which they were treading. It was pave- 
ment, wrought all over with figures, like sculptured tombstones. 
There was Lucifer among them, struck flaming down from 
heaven ; and Briareus, pinned to the earth with the thunderbolt, 
and, with the other giants, amazing the gods with his hugeness ; 
and Nimrod, standing confounded at the foot of Babel ; and 
Niobe, with her despairing eyes, turned into stone amidst her 
children ; and Saul, dead on his own sword in Gilboa ; and 
Arachne, now half spider, at fault on her own broken web ; and 
Rehoboam, for all his insolence, flying in terror in his chariot ; 
and Alcmseon, who made his mother pay with her life for the or- 
nament she received to betray his father ; and Sennacherib, lefl 
dead by his son in the temple ; and the head of Cyrus, thrown 
by the motherless woman into the goblet of blood, that it might 
swill what it had thirsted for ; and Holofernes, beheaded ; and 
his Assyrians flying at his death ; and Troy, all become cinders 

* This is the passage from which it is conjectured that Dante knew what it 
was to " tremble in every vein," from the awful necessity of begging. Mr. 
Car}-, with some other commentators, thinks that the " trembling" implies fear 
of being refused. But does it not rather mean the agony of the humiliation ? 
In Salvani's case it certainly does ; for it was in consideration of the pang to his 
pride, that the good deed rescued him from worse punishment. 


and hollow places. Oh ! what a fall from pride was there ! 
Now, maintain the loftiness of your looks, ye sons of Eve, and 
walk with proud steps, bending not your eyes on the dust ye 
were, lest ye perceive the evil of your ways.* 

" Behold," said Virgil, '' there is an angel coming." 

The angel came on, clad in white, with a face that sent trem- 
bling beams before it, like the morning star. He shewed the 
pilgrims the way up to the second circle ; and then, beating his 
wings against the forehead of Dante, on which the seven initials 
of sin were written, told him he should go safely, and disap- 

On reaching the new circle, Dante, instead of the fierce wail- 
ings that used to meet him at every turn in hell, heard voices 
singing, " Blessed are the poor in spirit.""}" As he went, he per- 
ceived that he walked lighter, and was told by Virgil that the 
angel had freed him from one of the letters on his forehead. He 
put his hand up to make sure, as a man does in the street when 
people take notice of something on his head of which he is not 
aware ; and Virgil smiled. 

In this new circle the sin of Envy was expiated. After the 
pilgrims had proceeded a mile, they heard the voices of invisible 
spirits passing them, uttering sentiments of love and charity ; for 
it was charity itself that had to punish envy. 

The souls of the envious, clad in sackcloth, sat leaning for 

* The reader will have noticed the extraordinary mixture of Paganism and 
the Bible in this passage, especially the introduction of such fables as Niobe 
and Arachne. It would be difficult not to suppose it intended to work out 
some half sceptical purpose, if we did not call to mind the grave authority given 
to fables in the poet's treatise on Monarchy, and the whole strange spirit, at once 
logical and gratuitous, of the learning of his age, when the acuter the mind, 
the subtler became tlie reconcilement with absurdity. 

t J^eati pai/peres spiritu. " Blessed are the poor in spirit ; for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven" — one of the beautiful passages of the beautiful sermon 
on the Mount. How could the great poet read and admire such passages, and 
yet fill his books so full of all which they renounced ? " Oh," say his idola- 
ters, " he did it out of his very love for them, and his impatience to see them 
triumph." So said the Inquisition. The evil was continued for the sake of 
the good which it prevented I The result in the long-run may be so, but not 
for the reasons they supposed, or from blindness to the indulgence of their bad 


support and humiliation, partly against the rocky wall of the cir- 
cle, and partly on one another's shoulders, after the manner of 
beggars that ask alms near places of worship. Their eyes were 
sewn up, like those of hawks in training, but not so as to hinder 
them from shedding tears, which they did in abundance ; and 
they cried, " Mary, pray for us ! — Michael, Peter, and all the 
saints, pray for us !" 

Dante spoke to them ; and one, a female, lifted up her chin as 
a blind person does when expressing consciousness of notice, and 
said she was Sapia of Sienna, who used to be pleased at people's 
misfortunes, and had rejoiced when her countrymen lost the 
battle of Colle. " Sapia was my name,"' she said, " but sapient 
I was not,*" for I prayed God to defeat my countrymen ; and 
when he had done so (as he had willed to do), I raised my bold 
face to heaven, and cried out to him, ' Now do thy worst, for I 
fear thee not !' I was like the bird in the fable, who thought the 
fine day was to last for ever. What I should have done in my 
latter days to make up for the imperfect amends of my repentance, 
I know not, if the holy Piero Pettignano had not assisted me with 
his prayers. But who art thou that goest with open eyes, and 
breathest in thy talk?*' 

" Mine eyes," answered Dante, " may yet have to endure the 
blindness in this place, though for no long period. Far more do 
I fear the sufferings in the one that I have just left. I seem to 
feel the weight already upon me."f 

* " Sdvia non fui, awegna che Sapia 
Fosse chiamata." 
The pun is poorer even than it sounds in English ; for, though the Italian 
name may possibly remind its readers of sapienza (sapience), there is the differ- 
ence of a u in the adjective savia, which is also accented on the first syllable. 
It is almost as bad as if she had said in English, " Sophist I found myself, 
though Sophia is my name." It is pleasant, however, to see the great satur- 
nine poet among the punsters. It appears, from the commentators, that Sapia 
was in exile at the time of the battle, but they do not say for what ; probably 
from some zeal of faction. 

t We are here let into Dante's confessions. He owns to a little envy, but 
far more pride : 

" Gli occhi, diss' io, mi fieno ancor qui tolti, 
Ma picciol tempo ; che poch' 6 1' offesa 
Fatta per csser con invidia volti. 


The Florentine then informed Sapia how he came thither, 
which, she said, was a great sign that God loved him ; and she 
begged his prayers. The conversation excited the curiosity of 
two spirits who overheard it ; and one of them, Guido del Duca, 
a noble Romagnese, asked the poet of what country he was. 
Dante, without mentioning the name of the river, intimated that 
he came from the banks of the Arno ; upon which the other 
spirit, Rinier da Calboli, asked his friend why the stranger sup- 
pressed the name, as though it was something horrible. Guido 
said he well might ; for the river, throughout its course, beheld 
none but bad men and persecutors of virtue. First, he said, it 
made its petty way by the sties of those brutal hogs, the people 
of Casentino, and then arrived at the dignity of watering the 
kennels of the curs of Arezzo, who excelled more in barking 
than in biting ; then, growing unluckier as it grew larger, like 
the cursed and miserable ditch that it was, it found in Florence 
the dogs become wolves ; and finally, ere it went into the sea, it 
passed the den of those foxes, the Pisans, who were full of such 
cunning that they held traps in contempt. 

" It will be well," continued Guido, " for this man to remem- 
ber what he hears ;" and then, after prophesying evil to Florence, 
and confessing to Dante his sin of envy, which used to make him 
pale when any one looked happy, he added, " This is Rinieri, the 
glory of that house of Calboli which now inherits not a spark of 
it. Not a spark of it, did I say, in the house of Calboli ? Where 
is there a spark in all Romagna ? Where is the good Lizio ? — 
where Manardi, Traversaro, Carpigna ? The Romagnese have 
all become bastards. A mechanic founds a house in Bologna ! a 
Bernardin di Fosco finds his dog-grass become a tree in Faenza ! 
Wonder not, Tuscan, to see me weep, when I think of the noble 
spirits that we have lived with — of the Guidos of Prata, and the 
Ugolins of Azzo — of Federigo Tignoso and his band — of the 

Troppa b piu la paura ond' 6 sospcsa 
L' animu mi:i del tormeiito di sotto : 
Che gift lo 'ncarco di li giu mi pesa." 

The first confession is singularly ingenuous and modest ; the second, affecting. 
It is curious to guess what sort of persons Dante could have allowed himself to 
envy — probably those who were more acceptable to women. 


Traversaros and Anastagios, families now ruined — and all the 
ladies and the cavaliers, the alternate employments and delights 
which wrapped us in a round of love and courtesy, where now 
there is nothing but ill-will ! O castle of Brettinoro ! why dost 
thou not fall ? Well has the lord of Bagnacavallo done, who 
will have no more children. Who would propagate a race of 
Counties from such blood as the Castrocaros and the Conios ? Is 
not the son of Pagrani called the demon ? and would it not be 
better that such a son were swept out of the family ? Nay, let 
him live to show to what a pitch of villany it has arrived. Ubal- 
dini alone is blessed, for his name is good, and he is too old to 
leave a child after him. Go, Tuscan — go ; for I would be left 
to my tears." 

Dante and Virgil turned to move onward, and had scarcely 
done so when a tremendous voice met them, splitting the air like 
peals of thunder, and crying out, " Whoever finds me will slay 
me !" then dashed apart, like the thunder-bolt when it falls. It 
was Cain. The air had scarcely recovered its silence, when a 
second crash ensued from a ditferent quarter near them, like 
thunder when the claps break swiftly into one another. " I am 
Aglauros," it said, " that was turned into stone." Dante drew 
closer to his guide, and there ensued a dead silence.* 

The sun was now in the west, and the pilgrims were journey- 
ing towards it, when Dante suddenly felt such a weight of splen- 
dour on his eves, as forced him to screen them with both his 

* Aglauros, daughter of Cecrops, king of Athens, was turned to stone by 
Mercury', for disturbing with her envy his passion for her sister Herse. 

The passage about Cain is one of the subliniest in Dante. Truly wonderful 
and characteristic is the way in which he has made physical noise and violence 
express the anguish of the wanderer's mind. We are not to suppose, I conceive, 
that we see Cain. We know he has passed us, by his thunderous and headlong 
words. Dante may well make him invisible, for his words are things — veritable 
thunderbolts. ^ 

Cain comes in rapid successions of thunder-claps. The voice of iVglauros 
is thunder-claps crashing into one another — broken thunder. This is exceed- 
ingly fine also, and wonderful as a variation upon that awful music ; but Cain 
is the a.stonishment and the overwhelmingness. If it were not, however, for the 
second thunder, we should not have had the two silences ; for I doubt whether 
they are not better even than one. At all events, the final silence is tremen- 


hands. It was an angel coming to shew them the ascent to the 
next circle, a way that was less steep than the last. While 
mounting, they heard the angel's voice singing behind them, 
" Blessed are the merciful ; for they shall obtain mercy !" and on 
his leaving them to proceed by themselves, the second letter on 
Dante's forehead was found to have been effaced by the splen- 

The poet looked round in wonder on the new circle, where the 
sin of Anger was expiated, and beheld, as in a dream, three suc- 
cessive spectacles illustrative of the virtue of patience. The 
first was that of a crowded temple, on the threshold of which 
a female said to her son, in the sweet manner of a mother, " Son, 
w^hy hast thou thus dealt with us ? Behold, thy father and I 
have sought thee sorrowing :"* — and here she became silent, and 
the vision ended. The next was the lord of Athens, Pisistratus, 
calmly reproving his wife for wishing him to put to death her 
daughter's lover, who, in a transport, had embraced her in public. 
" If we are to be thus severe," said Pisistratus, " with those that 
lOve us, what is to be done with such as hate ?" The last spec- 
tacle was that of a furious multitude shouting and stoning to 
death a youth, who, as he fell to the ground, still kept his face 
towards heaven, making his eyes the gates through which his 
soul reached it, and imploring forgiveness for his murderers. "j" 

The visions passed away, leaving the poet staggering as if but 
half awake. They were succeeded by a thick and noisome fog, 
through which he followed his leader with the caution of a blind 
man, Virgil repeatedly telling him not to quit him a moment. 
Here they heard voices praying in unison for pardon to the 
" Lamb of God, who takcth away the sins of the world." They 
were the spirits of the angry. Dante conversed with one of them 
on free-will and necessity ; and after quitting him. and issuing by 
degrees from the cloud, beheld illustrative visions of anger ; such 
as the impious mother, who was changed into the*bird that most 
delights in singing ; Haman, retaining his look of spite and rage 
on the cross ; and Lavinia, mourning for her mother, who slew 
herself for rage at the death of Turnus.:{: 

* St. Luke ii. 48. t The stoning of Stephen- 

t These illustrative spectacles are not among the best inventions of Dante. 


These visions were broken off by a great light, as sleep is 
broken : and Dante heard a voice out of it saying, " The ascent 
is here." He then, as Virgil and he ascended into the fourth 
circle, felt an air on his face, as if caused by the fanning of 
wings, accompanied by the utterance of the words, " Blessed are 
the peace-makers;" and his forehead was lightened of the third 

In this fourth circle was expiated Lukewarmness, or defect of 
zeal for good. The sufferers came speeding and weeping round 
the mountain, making amends for the old indifference by the haste 
and fire of the new love that was in them. " Blessed Mary made 
haste," cried one, " to salute Elizabeth." " And Csesar," cried 
another, " to smite Pompey at Lerida."f " And the disobedient 
among the Israelites," cried others, " died before they reached the 
promised land." "And the tired among the Trojans preferred 
ease in Sicily to glory in Latium." — It was now midnight, and 
Dante slept and had a dream. 

His dream was of a woman who came to him, having a tongue 
that tried ineffectually to speak, squinting eyes, feet whose distor- 
tion drew her towards the earth, stumps of hands, and a pallid 
face. Dante looked earnestly at her, and his look acted upon her 
like sunshine upon cold. Her tongue was loosened ; her feet 
made straight ; she stood upright ; her paleness became a lovely 
rose-colour ; and she warbled so beautifully, that the poet could 
not have refused to listen had he wished it. 

" I am the sweet Syren," she said, " who made the mariners 

Their introduction is forced, and the instances not always pointed. A murder- 
ess, too, of her son, changed into such a bird as tlie nightingale, was not a 
happy association of ideas in Homer, where Dante found it ; and I am sur- 
prised he made use of it, intimate as he must have been with the less inconsis- 
tent story of her namesake, Philomela, in the Metamorphoses. 

* So, at least, I conceive, by what appears afterwards ; and I may here add, 
once for all, that I have supplied the similar requisite intimations at each suc- 
cessive step in Purgator>', the poet seemingly having forgotten to do so. It is 
necessary to what he implied in the outset. The whole poem, it is to be re- 
membered, is thought to have wanted his final revision. 

i What an instance to put among those of haste to do good I But the fame 
and accomplishments of Csesar, and his being at the head of our Ghibelline'a 
beloved emperors, fairly overwhelmed Dante's boasted impartiality. 


turn pale for pleasure in the sea. I drew Ulysses out of his 
course with my song ; and he that harbours with me once, rarely 
departs ever, so well I pay him for what he abandons." 

Her lips were not yet closed, when a lady of holy and earnest 
countenance came up to shame her. " O Virgil !" she cried an- 
grily, " who is this ?" Virgil approached, with his eyes fixed 
on the lady ; and the lady tore away the garments of the woman, 
and shewed her to be a creature so loathly, that the sleeper awoke 
with the horror.* 

Virgil said, " I have called thee three times to no purpose. 
Let us move, and find the place at which we are to go higher." 

It was broad day, with a sun that came warm on the shoulders ; 
and Dante was proceeding with his companion, when the softest 
voice they ever heard directed them where to ascend, and they 
found an angel with them, who pointed his swan-like wings up- 
ward, and then flapped them against the pilgrims, taking away 
the fourth letter from the forehead of Dante. " Blessed are they 
that mourn," said the angel, " for they shall be comforted." 

The pilgrims ascended into the fifth circle, and beheld the ex- 
piators of Avarice grovelling on the ground, and exclaiming, as 
loud as they could for the tears that choked them, " My soul hath 
cleaved to the dust." Dante spoke to one, who turned out to be 
Pope Adrian the Fifth. The poet fell on his knees ; but Adrian 
bade him arise and err not. " I am no longer." said he, " spouse 
of the Church, here ; but fellow-servant with thee and with all 
others. Go thy ways, and delay not the time of my deliver- 


The pilgrims moving onward, Dante heard a spirit exclaim, in 
the struggling tones of a woman in child-bed, " O blessed Virgin ! 
That was a poor roof thou hadst when thou wast delivered of thy 
sacred burden. O good Fabricius ! Virtue with poverty was 
thy choice, and not vice with riches." And then it told the story 
of Nicholas, who, hearing that a father was about to sacrifice the 
honour of his three daughters for want of money, threw bags of it 
in at his window, containing portions for them all. 

* A meisterly allegorv of Worldly Pleasure. But the close of it in the origi- 
nal has an inteupity of the revolting, which outrages the last recesses of feeling, 
and disgusts us with the denouncer. 


Dante earnestly addressed this spirit to know who he was ; and 
the spirit said it would tell him, not for the sake of help, for which 
it looked elsewhere, but because of the shining grace that was in 
his questioner, though yet alive. 

'• I was root," said the spirit, " of that evil plant which over- 
shadows all Christendom to such little profit. Hugh Capet was 
I, ancestor of the Philips and Louises of France, offspring of a 
butcher of Paris, when the old race of kings was worn out.* We 
began by seizing the government in Paris ; then plundered in 
Provence ; then, to make amends, laid hold of Poitou, Normandy, 
and Gascony ; then, still to make amends, put Conradin to death 
and seized Naples ; then, always to make amends, gave Saint 
Aquinas his dismissal to Heaven by poison. I see the time at 
hand when a descendant of mine will be called into Italy, and the 
spear that Judas jousted ivitli\ shall transfix the bowels of Flor- 
ence. Another of my posterity sells his daughter for a sum of 
money to a Marquis of Ferrara. Another seizes the pope in 
Alagna, and mocks Christ over again in the person of his Vicar. 
A fourth rends the veil of the temple, solely to seize its money. 

* The fierce Hugh Capet, soliloquising about the Virgin in the tones of a 
lady in child-bed, is rather too ludicrous an association of ideas. It was for 
calling this prince the son of a butcher, that Francis the First prohibited the 
admission of Dante's poem into his dominions. Mr. Gary thinks the king might 
have been mistaken in his interpretation of the passage, and that " butcher" 
may be simply a metaphorical term for the bloodthirstiness of Capet's father. 
But when we find the man called, not the butcher, or thai butcher, or butcher 
in reference to his species, but in plain local parlance " a butcher of Paris" (un 
heccaio di Parigi), and when this designation is followed up by the allusion to 
the extinction of the previous dynasty, the ordinary construction of the words 
appears indisputable. Dante seems to have had no ground for what his aristo- 
cratical pride doubtless considered a hard blow, and what King Francis, in- 
deed, condescended to feel as such. He met with the notion somewhere, and 
chose to believe it, in order to vex the French and their princes. The spirit 
of the taunt contradicts his own theories elsewhere ; for he has repeatedly said, 
that the only true nobility is in the mind. But his writings (poetical truth ex- 
cepted) are a heap of contradictions. 

t Mr. Gary thought he had seen an old romance in which there is a combat 
of this kind between Jesus and his betrayer. I have an impression to the 
same effect. 



O Lord, how shall I rejoice to see the vengeance which even 
now thou huggest in delight to thy bosom !* 

" Of loving and liberal things," continued Capet, " we speak 
while it is lifrht ; such as thou heardest me record, when I ad- 
dressed myself to the blessed Virgin. But when night comes, we 
take another tone. Then we denounce Pygmalion,t the traitor, 
the robber, and the parricide, each the result of his gluttonous 
love of gold ; and Midas, who obtained his wish, to the laughter 
of all time ; and the thief Achan, who still seems frightened at 
the wrath of Joshua ; and Sapphira and her husband, whom we 
accuse over again before the Apostles ; and Heliodorus, whom 
we bless the hoofs of the angel's horse for trampling ;^ and Cras- 
sus, on whom we call with shouts of derision to tell us the flavour 
of his molten gold. Thus we record our thoughts in the night- 
time, now high, now low, now at greater or less length, as each 
man is prompted by his impulses. And it was thus thou didst 
hear me recording also by day-time, though I had no respondent 
near me." 

The pilgrims quitted Hugh Capet, and were eagerly pursuing 
their journey, when, to the terror of Dante, they felt the whole 
mountain of Purgatory tremble, as though it were about to fall 
in. The island of Delos shook not so awfully when Latona, 
hiding there, brought forth the twin eyes of Heaven. A shout 
then arose on every side, so enormous, that Virgil stood nigher to 

* " O Signor mio, quando sar6 io lieto 
A veder la vendetta che nascosa 
Fa dolce 1' ira tua nel tuo segreto !" 

The spirit of the blasphemous witticism attributed to another Italian, viz. that 
the reason why God prohibited revenge to mankind was its being " too delicate 
a morsel for any but himself," is here gravely anticipated as a positive compli- 
ment to God by the fierce poet of the thirteenth century, who has been held 
up aH a great Christian divine ! God hugs revenge to his bosom with delight! 
The Supreme Being confounded with a poor grinning Florentine ! 

t A ludicrous anti-climax this to modern ears! The allusion is to the Pyg- 
malion who was Dido's brother, and who murdered her husband, the priest 
Sichu'us, for his riches. Tlie term ** parricide" is here applied in its secondary 
Benso of — the murderer of any one to whom we owe reverence. 

X Heliodorus was a plunderer of the Temple, thus supematurally punished. 
The subject has been nobly treated by Raphael. 


his companion, and bade him be of good lieart. " Glory be to 
God in the highest," cried the shout ; but Dante could gather the 
words only from those who were near him. 

It was Purgatory rejoicing for the deliverance of a soul out of 
its bounds.* 

The soul overtook the pilgrims as they were journeying in 
amazement onwards ; and it turned out to be that of Statins, 
who had been converted to Christianity in the reign of Domitiun.j- 
Mutual astonishment led to inquiries that explained who the other 
Latin poet was ; and Statins fell at his master's feet. 

Statins had expiated his sins in the circle of Avarice, not for 
that vice, but for the opposite one of Prodigality. 

An angel now, as before, took the fifth letter from Dante's 
forehead ; and the three poets having ascended into the sixth 
round of the mountain, were journeying on lovingly together, 
Dante listening with reverence to the talk of the two ancients, 
when they came up to a sweet-smelling fruit-tree, upon which 
a clear stream came tumbling from a rock beside it, and diffusing 
itself through the branches. The Latin poets went up to the 
tree, and were met by a voice which said, " Be chary of the fruit. 
Mary thought not of herself at Galilee, but of the visitors, when 
she said, ' They have no wine.' The women of oldest Rome 
drank water. The beautiful age of gold feasted on acorns. Its 
thirst made nectar out of the rivulet. The Baptist fed on 
locusts and wild honey, and became great as you see him in the 

The poets went on their way ; and Dante was still listening to 
the others, when they heard behind them a mingled sound of 
chanting and weeping, which produced an effect at once sad and 
delightful. It was the psalm, " O Lord, open thou our lips !" 
and the chanters were expiators of the sin of Intemperance in 
Meats and Drinks. They were condemned to circuit the moun- 
tain, famished, and to long for the fruit and waters of the tree in 

* A grand and beautiful fiction. 

t Readers need hardly be told that there is no foundation for this fancy, ex- 
cept in the invention of the churchmen. Dante, in another passage, not neces- 
sary to give, confounds the poet Statius who was from Naples, with a rhetori- 
cian of the same name from Thoulouse. 


vain. They soon came up with the poets — a pallid multitude, 
with hollow eyes, and bones staring through the skin. The 
sockets of their eyes looked like rings from which the gems had 
dropped.* One of them knew and accosted Dante, who could 
not recognise him till he heard him speak. It was Forese Do- 
nati, one of the poet's most intimate connexions. Dante, who had 
wept over his face when dead, could as little forbear weeping to 
see him thus hungering and thirsting, though he had expected to 
find him in the outskirts of the place, among the delayers of re- 
pentance. He asked his friend how he had so quickly got higher. 
Forese said it was owing to the prayers and tears of his good 
wife Nella ; and then he burst into a strain of indignation against 
the contrast exhibited to her virtue by the general depravity of 
the Florentine women, whom he described as less modest than 
the half-naked savages in the mountains of Sardinia. 

" What is to be said of such creatures ?" continued he. " O 
my dear cousin ! I see a day at hand, when these impudent 
women shall be fbrbid-den from the pulpit to go exposing their 
naked bosoms. What savages or what infidels ever needed that ? 
Oh ! if they could see what Heaven has in store for them, their 
mouths would be this instant opened wide for howling. "■!■ 

* " Par^n 1' occhiaje anella senza gemme." 

This beautiful and affecting image is followed in the original by one of the 
most fantastical conceits of the time. The poet says, that the physiognomist, 
who " reads the word omo {homo, man), written in the face of the human be- 
ing, might easily have seen the letter m in theirs." 

" Chi nel viso de gli uomini legge omo, 
Bene ayria quivi conosciuto 1' emme" 

The meaning is, that the perpendicular lines of the nose and temples form the 
letter m, and the eyes the two o's. The enthusiast for Roman domination 
must have been delighted to find that Nature wrote in Latin I 

t " Se le svergognate fosser certo 

Di quel die 1' ciel veloce loro ammanna, 
GiJi per urlare avrian le bocche aperte." 

This will remind the reader of the style of that gentle Christian, John Knox, 
who, instead of offering his own " cheek to the smiters," delighted to smite the 
cheeks of women. Fury was his mode of preaching meekness, and threats of 
everlasting howling his reproof of a tune on Sundays. But, it will be said, he 


Forese then asked Dante to explain to liiniself and his aston- 
ished fellow-sufrerers how it was that he stood there, a living body 
of flesh and blood, casting a shadow with his substance. 

" If thou callest to mind," said Dante, '' what sort of life thou 
and I led together, the recollection may still grieve thee sorely. 
He that walks here before us took me out of that life ; and through 
his guidance it is that I have visited in the body the world of the 
dead, and am now traversing the mountain which leads us to the 
right path."* 

After some further explanation, Forese pointed out to his friend, 
among the expiators of intemperance. Buonaggiunta of Lucca, 
the poet ; and Pope Martin the Fourth, with a face made sharper 
than the rest for the eels which he used to smother in wine ; and 

looked to consequences. Yes ; and produced the worst himself, both spiritual 
and temporal. Let the whisky-shops answer him. However, he helped to 
save Scotland from Purgatory : so we must take good and bad together, and 
hope the best in the end. 

Forese, like many of Dante's preachers, seems to have been one of those 
self-ignorant or self-exasperated denouncers, who 

" Compound for sins they are inclined to, 
By damning those they have no mind to." 

He was a glutton, who could not bear to see ladies too little clothed. The de- 
facing of '•■ God*s image" in his own person he considered nothing. 

* The passage respecting his past life is unequivocal testimony to the fact, 
confidently disputed by some, of Dante's having availed himself of the license 
of the time ; though, in justice to such candour, we are bound not to think 
worse of it than can be helped. The words in the original are : 

" Se ti riduci a mente 
Qual fosti meco, e quale io teco fui, 
Ancor fia grave il memorar presente." 

Literally : " If thou recallest to mind what (sort of person) thou wast with me, 
and what I was with thee, the recollection may oppress thee still." 

His having been taken out of that kind of life by Virgil (construed in the 
literal sense, in wliich, among other senses, he has directed us to construe him), 
may imply, either that the delight of reading Virgil first made him think of 
living in a manner more becoming a man of intellect, or (possibly) that the 
Latin poet's description of aEneas's descent into hell turned his thoughts to 
religious penitence. Be this as it may, his life, though surely it could at no 
time have been of any very licentious kind, never, if we- are to believe Boc- 
caccio, became spotless. 


Ubaldino of Pila, grinding his teeth on air ; and Archbishop Bon- 
iface of Ravonna, who fed jovially on his flock ; and Rigogliosi 
of Forli, who had had time enough to drink in the other world, 
and yet never was satisfied. Buonaggiunta and Dante eyed one 
another with curiosity ; and the farmer murmured something 
about a lady of the name of Gentucca. 

" Thou seemest to wish to speak with me/' said Dante. 

" Thou art no admirer, I believe, of my native place," said 
Buonaggiunta ; " and yet, if thou art he whom 1 take thee to be, 
there is a damsel there shall make it please thee. Art thou not 
author of the poem beginning 

*' Ladies, that understand the lore of love ?"* 

" I am one," replied Dante, " who writes as Love would have 
him, heeding no manner but his dictator's, and uttering simply 
what he suggests. "•]■ 

" Ay, that is the sweet new style," returned Buonaggiunta ; 
" and I now see what it was that hindered the notary, and Guit- 
tone, and myself, from hitting the right natural point." And 
here he ceased speaking, looking like one contented to have as- 
certained a truth.:}: 

* The mention of Gentucca might be thought a compliment to the lady, if 
Dante had not made Beatrice afterwards treat his regard for any one else but 
herself with so much contempt. (See page 126 of the present volume.) 
Under that circumstance, it is hardly acting like a gentleman to speak of her 
at all ; unless, indeed, he thought her a person who would be pleased with the 
notoriety arising even from the record of a fugitive regard ; and in that case 
the good taste of the record would still remain doubtful. The probability 
seems to be, that Dante was resolved, at all events, to take this opportunity of 
bearding some rumour. 

t A celebrated and charming passage : 

" lo mi son un, che quando 
Amore spira, noto ; e a quel modo 
Che detta dentro, vo significando." 

I am one that notes 
When Love inspires ; and what he speaks I tell 
In his own way, embodying but his thoughts. 
X Exquisite truth of painting ! and a very elegant compliment to the hand- 
Bome nature of Buonaggiunta. Jacopo da Lentino, called the Notary, and 


The whole multitude then, except Forese, skimmed away like 
cranes, swift alike through eagerness and through leanness. 
Forese lingered a moment to have a parting word with his friend, 
and to prophesy the violent end of the chief of his family, Corso, 
run away with and dragged at the heels of his horse faster and 
faster, till the frenzied animal smites him dead. Having given 
the poet this information, the prophet speeded after the others. 

The companions now came to a second fruit-tree, to which a 
multitude were in vain lifting up their hands, just as children lift 
them to a man who tantalises them with shewing something which 
he withholds ; but a voice out of a thicket by the road-side 
warned the travellers not to stop, telling them that the tree was 
an offset from that of which Eve tasted. " Call to mind," said 
the voice, " those creatures of the clouds, the Centaurs, whose 
feasting cost them their lives. Remember the Hebrews, how they 
dropped away from the ranks of Gideon to quench their effemi- 
nate thirst."* 

The poets proceeded, wrapt in thought, till they heard another 
voice of a nature that made Dante start and shake as if he had 
been some paltry hackney. 

" Of what value is thought," said the voice, " if it lose its 
way? The path lies hither." 

Dante turned toward the voice, and beheld a shape glowing red 
as in a furnace, with a visage too dazzling to be looked upon. It 
met him, nevertheless, as he drew nigh, with an air from the fan- 
ning of its wings fresh as the first breathing of the wind on a 
Mav mornini;, and fragrant as all its flowers ; and Dante lost the 
sixth letter on his forehead, and ascended with the two other po- 
ets into the seventh and last circle of the mountain. 

This circle was all in flames, except a narrow path on the edge 
of its precipice, along which the pilgrims walked. A great wind 

Fra Guittone of Arezzo, were celebrated verse-writers of the day. The lat- 
ter, in a sonnet given by Mr. Cary in the notes to his translation, says he shall 
be delighted to hear the trumpet, at the last day, dividing mankind into the 
happy and the tormented (sufferers under crudel martire), because an inscrip- 
tion will then be seen on his forehead, shewing that he had been a slave to 
love ! An odd way for a poet to show his feelings, and a friar his religion ! 
* Judges vii. 6. 


from outside of the precipice kept the flames from raging beyond 
the path ; and in the midst of the fire went spirits expiating the 
sin of Incontinence. They sang the hymn beginning " God of 
consummate mercy !"* Dante was compelled to divide his atten- 
tion between his own footsteps and theirs, in order to move with- 
out destruction. At the close of the hymn they cried aloud, " I 
know not a man !"t and then recommenced it ; after which they 
again cried aloud, saying, " Diana ran to the wood, and drove 
Calisto out of it, because she knew the poison of Venus !" And 
then again they sang the hymn, and then extolled the memories 
of chaste women and husbands ; and so they went on without 
ceasing, as long as their time of trial lasted. 

Occasionally the multitude that went in one direction met an- 
other which mingled with and passed through it, individuals of 
both greeting tenderly by the way, as emmets appear to do, when 
in passing they touch the antennae of one another. These two 
multitudes parted with loud and sorrowful cries, proclaiming the 
offences of which they had been guilty ; and then each renewed 
their spiritual songs and prayers. 

The souls here, as in former circles, knew Dante to be a living 
creature by the shadow which he cast : and after the wonted ex- 
planations, he learned who some of them were. One was his 
predecessor in poetry, Guido Guinicelli, from whom he could not 
take his eyes for love and reverence, till the sufferer, who told 
him there was a greater than himself in the crowd, vanished 
away through the fire as a fish does in water. The greater one 
was Arnauld Daniel, the Provencal poet, who, after begging the 
prayers of the traveller, disappeared in like manner. 

The sun by this time was setting on the fires of Purgatory, 

* SummcB Deus clementia. The ancient beginning of a hymn in the 
Roman Catholic Church ; now altered, say the commentators, to " Summae 
parens ciementijB." 

t Virum non cognosco. " Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this 
be, seeing I know not a man?"— ZuA-e i. 34. 

The placing of Mary's interview with the angel, and Ovid's story of Ca- 
listo, upon apparently the same identical footing of authority, by spirits in all 
the sincerity of agonised penitence, is very remarkable. A dissertation, by 
some competent antiquary, on the curious question suggested by these anoma- 
lieu, would be a welcome novelty in the world of letter. 


v^hen an angel came crossing the road through them, and then, 
tanding on tlie edge of the precipice, with joy in his looks, and 
inging, "Blessed arc the pure in heart!" invited tlie three 
•octs to plunge into the flames themselves, and so cross the road 
D the ascent by which the summit of the mountain was gained. 
)ante, clasping his hands, and raising them aloft, recoiled in hor- 
or. The tiioughtof all that he had just witnessed made him feel 
,s if his own hour of death was come. His companion encour- 
.ged him to obey the angel ; but he could not stir. Virgil said, 
' Now mark me, son ; this is the only remaining obstacle between 
hee and Beatrice ;" and then himself and Statius entering the 
ire, Dante followed them. 

" I could have cast myself," said he, " into molten glass to 
lool myself, so raging was the furnace." 

Virgil talked of Beatrice' to animate him. He said, " Me- 
hinks I see her eyes beholding us." There was, indeed, a great 
ight upon the quarter to which they were crossing ; and out of 
he light issued a voice, which drew them onwards, singing, 
' Come, blessed of my Father ! Behold, tlie sun is going down, 
md the night cometh, and the ascent is to be gained." 

The travellers gained the ascent, issuing out of the fire ; and 
he voice and the light ceased, and night was come. Unable to 
Lscend farther in the darkness, they made themselves a bed, each 
)f a stair in the rock ; and Dante, in his happy humility, felt as 
f he had been a goat lying down for the night near two shep- 

Towards dawn, at the hour of the rising of the star of love, he 
lad a dream, in which he saw a young and beautiful lady coming 
)ver a lea, and bending every now and then to gather flowers ; 
md as she bound the flowers into a garland, she sang, " I am 
Leah, gathering flowers to adorn myself, that my looks may seem 
Dleasant to me in the mirror. But my sister Rachel abides be- 
fore the mirror, flowerless ; contented with her beautiful eyes. 
To behold is my sister's pleasure, and to work is mine.''* 

* An allegory of the Active and Contemplative Life ;— not, I think, a hapr 
py one, though beautifully painted. It presents, apart from its terminating 
comment, no necessarj' intellectual suggestion ; is rendered, by the comment 
itself, hardly consistent with Leah'fl express love of ornament ; and, if it wer^ 


When Dante awoke, the beams of the dawn were visible ; and 
they now produced a happiness like that of the traveller, who 
every time he awakes knows himself to be nearer home. Yirgil 
and Statins were already up ; and all three, resuming their way 
to the mountain's top, stood upon it at last, and gazed round about 
them on the skirts of the terrestrial Paradise. The sun was 
sparkling bright over a green land, full of trees and flowers. 
Virgil then announced to Dante, that here his guidance terminated, 
and that the creature of flesh and blood was at length to be mas- 
ter of his own movements, to rest or to wander as he pleased, the 
tried and purified lord over himself. 

The Florentine, eager to taste his new liberty, left his compan- 
ions awhile, and strolled away through the celestial forest, whose 
thick and lively verdure gave coolness to the senses in the midst 
of the brightest sun. A fragrance came from every part of the 
soil ; a sweet unintermitting air streamed against the walker's 
face ; and as the full-hearted birds, warbling on all sides, wel- 
comed the morning's radiance into the trees, the trees themselves 
joined in the concert with a sv/elling breath, like that which rises 
among the pines of Chiassi, when Eolus lets loose the south-wind, 
and the gathering melody comes rolling through the forest from 
bough to bough.* 

Dante had proceeded far enough to lose sight of the point at 
which he entered, when he found himself on the bank of a rivu- 

not for the last sentence, might be taken for a picture of two diiferent forms of 

* " Tal, qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie 

Per la pineta in sul lito di Chiassi, 1 

Quand' Eolo scirocco fuor discioglie." 

" Even as from branch to branch 
Along the piny forests on the shore 

Of Cliiassi, rolls the gathering melody, , 

When Eolus hath from his cavern loosed 
The dripping south." — Gary. 

" Tliis is the wood," says Mr. Cary, " where the scene of Boccaccio's sub- 
limest story (taken entirely from Elinaud, as I learn in the notes to the De- 
cameron, ediz. Giunti, 1573, p. 62) is laid. See Dec, G. 5, N. 8, and Dry- 
den's Theodore and Honoria. Our poet perhaps wandered in it during his 
abode with Guido Novello da Polenta." — Translation of Dante, ut sup. p. 121. 


let, compared with whose crystal purity the limpidest waters on 
earth were clouded. And yet it flowed under a perpetual depth 
of shade, which no heam either of sun or moon penetrated. 
Nevertlieless the darkness was coloured with endless diversities 
of May-blossoms ; and the poet was standing in admiration, 
looking up at it along its course, when he beheld something that 
took away every other thought ; to wit, a lady, all alone, on the 
other side of the water, singing and culling flowers. 

'• Ah, lady !" said the poet, " who, to judge by the cordial 
beauty in thy looks, hast a heart overflowing with love, be pleased 
to draw thee nearer to the stream, that I may understand the 
worcls thou singest. Thou remindest me of Proserpine, of the 
place she was straying in, and of what sort of creature she 
looked, when her mother lost her, and she herself lost the spring- 
time on earth." 

As a lady turns in the dance when it goes smoothest, moving 
round with lovely self-possession, and scarcely seeming to put 
one foot before the other, so turned the lady towards the water 
over the yellow and vermilion flowers, dropping her eyes gently 
as she came, and sino-ino- so that Dante could hear her. Then 
when she arrived at the water, she stopped, and raised her eyes 
towards him, and smiled, showing him the flowers in her hands, 
and shiftino- them with her fino-ers into a display of all their 
beauties. Never were such eyes beheld, not even when Venus 
herself was in love. The stream was a little stream ; yet Dante 
felt it as sreat an intervention between them, as if it had been 
Leander's Hellespont. 

The lady explained to him the nature of the place, and how 
the rivulet was the Lethe of Paradise ; — Lethe, where he stood, 
but called Eunoe higher up ; the drink of the one doing away 
all remembrance of evil deeds, and that of the other restoring all 
remembrance of good.* It was the region, she said, in which 
Adam and Eve had lived ; and the poets had beheld it perhaps in 
their dreams on Mount Parnassus, and hence imagined their 
golden age ; — and at these words she looked at Virgil and Sta- 
tins, who by this time had come up, and who stood smiling at her 
kindly words. 

* Lethe, Forgetfulness ; Eunoe, Well-mindedness. 


Resuming her song, the lady turned and passed up along the 
rivulet the contrary way of the stream, Dante proceeding at the 
same rate of time on his side of it ; till on a sudden she cried, 
" Behold, and listen !" and a light of exceeding lustre came 
streaming through the woods, followed by a dulcet melody. The 
poets resumed their way in a rapture of expectation, and saw the 
air before them glowing under the green boughs like fire. A divine 
spectacle ensued of holy mystery, with evangelical and apoca- 
lyptic images, which gradually gave way and disclosed a car 
brighter than the chariot of the sun, accompanied by celestial 
nymphs, and showered upon by angels with a cloud of flowers, 
in the midst of which stood a maiden in a white veil, cro\^ed 
with olive. 

The love that had never left Dante's heart from childhood told 
him who it was ; and trembling in every vein, he turned round 
to Virgil for encouragement. Virgil was gone. At that moment, 
Paradise and Beatrice herself could not requite the pilgrim for 
the loss of his friend ; and the tears ran down his cheeks. 

" Dante," said the veiled maiden across the stream, " weep not 
that Virgil leaves thee. Weep thou not yet. The stroke of a 
sharper sword is coming, at which it will behove thee to weep." 
Then assuming a sterner attitude, and speaking in the tone of one 
who reserves the bitterest speech for the last, she added, " Observe 
me well. I am, as thou suspectest, Beatrice indeed ; — Beatrice, 
who has. to congratulate thee on deigning to seek the mountain 
at last. And hadst thou so long indeed to learn, that here only 
can man be happy ?" 

Dante, casting down his eyes at these words, beheld his face 
in the water, and hastily turned aside, he saw it so full of shame. 

Beatrice had the dignified manner of an offended parent ; such 
a flavour of bitterness was mingled with her pity. 

She held her peace ; and the angels abruptly began singing, 
" In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust ;" but went no farther in 
the psalm than the words, " Thou hast set my feet in a large 
room." The tears of Dante had hitherto been suppressed ; but 
when the singing began, they again rolled down his cheeks. 

■ Beatrice, in a milder tone, said to the angels, " This man, when 
he proposed to himself in his youth to lead a new life, was of a 


trutli so giftctl, that every good liabit ouglit to liave thrived with 
him ; but tlie richer the soil, tlic greater peril of weeds. For a 
wliile, tlie innocent light of my countenance drew him the right 
way ; but when I quitted mortal life, he took away his thoughts 
from remembrance of me, and gave himself to others. When I 
had risen from flesh to spirit, and increased in worth and beauty, 
then did I sink in his estimation, and he turned into otlier paths, 
and pursued false images of good that never keep their promise. 
In vain I obtained from Heaven the power of interfering in his 
behalf, and endeavoured to affect him with it night and day. So 
little was he concerned, and into such depths he fell, that nothing 
remained but to show him the state of the condemned ; and there- 
fore I went to their outer regions, and commended him with tears 
to the guide that brought him hither. The decrees of Heaven 
would be nought, if Lethe could be passed, and the fruit beyond 
it tasted, without any payment of remorse.* 

" O thou," she continued, addressing herself to Dante, " who 
standest on the other side of the holy stream, say, have I not 
spoken truth ?" 

Dante was so confused and penitent, that the words failed as 
they passed his lips. 

" What could induce thee," resumed his monitress, " when I 
had given thee aims indeed, to abandon them for objects that could 
end in nothing ?" 

Dante said, " Thy face was taken from me, and the presence 
of false pleasure led me astray." 

" Never didst thou behold," cried the maiden, " loveliness like 
mine ; and if bliss failed thee because of my death, how couldst 
thou be allured by mortal inferiority ? That first blow should 
have taught thee to disdain all perishable things, and aspire after 
the soul that had gone before thee. How could thy spirit endure 

* " Senza alcuuo scotto 
Di pciitimcnto." 

Literally, scot-free. — " Hcotto," scot ; — " payment for dinner or supper in a 
tavern" (says Rubbi, the Petrarchal rather than Uantesque editor of the Par- 
naso Italiano, and a very summary genllemai!) ; " here used figuratively, 
though it is not u word fit to be employed on serious and grand occasions" (in 
cose gravi ed illustri). See his " Dante" in that collection, vol. ii. p. 297. 


to stoop to further chances, or to a childish girl, or any other 
fleeting vanity ? The bird that is newly out of the nest may be 
twice or thrice tempted by the snare ; but in vain, surely, is the 
net spread in sight of one that is older."* 

Dante stood as silent and abashed as a sorry child. 

" If but to hear me," said Beatrice, " thus afflicts thee, lift up 
thy beard, and see what sight can do." 

Dante, though feeling the sting intended by the word " beard," 
did as he was desired. The angels had ceased to scatter their 
clouds of flowers about the maiden ; and he beheld her, though 
still beneath her veil, as far surpassing her former self in love- 
liness, as that self had surpassed others. The sight pierced him 
with such pangs, that the more he had loved any thing else, the 
more he now loathed it ; and he fell senseless to the ground. 

When he recovered his senses, he found himself in the hands 
of the lady he had first seen in the place, who bidding him keep 
firm hold of her, drew him into the river Lethe, and so through 
and across it to the other side, speeding as she went like a weav- 
er's shuttle, and immersing him when she arrived, the angels all 

* The allusion to the childish girl (pargoleita) or any other fleeting vanity, 

" O altra vanitii, con si breve uso," 

is not handsome. It was not the fault of the childish girls that he liked them ; 
and he should not have taunted them, whatever else they might have been. 
What answer could they make to the great poet ? 

Nor does Beatrice make a good figure throughout this scene, whether as a 
woman or an allegory. If she is Theology, or Heavenly Grace, &c. the 
sternness of the allegory should not have been put into female shape ; and 
when she is to be taken in her literal sense (as the poet also tells us she is), 
her treatment of the poor submissive lover, with leave of Signer Rubbi, is no 
better than snubbing; — to say nothing of the vanity with which she pays com- 
pliments to her own beauty. 

I must, furthermore, beg leave to differ with the poet's thinking it an exalted 
symptom on his part to hate every thing he had loved before, out of supposed 
compliment to the transcendental object of his affections and his own awakened 
merits. All the heights of love and wisdom terminate in charity ; and charity, 
by very reason of its knovvii^ the poorness of so many things, hates nothing. 
Besides, it is any thing but handsome or high-minded to turn round upon ob- 
jects whom we have helped to lower with our own gratified passions, and pre- 
tend a right to scorn them. 


the while siiiijino;, " Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."* 
She then delivered liini into the hands of the nyinphs that had 
danced about the car, — nymphs on earth, but stars and cardinal 
virtues in heaven ; a song burst from the lips of the angels ; and 
Faith, Hope, and Charity, calling upon Beatrice to unveil her 
face, she did so ; and Dante quenched the ten-years thirst of his 
eyes in her inetlable beauty. f 

After a while he and Statins were made thoroughly regenerate 
with the waters of Eunoe ; and he felt pure^with a new being, 
and fit to soar into the stars. 

* " Tu asperges me, et mundabor," &.c. " Purge me with hyssop, and I 
shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." — Psalm li. 7. 
t Beatrice had been dead ten years. 




The Paradise or Heaven of Dante, in whose time the received system of 
astronomy was the Ptolemaic, consists of the Seven successive Planets accord- 
ing to that system, or the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and 
Saturn ; of the Eighth Sphere beyond these, or that of the Fixed Stars ; of 
the Primum i»Iobile, or First Mover of them all round the moveless Earth ; 
and of the Empyrean, or Region of Pure Light, in which is the Beatific Vision. 
Each of these ascending spheres is occupied by its proportionate degree of Faith 
and Virtue ; and Dante visits each under the guidance of Beatrice, receiving 
many lessons, as he goes, on theological and other subjects (here left out), and 
being finally admitted, after the sight of Christ and the Virgin, to a glimpse of 
the Great I'irst Cause. 


It was evening now on earth, and morning on the top of 
the hill in Purgatory, when Beatrice having fixed her eyes upon 
tlie sun, Dante fixed his eyes upon hers, and suddenly found him- 
self in Heaven. 

He had been transported by the attraction of love, and Beatrice 
was by his side. 

The poet beheld from where he stood the blaze of the empy- 
rean, and heard the music of the spheres ; yet he was only in 
the first or lowest Heaven, the circle of the orb of the moon. 

This orb, with his new guide, he proceeded to enter. It had 
seemed, outside, as solid, though as lucid, as Diamond ; yet they 
entered it, as sunbeams are admitted into water, without dividing 
the substance. It now appeared, as it enclosed them, like a pearl, 
through the essence of which they saw but dimly ,• and they be- 
held many faces eagerly looking at them, as if about to speak, 
but not more distinct from the surrounding whiteness than pearls 
themselves are from the forehead they adorn.* Dante thought 
them only reflected faces, and turned round to see to whom they 
belonged, when his smiling companion set him right ; and he en- 
tered into discourse with the spirit that seemed the most anxious 
to accost him. It was Piccarda, the sister of his friend Forese 
Donati, whom he had met in the sixth region of Purgatory. He 
did not know her, by reason of her wonderful increase in beauty. 

* A curious and happy image. 

'• Toman de' nostri visi le postille 
Debili si, che perla in bianca fronte 
Non vien men tosto a le nostra pupille : 

Tali vid' 10 piii facce a parlar pronto." 


She and her associates were such as had been Vowed to a Life 
of Chastity and Religion, but had been Compelled by Others to 
Break their Vows. This had been done, in Piccarda's instance, 
by her brother Corso.* On Dante's asking if they did not long 
for a hi^rher state of Bliss, she and her sister-spirits gently smiled ; 
and then answered, vv'ith flices as happy as first love,f that they 
willed only what it pleased God to give them, and therefore were 
truly blest. The poet found by this answer, that every place in 
Heaven was paradise, though the bliss might be of different de- 
o-rees. Piccarda then shewed him the spirit at her side, lustrous 
with all the frlory of the region, Costanza, daughter of the king 
of Sicily, who had been forced out of the cloister to become the 
wife of the Emperor Henry. Having given him this information, 
she began singing Ave Maria; and, while singing, disappeared 
with the rest, as substances disappear in water. ij: 

A loving will transported the two companions, as before, to the 
next circle of Heaven, v»'here they found themselves in the planet 

* " Rodolfo da Tossignano, Hist. Seraph. Relig. P. i. p. 138, as cited by 
Lonibardi, relates the following legend of Piccarda : ' Her brother Corso, in- 
flanicd with rage against his virgin sister, having joined with him Farinata, an 
infamous assassin, and twelve other abandoned ruffians, entered the monastery 
by a ladder, and carried away his sister forcibly to his own house ; and then, 
tearing off her religions habit, compelled her to go in a secular garment to her 
nuptials. Before the spouse of Christ came togetlier with her new husband, 
she knelt down before a crucifix, and recommended her virginity to Christ. 
Soon after, her v/hole body was smJtten with leprosy, so as to strike grief and 
horror into the beholders ; and thus, in a iew days, through the divine disposal, 
phe passed with a palm of virginity to the Lord. Perhaps (adds the worthy 
Franciscan), our poet not being able to certify himself entirely of tliis occur- 
rence, has chosen to pass it over discreetly, by making Piccarda say, ' God 
knows how, after that, my life was framed.' " — Gary, ut sup. p. 137. 

t A lovely simile indeed. 

" Tanto beta 
Ch' arder parea d' amor nel primo foco. 
t Costanza, daughter of Ruggieri, king of Sicily, thus taken out of tlie 
monastery, was mother to the Emperor Frederick the Second. " She was 
fifty years old or more at the time" (says Mr. Cary, quoting from Muratori and 
others) ; " and because it was not credited that she conld have a child at that 
age, she was delivered in a pavilion ; and it was given out, that any lady who 
pleased was at liberty to see her. Many came and saw her, and the suspicion 
ceased." — Translation of Dante, ut sup. p. 137. 


Mercury, the residence of those who had acted rather out of De- 
sire of Fame tlian Love of God. Tlie spirits here, as in the for- 
mer Heaven, crowded towards them, as fish in a clear pond crowd 
to the hand tiiat oiTers them food. Tlieir eyes sparkled with ce- 
lestial joy ; and the more they thought of their joy, the brighter 
they grew ; till one of them who addressed the poet became in- 
distinguishable for excess of splendour. It was the soul of the 
Emperor Justinian. Justinian told him the whole story of the 
Roman empire up to his time ; and then gave an account of one 
of his associates in bliss, Romeo, who had been minister to Ray- 
mond Beranger, Count of Provence. Four daughters had been 
born to Raymond Beranger, and every one became a queen ; and 
all this had been brought about by Romeo, a poor stranger from 
another country. The courtiers, envying Romeo, incited Ray- 
mond to demand of him an account of his stewardship, though he 
had brought his master's treasury twelve fold for every ten it dis- 
bursed. Romeo quitted the court, poor and old ; " and if the 
world," said Justinian, "could know the heart such a man must 
have had, begging his bread as he went, crust by crust — praise 
him as it docs, it v/ould praise him a great deal more."* 

" Ilosanna, Holy God of Sabaoth, 
Superiiliunining with light of light 
The Iiappy fires of those thy Malaholh !"t 

Thus beaan sinffinir the soul of the Emperor Justinian ; and 
then, turning as he sang, vanished with those about him, like 
sparks of fire. 

Dante now found himself, before he was aware, in the third 
Heaven, or planet Venus, the abode of the Amorous4 He only 
knev/ it by the increased loveliness in the face of his com- 
pan ion. 

The spirits in this orb, who came and went in the light of it 

* Probably an allusion to Dante's own wanderings, 
t " Ho::anna Sanctus Deus Sabaoth 
Superillustrans claritate tu^. 
Felices ignes horum Malahoth." 
Malahoih ; Hebrew, kingdoms. 
■ X The epithet is not too strong, as will be seen by the nature of the inhabi- 


like sparks in fire, or like voices chanting in harmony with voice, 
were spun round in circles of delight, each with more or less 
swiftness, according to its share of the beatific vision. Several 
of them came sweeping out of their dance towards the poet who 
had suniT of Love, among whom was his patron, Charles Martel, 
kinn- of Hungary, who shewed him the reason why diversities of 
natures must occur in families ; and Cunizza, sister of the tyrant 
Ezzelino, who was overcome by this her star when on earth ; and 
Folco the Troubadour, whose place was next Cunizza in Heaven ; 
and Rahab the harlot, who favoured the entrance of the Jews 
into the Holy Land, and whose place was next Folco.* Cunizza 
said that she did not at all regret a lot which carried her no 
higher, whatever the vulgar might think of such an opinion. She 
spoke of the glories of the jewel who was close to her, Folco — 
contrasted his zeal with the inertness of her contemptible coun- 
trymen — and foretold the bloodshed that awaited the latter from 
wars and treacheries. The Troubadour, meanwhile, glowed in 
his aspect like a ruby stricken with the sun ; for in heaven joy is 
expressed by effulgence, as on earth by laughter. He confessed 

* Charles Martel, son of the king of Naples and Sicily, and crowned king 
of Hungary', seems to have become acquainted with Dante during the poet's 
youth, when the prince met his royal father in the city of Florence. He was 
brother of Robert, who succeeded the father, and who was the friend of 

" The adventures of Cunizza, overcome by the influence of her star," says 
Cary, " are related by the chronicler Rolandino of Padua, lib. i. cap. 3, in Mu- 
ratori, Rer. Ital. Script, toni. viii. p. 173. She eloped from her tirst husband, 
Richard of St. Boniface, in the company of Sordello (see Purg. canto vi. and 
vii.), with whom she is supposed to have cohabited before her marriage : then 
lived with a soldier of Trevigi, whose wife was living at the same time in the 
eame city ; and, on his being murdered by her brother the tyrant, was by her 
brother married to a nobleman of Braganzo : lastly, when he also had fallen by 
the same hand, she, after her brother's death, was again wedded in Verona." 
— Translation of Dante, ut sup. p. 147. See what Foscolo sajs of her in the 
Discorso sill Tesio, p. 329. 

Folco, the gallant Troubadour, here placed between Cunizza and Rahab, is 
no other than Folques, bishop of Thoulouse, the persecutor of the Albigenses. 
It is of him the brutal anecdote is related, that, being asked, during an indis- 
criminate attack on that people, how the orthodox and heterodox were to be 
distinguished, he said, " Kill all : God will know his own." 

For Rahab, see Joshua, chap. ii. and vi. ; and Hebrews xi. 31. 


the lawless fires of his youth, as great (he said) as those of Dido 
or Hercules ; but added, tliat he had no recollection of them, ex- 
cept a joyous one, not for the fault (which does not come to mind 
in heaven), but for the good which heaven brings out of it. Folco 
concluded with explaining how Rahab had come into the third 
Heaven, and with denouncing the indifference of popes and car- 
dinals (those adulterers of the Church) to every thing but ac- 
cursed monev-settino;.* 

In an instant, before he could think about it, Dante was in the 
fourth Heaven, the sun, the abode of Blessed Doctors of the 
Church. A band of them came encircling him and his guide, 
as a halo encircles the moon, singing a song, the beauty of which, 
like jewels too rich to be exported, was not conveyable by ex- 
pression to mortal fancy. The spirits composing the band were 
those of St. Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, Gratian the Ben- 
edictine, Pietro Lombardo, Solomon, Saint Dionysius the Areopa- 
gite, Paul us Orosius, Boetius, Isidore, the Venerable Bede, Rich- 
ard of St. Victor, and Sigebert of Gemblours. St. Thomas was 
the namer of them to Dante. Their song had paused that he 
might speak ; but when he had done speaking, they began re- 
suming it, one by one, and circling as they moved, like the wheels 
of church clocks that sound one after another with a sweet tink- 
ling, when they summon the hearts of the devout to morning 

* The reader ueed not be required to attend to the extraordinary theological 
disclosures in the whole of the preceding passage, nor yet to consider how 
much more they disclose, than theology or the poet might have desired. 

t These fifteen personages are chiefly theologians and schoolmen, whose 
names and obsolete writings are, for the most part, no longer worth mention. 
The same may be said of the band that comes after them. 

Dante should not have sot thcin dancing. It is impossible (every respect- 
fulness of endeavour notwithstanding) to maintain the gravity of one's imagi- 
natidn at the thought of a set of doctors of the Church, Venerable Bede inclu- 
ded, wheeling about in giddy rapture like so many dancing derAMses, and keep- 
ing time to their ecstatic anilities with voices tinkling like church -clocks. You 
may invest them with as much light or other blessed indistinctness as you 
please ; the beards and the old ages will break through. In vain theologians 
may tell us that our imaginations are not exalted enough. The answer (if 
such a charge must be gravely met) is, that Dante's whole Heaven itself is not 


Again they stopped, and again St. Thomas addressed the poet. 
He was of the order of St. Dominic ; but with generous grace 
he held up the founder of the Franciscans, with his vow of pov- 
erty, as the exam.ple of what a pope should be, and reproved the 
errors of no order but his own. On the other hand, a new circle 
of doctors of the Church making their appearance, and enclosing 
the first as rainbow encloses rainbow, rolling round with it in the 
unison of a two-fold joy, a voice from the new circle attracted 
the poet's ear, as the pole attracts the needle, and Saint Buona- 
ventura, a Franciscan, opened upon the praises of St. Dominic, 
the lovinf minion of Christianily, the holy wrestler, — benign to 
his friends and cruel to his enemies ;* — and so confined his re- 
proofs to his own Franciscan order. He then, as St. Thomas had 
done with the doctors in the inner circle, named those who con- 
stituted the outer : lo wit, Illuminato, and Agostino, and Hugues 
of St. Victor, and Petrus Comestor, and Pope John the Twenty- 
first, Nathan the Prophet, Chrysostom, Ansel mo of Canterbury, 
Donatus who deigned to teach grammar, Raban of Mentz, and 
Joachim of Calabria. The two circles then varied their move- 
ment by wheeling round one another in counter directions ; and 
after they had chanted, not of Bacchus or Apollo, but of three 
Persons in One, St. Thomas, who knew Dante's thoughts by in- 
tuition, again addressed him, discoursing of mysteries human and 
divine, exhorting him to be slow in giving assent or denial to 

exalted enough, however wonderful and beantiful in parts. The pchools, and 
the forms of Catholic worship, held even his ima?rination down. There is more 
heaven in one placid idea of love than in all these dances and tinklings. 

* " Benigno a' suoi, ed a' nimici crudo." 

Cruel indeed ; — the founder of the Inquisition I The " lovinrr miriion" is Mr. 
Gary's excellent tran.slation of " amoroso drutlo.'' But what a minion, and 
how lovin^T ! With fire and sword and devilr)% and no wish (of course) to 
thrust his own will and pleasure, and bad arguments, down other people's 
throats I St. Dominic was a Spaniard. So was Borgia. So was Philip the 
Second. There seems to have been an inherent semi-barbarism in the char- 
acter of Spain, which it has never got rid of to this day. If it were not for 
Cervantes, and some modern patriots, it would hardly appear to belong to the 
right European community. Even Lope de Vega was an inquisitor ; and Men- 
doza, the entertaining author of Lazarillo de Tonnes, a cruel statesman. Cer- 
vantes, however, is enough to sweeten a whole peninsula. 


propositions without examination, and bidding liim warn people 
in general how they presumed to anticipate the divine judgment 
as to who should be saved and who not.* The spirit of Solomon 
tiicn related how souls could resume their bodies glorified ; and the 
two circles uttering a rapturous amen, glowed with such intole- 
rable brightness, that the eyes of Beatrice only were able to sus- 
tain it. Dante gazed on her with a delight ineffable," and suddenly 
found himself in the fifth Heaven. 

It was the planet Mars, the receptacle of those who had Died 
Fighting for the Cross. In the middle of its ruddy light stood a 
cross itself, of enormous dimensions, made of light still greater, 
and exhibiting, first, in the body of it, the Crucified Presence, 
glittering all over with indescribable flashes like lightning ; and 
secondly, in addition to and across the Presence, innumerable 
sparkles of the intensest mixture of white and red, darting to and 
fro throuirh the whole extent of the crucifix. The movement was 
like that of motes in a sunbeam. And as a sweet dinning arises 
from the multitudinous touching of harps and viols, before the 
ear distinguishes the notes, there issued in like manner from the 
whole glittering ferment a harmony indistinct but exquisite, 
which entranced the poet beyond all he had ever felt. He heard 
even the words, " Arise and conquer," as one who hears and 
yet hears not. 

On a sudden, with a glide like a ftiUing star, there ran down 
from the right horn of the Cross to the foot of it, one of the 
lights of this cluster of splendours, distinguishing itself, as it 
went, like flame in alabaster. 

" O flesh of my flesh !" it exclaimed to Dante ; " O super- 
abounding Divine Grace ! when was the door of Paradise ever 
twice opened, as it shall have been to thee ?"■}• 

Dante, in astonishment, turned to Beatrice, and saw such a 

* What a pity the reporter of this advice had not humility enough to apply 
il to himself I 

t " O sanguis mens, o superinfusa 
Gratia Dei, sicut tibi, cui 
Bis unquam eoeli jauua reclusa?" 

The spirit says this in Latin, as if to veil the compliment to the poet in " tho 
obscurity of a learned language." And in truth it is a little strong. 


rapture of delight in her eyes, that he seemed, at that instant, as 
if his own had touched the depth of his acceptance and of his 

The light resumed its speech, but in words too profound in 
their meaning for Dante to comprehend. They seemed to be re- 
turning thanks to God. This rapturous absorption being ended, 
the speaker expressed in more human terms his gratitude to Bea- 
trice ; and then, after inciting Dante to ask his name, declared 
himself thus : 

" O branch of mine, whom I have long desired to behold, I am 
the root of thy stock ; of him thy great-grandsire, who first 
brought from his mother the family-name into thy house, and 
whom thou sawest expiating his sin of pride on the first circle of 
the mountain. Well it befitteth thee to shorten his lonfj sufferinor 
with thy good works. Florence,"]" while yet she was confined 
within the ancient boundary which still contains the bell that 
summons her to prayer, abided in peace, for she was chaste and 
sober. She had no trinkets of chains then, no head-tires, no 
gaudy sandals, no girdles more worth looking at than the wear- 
ers. Fathers were not then afraid of having daughters, for 
fear they should want dowries too great, and husbands before 
their time. Families were in no haste to separate ; nor had 
chamberers arisen to shew what enormities they dared to practise.! 
The heights of Rome had not been surpassed by your tower of 
Uccellatoio, whose fall shall be in proportion to its aspiring. I 
saw Bellincion Berti walking the streets in a leathern girdle fas- 
tened with bone ; and his wife come from her lookinsr-slass with- 
out a painted face. I saw the Nerlis and the Vecchios contented 

* " Che dentro a gli occhi suoi ardeva un riso 
Tal, ch' io pensai co' miei toccar lo fondo 
De la mia grazia e del mio Paradise." ^ 

That is, says Lombard!, " I thought my eyes could not possibly be more fa- 
voured and imjiaradised" (Pensai che non potessero gli occhi miei essere gra- 
ziali ed inii)aradisati niaggiormente) — Variorum edition of Dante, Padua 
1822, vol. iii. p. :J73. 

■f Here ensues the famous description of those earlier times in Florence 
which Dante eulogises at the expense of his own. See the original passage 
with another version, in the Appendix. 


vith the simplest doublets, and their good dames hard at work at 
heir spindles. O happy they ! They were sure of burial in 
heir native earth, and none were left desolate by husbands that 
oved France better than Italy. One kept awake to tend her 
jhild in its cradle, lulling it with the household words that had 
bndled her own infancy. Another, as she sat in the midst of 
ler family, drawing the flax from the distaff, told them stories of 
Croy, and Fiesole, and Rome. It would have been as great a 
vonder, then, to see such a woman as Cianghella, or such a man 
IS Lapo Salterello, as it would now be to meet with a Cincinnatus 
>r a Cornelia.* 

" It was at that peaceful, at that beautiful time," continued the 
>oet's ancestor, " when we all lived in such good faith and fellow- 
hip, and in so sweet a place, that the blessed Virgin vouchsafed 
he first sight of me to the cries of my mother ; and there, in 
""our old Baptistery, I became, at once. Christian and Cacciaguida. 
tly brothers were called Moronto and Eliseo. It was my wife 
hat brought thee, from Valdipado, thy family name of Alighieri. 

then followed the Emperor Conrad, and he made me a knight 
or my good service, and I went with him to fight against the 
vicked Saracen law, whose people usurp the fold that remains 
ost through the fault of the shepherd. There, by that foul crew, 
vas I delivered from the snares and pollutions of the world ; and 
o, from the martyrdom, came to this peace.'' 

Cacciaguida was silent. But his descendant praying to be told 
nore of his family and of the old state of Florence, the beatified 
oldier resumed. He would not, however, speak of his own pre- 
lecessors. He said it would be more becoming to say nothing as 
who they were, or the place they came from. All he disclosed 

* Bellincion Berti was a noble Florentine, of the house of the Ravignani. 
yianghella is said to bave been an abandoned woman, of manners as sliame- 
ess as her morals. Lapo Salterelli, one of tlie co-exiles of Dante, and special- 
^ hated by him, was a personage who appears to have exhibited the rare coin- 
lination of judge and fop. An old commentator, in recording his attention to his 
lair, seems to intimate that Dante alludes to it in contrasting him with Ciu- 
hmatus. If so, Lapo might have reminded the poet of what Cicero says of 
is beloved Capsar ; — that he once saw him scratching the top of his head with 
lie tip of his finger, that he might not discompose the locks. 


was, tliat his father and mother lived near the gate San Piero.*, 
With recard to Florence, he continued, the number of the inhabi- 
tants fit to carry arms was at that time not a fifth of its present! 
amount ; but then the blood of the whole city was pure. It hadi 
not been mixed up with that of Campi, and Certaldo, and Figghine. 
It ran clear in the veins of the humblest mechanic. 

" Oh, how much better would it have been," cried the soul of 
the old Florentine, " had my countrymen still kept it as it was, 
and not brought upon themselves the stench of the peasant knave 
out of Aguglione, and that other from Signa, with his eye to a 
bribe ! Plad Rome done its duty to the emperor, and so preventec 
the factions that have ruined us, Simifonte would have kept its 
beggarly upstart to itself; the Conti would have stuck to theii 
parish of A.cone, and perhaps the Buondelmonti to Valdigrieve^ 
Crude mixtures do as much harm to the body politic as to the 
natural body ; and size is not strength. The blind bull falls 
with a speedier plunge than the blind lamb. One sword ofter 
slashes round about it better than five. Cities themselves perish, 
See what has become of Luni and of Urbisaglia ; and what wil 
soon become of Sinigaglia too, and of Chiusi ! And if cities 
perish, what is to be expected of families ? In my time the Uglii 
the Catellini, the Filippi, were great names. So were the Albe 
richi, the Ormanni, and twenty others. The golden sword oi 

* " Chi ei si fiiro, e onde venner quivi, 
Pill h tacer che ragionare onesto." 

Some think Dante v/as ashamed to speak of these ancestors, from the lowTies 
of their origin ; others that he did not choose to make them a boast, for tli 
height of it. I suspect, with Lombardi, from his general character, and fron 
file willingness he has avowed to make such boasts (see the opening of canti 
xvi.. Paradise, in the original), that while he claimed for them a descent fron 
Iho Romans (see Inferno, canto xv. 73. &c.), he knew them to be poor ii 
fortune, perhaps of humble condition. What follows, in the text of our ab 
Btract, about the purity of the old FIon>ntine blood, even in the veins of thi 
humblest mechanic, may seem to intimate some corroboration of this ; and ifc 
a curious specimen of republican pride and scorn. This horror of one's neigh' 
hours is neither good Christianity, nor surely any very good omen of that Ital 
ian union, of which " Young Italy" wishes to think Dante such a harbingeijii 
All this too, observe, is said in the presence of a vision of Christ on thi 
Cross I 


ighthood was then to be seen in the house of Galigaio. The 
lumn, Verrey, was then a great thing in the herald's eye. 
le Galli, the Sacchetti, were great ; so was the old trunk of the 
Ifucci ; so was that of the peculators who now blush to hear 
a measure of wheat ; and the Sizii and the Arrigucci were 
Lwn in pomp to their civic chairs. Oh, how mighty I saw 
m then, and how low has their pride brought them ! Florence 
those days deserved her name. She J/oz/m/iec^ indeed; and 
: balls of gold were ever at the top of the flower.* And nov/ 
I descendants of these men sit in priestly stalls and grow fat. 
le over-weening Adimari, who are such dragons when their 
s run, and such lambs when they turn, were then of note so 
le, that Albertino Donato was angry with Bellincion, his father- 
law, for making him brother to one of their females. On the 
ler hand, thy foes, the Amidei, the origin of all thy tears 
ough the just anger which has slain the happiness of thy life, 
re honoured in those days ; and the honour was partaken by 
lir friends. O Buondelmonte ! why didst thou break thy troth 
thy first love, and become wedded to another ? Many who are 
N miserable would have been happy, had God given thee to 
i river Ema, when it rose against thy first coming to Florence, 
t the Arno had swept our Palladium from its bridge, and 
)rence was to be the victim on its altar, "f 
Cacciasuida was again silent ; but his descendant beo-o-ed him 
speak yet a little more. He had heard, as he came through 
I nether regions, alarming intimations of the ill fortune that 

■ The Column, Verrey (vair, variegated, checkered with argent and azure), 
I the Balls or (Palle d' oro), were arms of old families. I do not trouble the 
der with notes upon mere family-names, of which nothing else is recorded. 

■ An allusion, apparently acquiescent, to the superstitious popular opinion 
t the peace of Florence was bound up with the statue of Mars on the old 
Ige, at the base of which Buondelmonte was slain. 

>Vith this Buondelmonte the dissensions in Florence were supposed to have 
t begun. Macchiavelli's account of him is, that he was about to marry a 
mg lady of the Amidei family, when a widow of one of the Donati, who 
1 designed her own daughter for him, contrived that he should see her ; the 
[sequence of which was, that he broke his engagement, and was assassina- 
Hisiorie Florentine, lib. ii. 


awaited liim, and he was anxious to know, from so high and cer.s 
tain an authority, what it would really be. | 

Cacciaguida said, " As Hippolytus was forced to depart frorrj 
Athens by the wiles of his cruel step-dame, so must even thoi 
depart out of Florence. Such is the wish, such this very mo 
ment the plot, and soon will it be the deed, of those, the busines! 
of whose lives is to make a traffic of Christ with Rome. Thoi 
shalt quit every thing that is dearest to thee in the world. Tha 
is the first arrow shot from the bow of exile. Thou shalt experi 
ence how salt is the taste of bread eaten at the expense of others 
how hard is the going up and down others' stairs. But wha 
shall most bow thee down, is the worthless and disgustincr com! 
pany with whom thy lot must be partaken ; for they shall all tun 
against thee, the whole mad, heartless, and ungrateful set. Nev 
ertheless, it shall not be long first, before themselves, and no 
thou, shall have cause to hang down their heads for shame. Th( 
brutishness of all they do, will shew how well it became thee tt 
be of no party, but the party of thyself.* 

" Thy first refuge thou shalt owe to the courtesy of the grea 
Lombard, who bears the Ladder charged with the Holy Bird.- 
So benignly shall he regard thee, that in the matter of asking an( 
receiving, the customary order of things shall be reversed be 

* " Tu lascerai ogni cosa diletta 

Pill caramente ; e questo e quelle strale 
Che 1' arco de 1' esilio pria saetta. 

Tu proverai si come sa di sale 
Lo pane altrui, e com' e duro calle 
Lo scendere e 'I salir per 1' altrui scale. 

E quel che piti ti graveri le spalle, 
Sari la compagnia malvagia e scempia 
Con la qual tu cadrai in questa valle : 

Che tutta ingrata, lutta matta ed empia 
Si farii contra te : ma poco appresso 
Ella, uon tu, n' avri, rossa la tempia. 

Di sua bestialitate il suo processo * 
FarJi la pruova, si ch' a te fia belle 
Averti fatta parte per te stesso." 

t The Roman eagle. These are the arms of the Scaligers of Verona. 


Lween you two, and the gift anticipate the request. With him 
thou shalt behoki the mortal, born under so strong an influence 
Df this our star, that the nations shall take note of him. They 
a,re not aware of him yet, by reason of his tender age ; but ere 
the Gascon practise on the great Henry, sparkles of his worth 
shall break forth in his contempt of money and of ease ; and 
^vhen his munificence appears in all its lustre, his very enemies 
shall not be able to hold their tongues for admiration.* Look 
thou to this second benefactor also ; for many a change of the 
lots of people shall he make, both rich and poor ; and do thou 
bear in mind, but repeat not, what further I shall now tell thee 
Df thy life." Here the spirit, says the poet, foretold many things 
which afterwards appeared incredible to their very beholders ; — 
and then added : " Such, my son, is the heart and mystery of the 
things thou hast desired to learn. The snares will shortly gather 
about thee ; but wish not to change places with the contrivers ; 
for thy days will outlast those of their retribution." 

Again was the spirit silent ; and yet again once more did his 
descendant question him, anxious to have the advice of one that 
saw so far, and that spoke the truth so purely, and loved him so 

" Too plainly, my father," said Dante, " do I see the time com- 
ing, when a blow is to be struck me, heaviest ever to the man 
that is not true to himself. For which reason it is fit that T so 
far arm myself beforehand, that in losing the spot dearest to me 
on earth, I do not let my verses deprive me of every other refuge. 
Now I have been down below through the region whose grief is 
without end ; and I have scaled the mountain from the top of 
which I was lifted by my lady's eyes ; and I have come thus far 
through heaven, from luminary to luminary ; and in the course 
of this my pilgrimage I have heard things which, if I tell again, 
may bitterly disrelish with many. Yet, on the other hand, if I 
prove but a timid friend to truth, I fear I shall not survive with 
the generations by whom the present times will be called times 
of old." 

The light that enclosed the treasure which its descendant had 

* A prophecy of the reuown of Can Grande della Scala, who had received 
Dante at his court. 


found in heaven, first flashed at this speech like a golden mirror 
af^ainst the sun, and then it replied thus : 

" Let the consciences blush at thy words that have reason to 
blush. _Do thou, far from shadow of misrepresentation, make 
manifest all which thou hast seen, and let the sore places be 
galled that deserve it. Thy bitter truths shall carry with them 
vital nourishment — thy voice, as the wind does, shall smite loud- 
est the loftiest summits ; and no little shall that redound to thy 
praise. It is for this reason that, in all thy journey, thou hast 
been shewn none but spirits of note, since little heed would have 
been taken of such as excite doubt by their obscurity." 

The spirit of Cacciaguida now relapsed into the silent joy of 
its reflections, and the poet was standing absorbed in the mingled 
feelings of his own, when Beatrice said to him, " Change the cur- 
rent of thy thoughts. Consider how near I am in heaven to one 
that repayeth every wrong." 

Dante turned at the sound of this comfort, and felt no longer 
any other wish than to look upon her eyes ; but she said, with a 
smile, " Turn thee round again, and attend. I am not thy only 
Paradise." And Dante again turned, and saw his ancestor pre- 
pared to say more. 

Cacciaguida bade him look again on the Cross, and he should 
see various spirits, as he named them, flash over it like lightning ; 
and they did so. That of Joshua, which was first mentioned, 
darted along the Cross in a stream. The light of Judas Macca- 
beus went spinning, as if joy had scourged it."^ Charlemagne 
and Orlando swept away together, pursued by the poet's eyes. 
Guglielmo-j- followed, and Rinaldo, and Godfrey of Bouillon, and 
Robert Guiscard of Naples ; and the light of Cacciaguida him- 
self darted back to its place, and, uttering another sort of voice, 

* " Letizia era ferza del paldo," 

+ Supposed to bo one of the early Williams, Princes of Orange ; but it is 
doubted whether the First, in the time of Charlemagne, or the Second, who 
followed Godfrey of Bouillon. Mr. Gary thinks the former ; and the mention 
of his kinsman Rinaldo (Ariosto's Paladin?) seems to confirm his opinion; yet 
the situation of the name in the text brings it nearer to Godfrey ; and Rinoardo 
(the name of Rinaldo in Dante) might possibly mean *' Raimbaud," the kins- 
man and associate of the second William. Robert Guiscard is the Norman 
who conquered Naples. 


began showing how sweet a singer he too was amidst the glitter- 
ing choir. 

Dante turned to share the joy with Beatrice, and, by the lovely 
paling of her cheek, like a maiden's wiien it delivers itself of the 
burden of. a blush,* knew that he was in another and whiter star. 
It was the planet Jupiter, the abode of blessed Administrators of 

Here he beheld troops of dazzling essences, warbling as they 
flew, and shaping their flights hither and thither, like birds when 
they rise from the banks of rivei-s, and rejoice with one another 
in new-found pasture. But the figures into which the flights 
were shaped were of a more special sort, being mystical compo- 
sitions of letters of the alphabet, now a d, now an i, now an l, 
and so on, till the poet observed that they completed the whole 
text of Scripture, which says, DUigite justiiiam, qui jiidicatis ier- 
rmn — (Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth). The 
last letter, m, they did not decompose like the rest, but kept it 
entire for a while, and glowed so deeply within it, that the silvery 
orb thereabout seemed burning with gold. Other lights, with a 
song of rapture, then descended like a crown of lilies, on the top 
of the letter ; and then, from the body of it, rose thousands of 
sparks, as from a sliaken firebrand, and, gradually expanding into 
the form of an eagle, the lights which had descended like lilies 
distributed themselves over the whole bird, encrusting it with 
rubies flashing in the sun. 

But what, says the poet, was never yet heard of, written, or 
imagined, — the beak of the eagle spoke ! It uttered many minds 
in one voice, just as one heat is given out by many embers ; and 
proclaimed itself to have been thus exalted, because it united 
justice and mercy while on earth. 

Dante addressed this splendid phenomenon, and prayed it to 
ease his mind of the perplexities of its worldly reason respecting 

* Exquisitely beautiful feeling ! 

" Quale e 11 trasmufure in picciol varco 
Di tempo in bianca donna, quando '1 volto 
Suo si discarclii di vergogna il carco." 

What follows, respecting letters of the alphabet and the Roman eagle, iii in a 
very diflerent taste, though mixed with many beauties. 

11 ' • 


the Divine nature and government, and the exclusion from hea- 
yen of goodness itself, unless within the Christian pale. 

The celestial bird, rousing itself into motion with delight, like 
a falcon in the conscious energy of its will and beauty, when, 
upon being set free from its hood, it glances above it into the 
air, and claps its self-congratulating wings, answered neverthe- 
less somewhat disdainfully, that it was impossible for man, in his 
mortal state, to comprehend such things ; and that the astonish- 
ment he feels at them, though doubtless it would be excusable 
under other circumstances, must rest satisfied with the affirma- 
tions of Scripture. 

The bird then bent over its questioner, as a stork does over 
the nestling newly fed when it looks up at her, and then wheel- 
ing round, and renewing its warble, concluded it with saying, 
" As my notes are to thee that understandest them not, so are the 
judgments of the Eternal to thine earthly brethren. None ever 
yet ascended into these heavenly regions that did not believe in 
Christ, either after he was crucified or before it. Yet many, 
who call Christ ! Christ ! shall at the last day be found less near 
to him than such as knew him not. What shall the kings of 
Islam say to your Christian kings, when they see the book of 
judgment opened, and hear all that is set down in it to their dis- 
honour ? In that book shall be read the desolation which Albert . 
will inflict on Bohemia :* — in that book, the woes inflicted on 

* The emperor Albert the First, when he obtained Bohemia for his son 
Rodolph. Of the sovereigns that follow, he who adulterated his people's 
money, and died by the " hog's teeth" (a wild boar in hunting), is the French 
king, Philip the Fourth ; the quarrelling fools of England and Scotland are 
Edward the First and Baliol ; the luxurious Spaniard is Ferdinand the Fourth, 
said to have killed iiiniself in his youth by intemperance ; the eifeminate Bo- 
hemian, Winceslaus the Second ; the " lame wretch of Jerusalem," Charles 
the Second of Naples, titular king of Jerusalem ; the cowardly warder of the 
Isle of Fire (Sicily), Frederick of the house of Arragon ; his filthy brother and 
uncle, James of Arragon and James of Minorca ; the Portuguese (according 
to the probable guess of Cary), the rebellious son of King Dionysius ; the Nor- 
wegian, Ilaco; and the Dalmatian, Wladislaus, but why thus accused, not 
known. Aa to Hungary, its crown was then disputed by rival princes ; Na- 
varre was thinking of shakiu|[ off the yoke of France ; and Nicosia and 
Famagosta, in Cyprus, were complaining of their feeble sovereign, Henry the 



Paris by that adulterator of his kingdom's money, who shall die 
by the hog's teeth : — in that book, the ambition which makes 
such mad fools of the Scotch and English kings, that they cannot 
keep within their bounds : — in that book, the luxury of the Span- 
iard, and the effeminate life of the Bohemian, who neither knows 
nor cares for any thing worthy : — in that book, the lame wretch 
of Jerusalem, whose value will be expressed by a unit, and his 
worthlessness by a million : — in that book, the avarice and cow- 
ardice of the warder of the Isle of Fire, in which old Anchises 
died ; and that the record may answer the better to his abundant 
littleness, the writing shall be in short-hand ; and his uncle's and 
his brother's filthy doings shall be read in that book — they who 
have made such rottenness of a good old house and two diadems ; 
and there also shall the Portuguese and the Norwegian be known 
for what they are, and the coiner of Dalmatia, who beheld with 
such covetous eyes the Venetian ducat. O blessed Hungary, 
if thou wouldst resolve to endure no longer ! — O blessed Na- 
varre, if thou wouldst but keep out the Frenchman with thy moun- 
tain walls ! May the cries and groans of Nicosia and Famagosta 
be an earnest of those happier days, proclaiming as they do the 
vile habits of the beast, who keeps so close in the path of the herd 
his brethren." 

The blessed bird for a moment was silent ; but as, at the going 
down of the sun, the heavens are darkened, and then break forth 
into innumerable stars which the sun lights up,* so the splen- 
dours within the figure of the bird suddenly became more splen- 
did, and broke forth into songs too beautiful for mortal to re- 

O dulcet love, that dost shew thee forth in smiles, how ardent 
was thy manifestation in the lustrous sparkles which arose out 
of the mere thoughts of those pious hearts ! 

After the gems in that glittering figure had ceased chiming 
their angelic songs, the poet seemed to hear the murmur of a 
river which comes falling from rock to rock, and shews, by the 
fulness of its tone, the abundance of its mountain spring ; and as 
the sound of the guitar is modulated on the neck of it, and the 

* The opinion in th« time of Dante. 


breath of the pipe is accordant to the spiracle from which it is- 
sues so the murmuring within the eagle suddenly took voice, 
and, risino- througli the neck, again issued forth in words. The 
bird now bade the poet fix his attention on its eye ; because, of 
all the fires that composed its figure, those that sparkled in the 
eye were the noblest. The spirit (it said) which Dante beheld 
in the pupil was that of the royal singer who danced before the 
ark, now enjoying the reward of his superiority to vulgar dis- 
cernment. Of the five spirits that composed the eyebrow, the one 
nearest the beak was Trajan, now experienced above all others in 
the knowledge of what it costs not to follow Christ, by reason of his 
having been in hell before he was translated to heaven. Next to 
Trajan wa§ Hezekiah, whose penitence delayed for him the hour of 
his death : next Hezekiah, Constantino, though, in letting the pope 
become a prince instead of a pastor, he had unwittingly brought de- 
struction on the world : next Constantino, William the Good of Si- 
cily, whose death is not more lamented than the lives of those who 
contest his crown : and lastly, next William, Riphseus the Tro- 
jan. " What erring mortal," cried the bird, " would believe it 
possible to find Riphceus the Trojan among the blest ? — but so it 
is ; and he now knows more respecting the divine grace than 
mortals do, though even he discerns it not to the depth."* 

The bird again relapsing into silence, appeared to repose on 
the happiness of its thoughts, like the lark which, after quiver- 
ing and expatiating through all its airy warble, becomes mute and 
content, having satisfied its soul to the last drop of its sweetness. f 

* All this part about the eagle, who, it seems, is beheld only in profile, and 
who bids the poet " mind his eye," in the pupil of which is King David, while 
the eyebrow consists of orthodox sovereigns, including Riphaeus the Trojan, is 
irresistibly ludicrous. No consideration can or ought to hinder us from laugh- 
ing at it. It was mere party-will in Dante to lug it in ; and his perverseness 
injured his fancy, as it deserved. 

In the next passage the real poet resumes himself, and with what relief to 
one's feelings ! 

t Most beautiful is this simile of the lark : 

" Qual lodoletta che 'n aere si spazia 
Prima cantando, e poi tace contenta 
De r ultima dolcezza che la sazia." 

In the PentameroTi and Pentalogia, Petrarch is made to say, " All the 


But again Dante could not lielp speaking, being astonished to 
find Pairans in Heaven ; and once more the celestial fiirure in- 
dulgcd liis curiosity. It told him that Trajan had been delivered 
from hell, for his love of justice, by the prayers of St. Gregory ; 
and that Riphrcus, for the same reason, had been gifted with a 
prophetic knowledge of the Redemption ; and then it ended with 
a rapture on the hidden mysteries of Predestination, and on the 
joy of ignorance itself when submitting to the divine will. The 
Iwo blessed spirits, meanwhile, whom the bird mentioned, like 
the fingers of sweet lutenist to sweet singer, when they quiver to 
his warble as it goes, manifested the delight they experienced by 
movements of accord simultaneous as the twinkling of two 

Dante turned to receive his own final delight from the eyes of 
Beatrice, and he found it, though the customary smile on her face 
was no longer there. She told him that her beauty increased 
with such intensity at every fresh ascent among the stars, that he 
would no longer have been able to bear the smile ; and they 
were now in the seventh Heaven, or the planet Saturn, the re- 
treat of those who had passed their lives in Holy Contemplation. 

verses that ever were written on the nightingale are scarcely worth the beauti- 
ful triad oi' this divine poet on the lark [and then he repeats them]. In the 
first of them, do jou not see the trembling of her wings against the sky? As 
often as I repeat them, my ear is satisfied, my heart (like hers) contented. 

" Boccaccio. — I agree with you in the perfect and unrivalled beauty of the 
first ; but in the tiiird there is a redundance. Is not conterita quite enough 
without che la sazia ? The picture is before us, the sentiment within us; and, 
behold, we kick when we are full of manna. 

" Petrarch. — I acknowledge the correctness and propriety of your remark ; 
and yet beauties in poetry must be examined as carefully as blemishes, and 
even more." — p. 92. 

Perhaps Duute would have argued that sazia expresses the sa 'ety itself, so 
that the very superfluousness becomes a propriety. 

* " E come a buon cantor buon citarista 
Fa seguitar lo guizzo de la corda 
In che pill di piacer lo canto acquista ; 

Si, mt'utre che parlC), mi si ricorda, 
Ch' io vidi le duo luci benedette, 
I'ur come batter d' occhi si concorda, 

Con le parole muover le fiammette." 


In this crystal sphere, called after the name of the monarch 
who reigned over the Age of Innocence, Dante looked up, and 
beheld a ladder, the hue of which was like gold when the sun 
glisters it, and the height so great that its top was out of sight ; 
and down the steps of this ladder he saw coming such multitudes 
of shining spirits, that it seemed as if all the lights of heaven 
must have been there poured forth ; but not a sound was in the 
whole splendour. It was spared to the poet for the same reason 
that he missed the smile of Beatrice. When they came to a cer- 
tain step in the ladder, some of the spirits flew off it in circles or 
other careers, like rooks when they issue from their trees in the 
morning to dry their feathers in the sun, part of them going away 
without returning, others returning to the point they left, and 
others contenting themselves with flying round about it. One of 
them came so near Dante and Beatrice, and brightened with such 
ardour, that the poet saw it was done in affection towards them, 
and begged the loving spirit to tell them who it was. 

" Between the two coasts of Italy," said the spirit, " and not 
far from thine own country, the stony mountains ascend into a 
ridge so lofty that the thunder rolls beneath it. Catria is its 
name. Beneath it is a consecrated cell ; and in that cell I was 
called Pietro Damiano.* I so devoted myself to the service of 
God, that with no other sustenance than the juice of the olive, I 
forgot both heat and cold, happy in heavenly meditation. That 
cloister made abundant returns in its season to these granaries of 
the Lord ; but so idle has it become now, that it is fit the world 
should know its barrenness. The days of my mortal life were 
drawing to a close, when I was besought and drawn into wearing 
the hat which descends every day from bad head to worse. f St. 
Peter and St. Paul came lean and barefoot, getting their bread 
where they could ; but pastors now-a-days must be lifted from 

* A corrector of clerical abuses, who, thoiTgh a cardinal, and much employed 
in public affairs, preferred the simplicity of a private life. He has left writings, 
the eloquence of which, according to Tiraboschi, is " worthy of a better age." 
Petrarch also makes honourable mention of him. See Cary, ut sup. p. 169- 
Dante lived a good while in the monastery of Catria, and is said to have fin- 
ished his poem there. — Lomhardi in loc. vol. iii. p. 547. 

t The cardinal's hat. 



the ground, uiul liuvc usliers going before them, and train-bearers 
behind them, and ride upon palfreys covered witli tiieir spreading 
mantles, so that two beasts go under one skin.* O Lord, how 
long !" 

At these words Dante saw more splendours come pourinfr down 
the ladder, and wheel round and round, and become at every 
wheel more beautifuL The whole dazzling body then gathered 
round the indignant speaker, and shouted something in a voice so 
tremendous, that the poet could liken it to nothing on earth. The 
thunder was so overwhelming, that he did not even hear what 
they said.f 

Pallid and stunned, he turned in affright to Beatrice, who com- 
forted him as a mother comforts a child that wants breath to 
speak. The shout was prophetic of the vengeance about to over- 
take the Church. Beatrice then directed his attention to a multi- 
tude of small orbs, which increased one another's beauty by inter- 
changing their splendours. They enclosed the spirits of those 
who most combined meditation with love. One of them was 
Saint Benedict ; and others Macarius and Romoaldo.ij: The light 
of St. Benedict issued forth from among its companions to ad- 
dress the poet ; and after explaining how its occupant was unable 
farther to disclose himself, inveighed against the degeneracy of 
the religious orders. It then rejoined its fellows, and the whole 
company clustering into one meteor, swept aloft like a whirlwind. 
Beatrice beckoned the poet to ascend after them. He did so, 

* " Si che duo bestie van sott' una pelle." 

t " Dintorno a questa (voce) venuero e fermarsi, 
E fero un grido di si alto suono, 
Che non potrebbe qui assomigliarsi : 

N6 io lo 'ntesi, si mi vinse il tuono." 

Around this voice they flocked, a mighty crowd, 
And raised a shout so huge, that earthly wonder 
Knoweth no Hkeness for a peal so loud ; 

Nor could I hear the words, it spoke such thunder. 

If a Longinus had written after Dante, he would have put this passage into his 
treatise on the Sublime. 

t Benedict, the founder of the order called after his name. Macarius, an 
Egj'ptian monk and moralist. Romoaldo, founder of the Camaldoli. 


gifted with tlie usual virtue by her eyes ; and found himself in 
the twin light of the Gemini, the constellation that presided over 
his birth. He was now in the region of the fixed stars. 

" Tliou art now," said his guide, " so near the summit of thy 
prayers, that it behoves thee to take a last look at things below 
thee, and see how little they should account in thine eyes." 
Dante turned his eyes downwards through all the seven spheres, 
and saw the earth so diminutive, that he smiled at its miserable 
appearance. Wisest, thought he, is the man that esteems it least ; 
and truly worthy he that sets his thoughts on the world to come. 
He now saw the moon without those spots in it which made him 
formerly attribute the variation to dense ajid rare. He sustained 
the brightness of the face of the sun, and discerned all the signs 
and motions and relative distances of the planets. Finally, he 
saw, as he rolled round with the sphere in which he stood, and 
by virtue of his gifted sight, the petty arena, from hill to harbour, 
which filled his countrymen with such ferocious ambition ; and 
then he turned his eyes to the sweet eyes beside him.* 

Beatrice stood wrapt in attention, looking earnestly towards the 
south, as if she expected some appearance. She resembled the 
bird that sits among the dewy leaves in the darkness of night, 

* The reader of English poetry will be reminded of a passage in Cowley ; 

" Lo, I mount ; and lo, 
How small the biggest parts of earth's proud title shew ! 

Where shall I find the noble British land 1 
Lo, I at last a northern speck espy, 
Which in the sea does lie, 
And seems a grain o' the sand. 
For this will any sin, or bleed? 
Of civil wars is this the meed ? 
And is it this, alas, which we. 
Oh, irony of words ! do call Great Bx'-ittanie ?" 

And he afterwards, on reaching higher depths of silence, says very finely, and 
with a beautiful intimation of the all-inclusiveness of the Deity by the use of 
a singular instead of a plural verb, — 

"Where am I now? angels and God is here." 

All which follows in Dante, up to the appearance of Saint Peter, is full of 
grandeur and loveliness. 


yearning for the coming of the morning, that she may again be- 
hold her young, and have light by which to seek the food, that 
renders her fatioue for thcni a iov. So stood Beatrice, lookinir ; 
wiiich caused Dante to watch in the same direction, with the feel- 
ings of one that is already possessed of some new delight by the 
assuredness of his expectation.* 

The quarter on which they were gazing soon became brighter 
and brighter, and Beatrice exclaimed, " Behold the armies of the 
triumph of Christ !" Her face appeared all fire, and her eyes 
so full of love, that the poet could tind no words to express them. 

As the moon, when the depths of heaven are serene with her 
fulness, looks abroad smiling among her eternal handmaids the 
stars, that paint every gulf of the great hollow with beauty ;f so 
brightest, above myriads of splendours around it, appeared a sun 
which gave radiance to them all, even as our earthly sun gives 
light to the constellations. 

'' O Beatrice !"' exclaimed Dante, overpowered, " sweet and 
beloved guide !" 

" Overwhelming," said Beatrice, " is the virtue with which 
nothing can compare. What thou hast seen is ihc W'isilom and 

* " Come r augello intra 1' amate fronde, 
Posato al nido de' suoi dole! nati 
La notte che le cose ci nasconde, 

Che per veder gVi aspetti desiati, 
E per trovar lo cibo onde gli pasca, 
In che i gravi labor gli sono aggrati, 

Previene '1 tempo in su I' aperta frasca, 
E con ardente affetto 11 sole aspetta, 
Fiso guardando pur che 1' alba nasca 

Cosi la donna niia si stava eretta 
E attenta, involta in ver la plaga 
Sotto la quale il sol mostra men frelta: 

Si che veggcndola io sospcsa e vaga, 
Fecimi quale 6 quei che disiando 
Altro vorria, e sperando s' appaga." 

t *' Quale ne' plenilunii sercni 
Trivia ride tra le Ninfe eterne, 
Che dipingono '1 ciel per tutti i scni." 


the Power, by whom the path between heaven and earth has been 
laid open."* 

Dante's soul — like the fire v/hich falls to earth out of the 
swollen thunder-cloud, instead of rising -according to the wont of 
fire — had grown too great for his still mortal nature ; and he 
could afterwards find within him no memory of what it did. 

"Open thine eyes," said Beatrice, " and see me now indeed. 
Thou hast beheld things that empower thee to sustain my smiling." 

Dante, while doing as he was desired, felt like one who has 
suddenly waked up from a dream, and endeavours in vain to rec- 
ollect it. 

" Never," said he, " can that moment be erased from the book 
of the past. If all the tongues were granted me that were fed 
with the richest milk of Polyhymnia and her sisters, they 
could not express one thousandth part of the beauty of that di- 
vine smile,^ or of the thorough perfection which it made of the 
v/hole of her divine countenance." 

But Beatrice said, " Why dost thou so enamour thee of this 
face, and lose the sight of the beautiful guide, blossoming beneath 
the beams of Christ ? Behold the rose, in which the Word was 
made flesh. f Behold the lilies, by whose odour the way of life 
is tracked." 

Dante looked, and gave battle to the sight with his weak eyes.:}: 
As flowers on a cloudy day in a meadow are suddenly lit up 
by a gleam of sunshine, he beheld multitudes of splendours ef- 
fulgent with beaming rays that smote on them from above, though 
he could not discern the source of the effulgence. He had in- 
voked the name of the Virgin when he looked ; and the gracious 
fountain of the light had drawn itself higher up within the 
heaven, to accommodate the radiance to his fliculties. He then 
beheld the Virgin herself bodily present,— her who is fairest now 
in heaven, as she was on earth ; and while his eyes were being 
painted with her beauty,§ there fell on a sudden a seraphic ligln 

* lie lias seen Christ in his own iinreflected person. 
1 The Virgin Mary. 

^ " Mi rendei 

A la battaglia de' debili cigli." 

§ " Ambo le luci mi dipinse." 


from heaven, which, spinning into a circle as it came, formed a 
diadem round licr head, still spinning, and warbling as it spun. 
The sweetest melody that ever drew the soul to it on earth would 
have seemed like the splitting of a thunder-cloud, compared with 
the music that sung around the head of that jewel of Paradise.* 

'' I am Angelic Love," said the light, " and I spin for joy of 
the womb in which our Hope abided ; and ever, O Lady of 
Heaven, must I thus attend thee, as long as thou art pleased to 
attend thy Son, journeying in his loving-kindness from sphere to 

All the other splendours now resounded the name of Mary. 
The Virgin began ascending to pursue the path of her Son ; 
and Dante, unable to endure her beauty as it rose, turned his 
eyes to the angelical callers on the name of Mary, who remained 
yearning after her with their hands outstretched, as a babe yearns 
after the bosom withdrawn from his lips. Then rising after her 
themselves, they halted ere they went out of sight, and sung 
" O Queen of Heaven" so sweetly, that the delight never quitted 
the air. 

A flame now approached and thrice encircled Beatrice, singing 
all the while so divinely, that the poet could retain no idea ex- 
pressive of its sweetness. Mortal imagination cannot unfold 
such wonder. It was Saint Peter, whom she had besought to 
come down from his higher sphere, in order to catechise and dis- 
course with her companion on the subject of faith. 

The catechising and the discourse ensued, and were concluded 
by the Apostle's giving the poet the benediction, and encircling 
his forehead thrice with his holy light. " So well," says Dante, 
" was he pleased with my answers. "f 

* " Qualiinque melodia piii dolce suona 
Qua giu, e piii a se 1' anima tira, 
Parebbe nube che squarciata tuona, 
Comparata al sonar di quella lira 
Onde si coronava il bel zaffiro 
Del quale il cicl piii chiaro s' inzaffira." 

t " Benedicendomi caiitando 

Tre volte cinse me, si com' io tacqui, 
L' Apostolico lume, al cui comando 
Io avca detto ; si ncl dir gli piacqui." 


" If ever," continued the Florentine, " the sacred poem to 
which heaven and earth have set their hands, and which for 
years past has wasted my flesh in the writing, shall prevail 
ao-ainst the cruelty that shut me out of the sweet fold in which I 
slept like a lamb, wishing harm to none but the wolves that beset 
it, — with another voice, and in another guise than now, will I re- 
turn, a poet, and standing by the fount of my baptism, assume 
the crown that belongs to me ; for I there first entered on the 
faith which gives souls to God ; and for that faith did Peter thus 
encircle my forehead."* 

A flame enclosing Saint James now succeeded to that of Saint 
Peter, and after greeting his predecessor as doves greet one an- 
other, murmuring and moving round, proceeded to examine the 
mortal visitant on the subject of Hope. The examination was 

It was this passage, and the one that follows it, which led Foscolo to suspect 
that Dante wished to lay claim to a divine mission ; an opinion which has ex- 
cited great indignation among the orthodox. See his Discorso sul Testo, ut 
sup. pp. 64, 77-90 and 335-338 ; and the preface of the Milanese Editors to 
the " Convito" of Dante, — Opere Minori, l2mo, vol ii. p. xvii. Foscolo's con- 
jecture seems hardly borne out by the context ; but I think Dante had bold- 
ness and self-estimation enough to have advanced any claim whatsoever, 
had events turned out as he expected. What man but himself (supposing 
him the believer he professed to be) would have thought of thus making him- 
self free of the courts of Heaven, and constituting St. Peter his applauding 
catechist I 

* The verses quoted in the preceding note conclude the twenty-fourth canto 
of Paradise ; and those, of which the passage just given is a translation> com- 
mence the twenty-fifth : 

" Se mai continga, ehe 'I poema sacra 
, Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra 

Si che ni' ha fatto per piii anni macro, 

Vinca la crudeltk che fuor mi serra 
Del bello ovile ov' io dormi' a^nello 
Nimico a' lupi che gli danno guerra ; 

Con altra voce omai, con altro vello 
Ritornero poeta, ed in sul fonte 
Del niio battesmo prender6 '1 capello : 

Perocch^ ne la fede che fa conte 
L' anime a Dio, quiv' entra' io, e poi 
Pietro per lei s\ mi girO la fronte." 


closed amidst resounding anthems of " Let their hope be in 
thee;"* and a third apostolic flame ensued, enclosing Saint John, 
who completed the ciftechism with the topic of Charity. Dante 
acquitted himself with skill throughout ; the spheres resounded 
with songs of •' Holy, holy," Beatrice joining in the warble ; and 
the poet suddenly found Adam beside him. The parent of the 
Imman race knew by intuition what his descendant wished to 
learn of him ; and manifesting his assent before he spoke, as an 
animal sometimes does by movements and quiverings of the flesh 
within its coat, corresponding with its good-will,f told him, that 
his fall was not owing to the fruit which he tasted, but to the vio- 
lation of the injunction not to taste it ; that he remained in the 
Limbo on hell-borders upwards of five thousand years ; and that 
the language he spoke had become obsolete before the days of 

The gentle fire of Saint Peter now began to assume an awful 
brightness, such as the planet Jupiter might assume, if Mars and 
it were birds, and exchanged the colour of their plumage. J Si- 
lence fell upon the celestial choristers ; and the Apostle spoke 
thus : 

" Wonder not if thou seest me change colour. Thou wilt see, 
while I speak, all which is round about us colour in like manner. 
He who usurps my place on earth, — my place, 1 say, — ay, mine, 

* " Sperent in te." Psalm ix. 10. The English version says, " And they 
that know thy name will put their trust in thee." 

t " Tal volta un animal coverto broo-lia 
S\ che 1' alfetto convien che si paia 
Per lo seguir che face a lui la 'nvoglia." 

A natural, but strange, and surely not sufficiently dignified image for the occa- 
sion. It is difficult to be quite content with a former one, in which the greet- 
ings of St. Peter and St. James are compared to those of doves murmuring 
and sidling round about one another ; though Christian sentiment may warrant 
it, if we do not too strongly present the Apostles to one's imagination. 

X " Tal ne la sembianza sua divenne, 
Qual diverebbe Giove, s' egli e Marte 
Fossero augelli e cambiassersi pcnne." 

Nobody who opened the Commedia for the first time at this fantastical image 
would suppose the author was a great poet, or expect the tremendous passage 
that ensues I 



— which before God is now vacant, — has converted the city in 
which my dust lies buried into a common-sewer of filth and 
blood ; so that the fiend who fell from hence rejoices himself down 

At these words of the Apostle the whole face of Heaven was 
covered with a blush, red as dawn or sunset ; and Beatrice 
changed colour, like a maiden that shrinks in alarm from the re- 
port of blame in another. The eclipse was like that which took 
place when the Supreme died upon the Cross. 

Saint Peter resumed with a voice not less awfully changed 
than his appearance : 

" Not for the purpose of being sold for money was the spouse 
of Christ fed and nourished with my blood, and with the blood of 
Linus, — the blood of Cletus. Sextus did not bleed for it, nor 
Pius, nor Callixtus, nor Urban ; men, for whose deaths all Chris- 
tendom wept. They died that souls might be innocent and go to 
Heaven. Never was it intention of ours, that the sitters in the 
holy chair should divide one half of Christendom against the 
other ; should turn my keys into ensigns of war against the faith- 
ful ; and stamp my very image upon mercenary and lying docu- 
ments, which make me, here in Heaven, blush and turn cold to 
think of. Arm of God, why sleepest thou ? Men out of Gas- 
cony and Cahors are even now making ready to drink our blood. 
O lofty beginning, to what vile conclusion must thou come ! But 
the high Providence, which made Scipio the sustainer of the Ro- 
man sovereignty of the world, will fail not its timely succour. 
And thou, my son, that for weight of thy mortal clothing must 
again descend to earth, see thou that thou openest thy mouth, and 
hidest not from others what has not been hidden from thyself." 

As wliite and thick as the snows go streaming athwart the air 
when the sun is in Capricorn, so the angelical spirits that had 
been gathered in the air of Saturn streamed away after the Apos- 
tie, as he turned with the other saints to depart ; and the eyes of 
Dante followed them till they became viewless.* 

« In spite of the nnheavenly nature of invective, of something of a lurking 
conceit in the making an eclipse out of a blush, and in the positive bathos, and 
I fear almost indecent irrelevancy of the introduction of Beatrice at all on 
Buch an occasion, much more under the feeble aspect of one young lady blush- 


The divine eyes of Beatrice recalled him to herself; and at 
the same instant the two companions found themselves in the ninth 
Heaven or Primum Mobile^ the last of the material Heavens, and 
the mover of those beneath it. 

Here he had a glimpse of the divine essence, in likeness of a 
point of inconceivably sharp brightness enringed with the angelic 
hierarchies. All earth, and heaven, and nature, hung from it. 
Beatrice explained many mysteries to him connected with that 
sight : and then vehemently denounced the false and foolish teach- 
ers that quit the authority of the Bible for speculations of their 
own, and degrade the preaching of the gospel with ribald jests, 
and legends of Saint Anthony and his pig.* 

Returning, however, to more celestial thoughts, her face be- 
came so full of beauty, that Dante declares he must cease to en- 
deavour to speak of it, and that he doubts whether the sight can 
ever be thoroughly enjoyed by any save its Maker. f Her look 
carried him upward as before, and he was now in the Empyrean, 
or region of Pure Light ; — of light made of intellect full of 
love ; love of truth, full of joy ; joy, transcendant above all 

Streams of living radiance came rushing and flashing round 
about him, swathing him with light, as the lightning sometimes 
enwraps and dashes against the blinded eyes ; but the light was 
love here, and instead of injuring, gave new power to the object 
it embraced. 

ing for another, — this scene altogether is a very grand one ; and the violence 
itself of the holy invective awful. 

A curious subject for reflection is here presented. What sort of pope would 
Dante himself have made ? Would he have taken to the loving or the hating 
side of his genius ? To the St. John or the St. Peter of his own poem ? St. 
Francis or St. Dominic? — I am afraid, all things considered, we should have 
had in him rather a Gregory the Seventh or Julius the Second, than a Bene- 
dict the Eleventh or a Ganganelli. What fine Church-hymns he would have 
written I 

* She does not see (so blind is even holy vehemence !) that for the same 
reason the denouncement itself is out of its place. The preachers brought St. 
Anthony and his pig into their pulpits ; she brings them into Heaven I 

t " Certo io credo 

Che solo il suo fattor tutta la goda." 



-Sr JBii. 

5 THEr 




IL ^ram 





mited with the crown, and which ahall be occupied before thou 
est tlii« bridal feast, shall be seated tlie soul of the great 
enry, who would fain set Italy right beibre sije is prepared for 
" The blind waywardness of wiiich ye are sick renders ye 
e the bantling wlio, while he is dying of hunger, kicks away 
s purse. And Rome is governed by one tliat cannot walk in 
le same path with such a man, whatever be the road.^ But 
will not long endure him. He will be thrust down into tlie 
with Simon Magus ; and his feet, when he arrives there, will 
ust down the man of Alagna still lower.'":]: 
In tlie form, then, of a white rose tiie blessed multitude of hu- 
lan souls lay manifest before the eyes of the poet ; and now he 
jserved, that the winged portion of the blest, the angels, who 
y up with their wuags nearer to Him that fills them with love, 
ime to and fro upon the rose like bees ; now descending into its 
u-^om, now streaming back to the source of their affection. 
Their faces were all fire, their wings golden, their garments wiiiier 
*'ian snow. Whenever they descended on the flower, they went 
iiom fold to fold, fanning their loins, and communicating the 
•foace and ardour whicii tiiey gathered as they gave. Dante be- 
iield all, — every flight and action of the whole winged multitude, 
— witiiout let or shadow ; for he stood in the region of light it- 
self, and light has no obstacle where it is deservedly vouchsafed. 
'• Oh,'" cries the poet, " if the barbarians that came from the 
north stood dumb with amazement to behold the magnificence of 
Rome, thinking they saw unearthly greatness in tiie Lateran, 
what must I have thought, v/ho had thus come from human to 
divine, from time to eternity, from the people of Florence to 
beings just and sane ?*' 

Dante stood, without a wish either to speak or to hear. He felt 
like a pilgrim who has arrived within the place of his devotion, 

* The Emperor Henry of Luxembourg. Dante's idol ; at the close of whose 
brief and inefficient appearance in Italy, his hopes of restoraiiou to liis country 
\^ere at an end. 

t Pope Clement tlie Fifth. Dante's enemy, Boniface, was now dead, and 
of course in Tartarus, iu the red-hot tomb which the poet had prepared for him. 

X Boniface himself. Pope Clement's red-hot feet are to thrust down Pope 
Boniface into a gulf still liotter. So says tlie gentle Beatrice iu Heaven, and 
in the face of all that is angelical ! 



and who looks round about him, hoping some day to relate what 
he sees. He gazed upwards and downwards, and on every side 
round about, and saw movements graceful with every truth of in- 
nocence, and faces full of loving persuasion, rich in their own 
smiles and in the light of the smiles of others. 

He turned to Beatrice, but she was gone ; — gone, as a messen- 
ger fi'om herself told him, to resume her seat in the blessed rose, 
which the messenger accordingly pointed out. She sat in the 
third circle from the top, as far from Dante as the bottom of the 
sea is from the region of thunder ; and yet he saw her as plainly 
as if she had been close at hand. He addressed words to her of 
thanks for all she had done for him, and a hope for her assistance 
after death ; and she looked down at him and smiled. 

The messenger was St. Bernard. He bade the poet lift his 
eyes higher ; and Dante beheld the Virgin Mary sitting above 
the rose, in the centre of an intense redness of light, like another 
dawn. Thousands of angels were hanging buoyant around her, 
each having its own distinct splendour and adornment, and all 
were singing, and expressing heavenly mirth ; and she smiled 
on them with such loveliness, that joy was i« the eyes of all the 

At Mary's feet was sitting Eve, beautiful — she that opened the 
wound which Mary closed ; and at the feet of Eve was Rachel, 
with Beatrice ; and at the feet of Rachel was Sarah, and then 
Judith, then Rebecca, then Ruth, ancestress of him out of whose 
penitence came the song of the Miserere ;* and so other Hebrew 
women, down all the gradations of the flower, dividing, by the 
line which they made, the Christians who lived before Christ from 
those who lived after ; a line which, on the opposite side of the 
rose, was answered by a similar one of Founders of the Church, 
at the top of whom was John the Baptist. The rose also was di- 
vided horizontally by a step which projected beyond the others, 
and underneath which, known by the childishness of their looks 
and voices, were the souls of such as were too young to have at- 
tained Heaven by assistance of good works. 

St. Bernard then directed his companion to look again at the 

* David. 


/^irgin, and gather from her countenance the power of Ijeholding 
he face of Christ as God. Her aspect was flooded with gladness 
rom the spirits around her ; while the angel who liad descended 
her on earth now hailed her above with '-'■ Ave, Maria !" sing- 
Qg till the whole host of Heaven joined in the song. St. Bernard 
hen prayed to her for help to his companion's eyesiglit. Bea- 
rice, witli others of the blest, was seen joining in the prayer, 
heir hands stretched upwards ; and the Virgin, after benignly 
Doking on the petitioners, gazed upwards herself, shewing the 
i^ay with her own eyes to the still greater vision. Dante then 
Doked also, and beheld what he had no words to speak, or memory 
3 endure. 

He awoke as from a dream, retaining only a sense of sweetness 
liat ever trickled to his heart. 

Earnestly praying afterwards, however, that grace might be so 
ar vouchsafed to a portion of his recollection, as to enable him to 
onvey to his fellow-creatures one smallest glimpse of the glory 
f what he saw, his ardour was so emboldened by help of the very 
nystery at whose sight he must have perished had he faltered, 
hat his eyes, unblasted, attained to a perception of the Sum of 
nfinitude. He beheld, concentrated in one spot — written in one 
olume of Love — all which is diffused, and can become the sub- 
set of thought and study throughout the universe — all substance 
.nd accident and mode — all so compounded that they become one 
ight. He thought he beheld at one and the same time the one- 
less of this knot, and the universality of all which it implies ; 
•ecause, when it came to his recollection, his heart dilated, and 
n the course of one moment he felt ages of impatience to speak 
if it. 

But thoughts as well as words failed him : and thouorh ever af- 
erwards he could no more cease to yearn towards it, than he 
:ould take defect for completion, or separate the idea of happiness 
rom the wish to attain it, still the utmost he could say of what 
le remembered would fall as short of right speech as the sounds 
•f an infant's tongue while it is murmuring over the nipple ; for 
he more he had looked at that light, the more he found in it to 
imaze him, so that his brain toiled with the succession of the as- 
onishtnents. He saw, in the deep but clear self-subsistence, 


three circles of three diflcrent colours of the same breadth, one 
of them reflecting one of the others as rainbow does rainbow. 
and the third consisting of a fire equally breathing from both.* 

O eternal Light ! thou that dwellest in thyself alone, thou alone 
understandest thyself, and art by thyself understood, and, so un- 
derstanding, thou laughest at thyself, and lovest. 

The second, or reflected circle, as it went round, seemed to 
be painted by its own colours with the likeness of a human face.f 

But how this was done, or how the beholder was to express it,: 
threw his mind into the same state of bewilderment as the mathe 
malician experiences when he vainly pores over the circle to dis- 
cover the principle by which he is to square it. 

He did, however, in a manner discern it. A flash of light was 
vouchsafed him for the purpose ; but the light left him no power 
to impart the discernment ; nor did he feel any longer impatient 
for the gift. Desire became absorbed in submission, moving in 
as smooth unison as the particles of a wheel, with the Love 
that is the mover of the sun and the stars.:}: 

* The Trinity. t The Incarnation. 

t In the Variorum edition of Dante, ut sup. vol. iii. p. 845, we are informed 
thai a gentleman of Naples, the Cavaliere Giuseppe de Cesare, was the first to 
notice (not long since, I presume) the curious circumstance of Dante's having 
terminated the three portions of his poem with the word " stars." He thinks 
that it was done as a happy augury of life and renown to the subject. The 
literal intention, however, seems to have been to shew us, how all his aspira- 
tions terminated. 



(Uritical Notice of Ijis £ife anb (Renins. 




PuLCi, who is the first genuine romantic poet, in point of time, 
after Dante, seems, at first sight, in the juxtaposition, like farce 
after tragedy ; and indeed, in many parts of his poem, he is not 
only what he seems, but follows his saturnine countryman with a 
peculiar propriety of contrast, much of his liveliest banter being 
directed against the absurdities of Dante's theology. But hasty 
and most erroneous would be the conclusion that he was nothing; 
but a banterer. He was a true poet of the mixed order, grave 
as well as gay ; had a reflecting mind, a susceptible and most 
affectionate heart ; and perhaps was never more in earnest than 
when he gave vent to his dislike of bigotry in his most laughable 

Luigi Pulci, son of Jacopo Pulci and Brigida de' Bardi, was 
of a noble family, so ancient as to be supposed to have come from 
France into Tuscany with his hero Charlemagne. He was born 
in Florence on the 3d of December, 1431, and was the youngest 
of three brothers, all possessed of a poetical vein, though it did 
not flow with equal felicity. Bernardo, the eldest, was the ear- 
liest translator of the Eclogues of Virgil ; and Lucca wrote a 
romance called the Ciriffo Cahaneo, and is commended for his 
Heroic Epistles. Little else is known of these brothers ; and not 
much more of Luigi himself, except that he married a lady of 
the name of Lucrezia degli Albizzi ; journeyed in Lombardy 
and elsewhere ; was one of the most intimate friends of Lorenzo 
de Medici and his literary circle ; and apparently led a life the 

168 PULCI. 

most delightful to a poet, always meditating some composition 
and buried in his woods and gardens. Nothing is known of hi; 
latter days. An unpublished work of little credit (Zilioli On tin 
Italian Poets), and an earlier printed book, which, according tc 
Tiraboschi, is of not much greater (Scardeone Be Antiquitatihm 
Urhis Patavince), say that he died miserably in Padua, and was 
refused Christian burial on account of his impieties. It is no' 
improbable that, during the eclipse of the fortunes of the Medic 
family, after the death of Lorenzo, Pulci may have partaken of 
its troubles ; and there is certainly no knowing how badly his oi 
their enemies may have treated him ; but miserable ends are e 
favourite allegation with theological opponents. The Calvinists 
affirm of their master, the burner of Servetus, that he died like 
a saint ; but I have seen a biography in Italian, which attributed 
the most horrible death-bed, not only to the atrocious Genevese, 
but to the genial Luther, calling them both the greatest villains 
{sceleratissimi) ; and adding, that one of them (I forget which^ 
was found dashed on the floor of his bedroom, and torn limb from 

Pulci appears to have been slender in person, with small eyes 
and a ruddy face. I gather this from the caricature of him in 
the poetical paper-war carried on between him and his friend 
Matteo Franco, a Florentine canon, which is understood to have 
been all in good humour — sport to amuse their friends — a peril- 
ous speculation. Besides his share in these verses, he is sup- 
posed to have had a hand in his brother's romance, and was 
certainly the author of some devout poems, and of a burlesque 
panegyric on a country damsel. La Beca, in emulation of the 
charming poem La Nencia, the first of its kind, written by that 
extraordinary person, his illustrious friend Lorenzo, who, in the 
midst of his cares and glories as the balancer of the power of 
Italy, was one of the liveliest of the native wits, and wrote songs 
for the people to dance to in Carnival time. 

The intercourse between Lorenzo and Pulci was of the most 
familiar kind. Pulci was sixteen years older, but of a nature 
which makes no such differences felt between associates. He 
had known Lorenzo from the latter's youth, probably from his 
birth — is spoken of in a tone of domestic intimacy by his wife — 


and is enumerated by him among his companions in a very spe- 
cial and cliaracteristic manner in liis poem on Hawking (La Cac- 
cia col Falcone), when, calling his fellow-sportsmen about him, 
and missing Luigi, one of them says that he has strolled into a 
neighbouring wood, to put something which has struck his fancy 
into a sonnet : 

" ' Luigi Piilci ov' 6, che non si sente ?' 

' Egli se n' and6 dianzi in quel boschetto, 
Che qualche fantasia ha per lu mente ; 
Vorr ii fantasticar forse un sonetto.' " 

" And where's Luigi Pulci ? I saw him." 

•' Oh, in the wood there. Gone, depend upon it, 

To vent some fancy iu his brain — some whim. 
That will not let him rest till it's a sonnet." 

In a letter written to Lorenzo, when the future statesman, then 
in his seventeenth year, was making himself personally acquaint- 
ed with the courts of Italy, Pulci speaks of himself as struggling 
hard to keep down the poetic propensity in his friend's absence. 
*' If you were with me," he says, " I should produce heaps of 
sonnets as big as the clubs they make of the cherry-blossoms for 
May-day. I am always muttering some verse or other betwixt 
my teeth ; but I say to myself, ' My Lorenzo is not here — he 
who is my only hope and refuge ;' and so I suppress it." Such 
is the first, and of a like nature are the latest accounts we pos- 
sess of the sequestered though companionable poet. He prefer- 
red one congenial listener who understood him, to twenty critics 
that were puzzled with the vivacity of his impulses. Most of the 
learned men patronised by Lorenzo probably quarrelled with him 
on account of it, plaguing him in somewhat the same spirit, though 
in more friendly guise, as the Delia Cruscans and others after- 
wards plagued Tasso ; so he banters them in turn, and takes 
refuge from their critical rules and common-places in the larger 
induljience of his friend Politian and the laughing wisdom of 

" So che andar dirtito mi bisofjna, 
Ch' io non ci mescolassi una bugia, 
Che questa non 6 storia da menzogna ; 
Che come io csco un passo do la via. 

2 70 PULCL 

Chi gracchia, chi riprende, e chi rampogna : 
Oguim poi mi riesce la pazzia ; 
Tanto clx' eletto ho solitaria vita, 
Che la turba di questi 6 infiBita. 

La mia Accademia uii tempo, o mia Ginnasia, 
E stata volentier ne' miei boschetti ; 
E puossi ben veder I' AfFrica e 1' Asia : 
Vongon le Nmfe con lor canestretti, 
E portanmi o narciso o colocasia ; 
E cos\ fuggo mille urban dispetti : 
Si ch' io non torno a' vostri Areopaghi, 
Gente pur serapre di mal dicer vaglii." 

" I know I ought to make no dereliction 

From the straight path to this side or to that ; 
I know the story I relate's no fiction, 

And that the moment that I quit some flat, 
Folks are all puff, and blame, and contradiction, 

And swear I never know what I'd be at ; 
In short, such crowds, I find, can mend one's poem, 
I live retired, on purpose not to know 'em. 

Yes, gentlemen, my only ' Academe,' 

My sole ' Gymnasium,' are my woods and bowers ; I 

Of Afric and of Asia there I dream ; 

And the Nymphs bring me baskets full of flowers, 
Arums, and sweet narcissus from the streq,m ; 

And thus my Muse escapeth your town-hours ^| 

And town-disdains ; and I eschew your bites, 
• Judges of books, grim Areopagites." i 

He is here jesting, as Foscolo has observed, on the academy in- 
stituted by Lorenzo for encouraging the Greek language, doubt- 
less with the laughing approbation of the founder, who was some- 
times not a little troubled himself with the squabbles of his 

Our author probably had good reason to call his illustrious 
friend his " refuge." The Morgante Maggiore, the work which 
has rendered the name of Pulci renowned, was an attempt to 
elevate the popular and homely narrative poetry chanted in the 
streets into tlie dignity of a production that should last. The 
age was in a state of transition on all points. The dogmatic 
authority of the schoolmen in matters of religion, which pre- 


vailed in the time of Dante, had come to nought before the ad- 
vance of knowledge in general, and the inditference of the court 
of Rome. The Council of Trent, as Crescimbeni advised the 
critics, had not then settled what Christendom was to believe ; 
and men, provided they complied with forms, and admitted cer- 
tain main articles, were allowed to think, and even in great 
measure talk, as they pleased. The lovers of the Platonic phi- 
losophy took the opportunity of exalting some of its dreams to an 
influence, which at one time was supposed to threaten Christian- 
ity itself, and which in fact had already succeeded in affecting 
Christian theology to an extent which the scorners of Paganism 
little suspect. Most of these Helenists pushed their admiration 
of Greek literature to an excess. They were opposed by the 
Yirgilian predilections of Pulci's friend, Politian, who had never- 
theless universality enough to sympathise with the delight the 
other took in their native Tuscan, and its liveliest and most idio- 
matic effusions. From all these circumstances in combination 
arose, first, Pulci's determination to write a poem of a mixed or- 
der, which should retain for him the ear of the many, and at the 
same time give rise to a poetry of romance worthy of higher 
auditors ; second, his banter of what he considered unessential 
and injurious dogmas of belief, in favour of those principles of 
the religion of charity which inflict no contradiction on the heart 
and understanding ;" third, the trouble which seems to have been 
given him by critics, " sacred and profane," in consequence of 
these originalities ; and lastly, a doubt which has strangely ex- 
isted with some, as to whether he intended to write a serious or 
a comic poem, or on any one point was in earnest at all. One 
writer thinks he cannot have been in earnest, because he opens 
every canto with some pious invocation ; another asserts that the 
piety itself is a banter ; a similar critic is of opinion, that to mix 
levities with gravities proves the gravities to have been nought, 
and the levities all in all ; a fourth allows him to have been seri- 
ous in his description of the battle of Roncesvalles, but says he 
was laughing in Ift'ftie rest of his poem ; while a fifth candidly 
gives up the question, as one of those puzzles occasioned by the 
caprices of the human mind, which it is impossible for reasonable 
people to solve. Even Sismondi, who was well acquainted with 



the ao-e in which Pulci wrote, and who, if not a profound, is gen- 
erally an acute and liberal critic, confesses himself to be thus 
confounded. " Pulci," he says, " commences all his cantos by 
a sacred invocation ; and the interests of religion are constantly 
interminf^led with the adventures of his story, in a manner capri- 
cious and little instructive. We know not how to reconcile this 
monkish spirit with the semi-pagan character of society under 
Lorenzo di Medici, nor whether we ought to accuse Pulci of 
gross bigotry or of profane derision."* Sismondi did not con- 
sider that the lively and impassioned people of the south take 
what may be called household-liberties with the objects of their 
worship greater than northerns can easily conceive ; that levity 
of manner, therefore, does not always imply the absence of the 
gravest belief; that, be this as it may, the belief may be as grave 
on some points as light on others, perhaps the more so for that 
reason ; and that, although some poems, like some people, are 
altogether grave, or the reverse, there really is such a thing as 
tragi-comedy both in the world itself and in the representations 
of it. A jesting writer may be quite as much in earnest when 
he professes to be so, as a pleasant companion who feels for his 
own or for other people's misfortunes, and who is perhaps obliged 
to affect or resort to his very pleasantry sometimes, because he 
feels more acutely than the gravest. The sources of tears and 
smiles lie close to, ay and help to refine one another. If Dante 
had been capable of more levity, he would have been guilty of 
less melancholy absurdities. If Rabelais had been able to v/eep 

* Literature of the South, of Europe, Thomas Roscoe's Translation, vol. ii. 
p. 54. For the opinions of other writers, here and elsewhere alluded to, see 
Tiraboschi (who is quite frightened at him), Storia della Poesia ItaUana, cap. 
V. sect. 25 ; Gravina, who is more so, Della Ragion Poetica (quoted in Gin- 
gu6n6, as below) ; Crescimbeni, Commentari Intorno alV Istoria della Poesia, 
&.C. lib. vi. cup. 3 (Mathias's edition), and the biographical additions to the 
Bame work, 4to, Rome, 1710, vol. ii. part ii. p. 151, where he says that Pulci 
was perhaps the " modestest and most temperate writer" of his age (" il piii 
modesto e moderato") ; Ginguune, Histoire Litttraire^Italie, torn iv. p. 214 ; 
Foscolo, in the Quarterly Review, as further on ; Panizzi on the Romantic 
Poetry of the Italians, ditto ; Stebbing, Lives of the Italian Poets, second 
edition, vol. i. ; and the first volume of Lives of Literary and Scientific Men, 
in Lardner's Cyclopoedia. 


as well as to laugh, und to love as well as to be licentious, ho 
would have had faith and therefore support in something earnest, 
and not have been obliged to place the consummation of all things 
in a wine-bottle. People's evcry-day experiences might explain 
to them the greatest apparent inconsistencies of Pulci's muse, if 
habit itself did not blind them to the illustration. Was nobody 
ever present in a well-ordered family, when a lively conversation 
having been interrupted by the announcement of dinner, the com- 
pany, after listening with the greatest seriousness to a grace de- 
livered with equal seriousness, perhaps by a clergyman, resumed 
it the instant afterwards in all its gaiety, with the first spoonful 
of soup ? Well, the sacred invocations at the beginning of Pul- 
ci's cantos were compliances of the like sort with a custom. 
They were recited and listened to just as gravely at Lorenzo di 
Medici's table ; and yet neither compromised the reciters, nor 
were at all associated with the enjoyment of the fare that ensued. 
So with regard to the intermixture of grave and gay throughout 
the poem. How many campaigning adventures have been writ- 
ten by gallant officers, whose animal spirits saw food for gaiety 
in half the circumstances that occurred, and who could crack a 
jest and a helmet perhaps with almost equal vivacity, and yet be 
as serious as the gravest at a moment's notice, mourn heartily 
over the deaths of their friends, and shudder with indignation 
and horror at the outrages committed in a captured city ? It is 
thus that Pulci writes, full no less of feeling than of whim and 
mirth. And the whole honest round of humanity not only war- 
rants his plan, but in the twofold sense of the word embraces it. 

If any thing more were necessary to shew the gravity with 
which our author addressed himself to his subject, it is the fact, 
related by himself, of its having been recommended to him by 
Lorenzo's mother, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a good and earnest wo- 
man, herself a poetess, who wrote a number of sacred narratives, 
and whose virtues he more than once records with the greatest 
respect and tenderness. The Morgante concludes with an ad- 
dress respecting tUis lady to the Virgin, and with a hope that her 
" devout and sincere" spirit may obtain peace for him in Para- 
dise. These are the last words in the book. Is it credible that 
expressions of this kind, and employed on such an occasion, 

174 PULCI. 

could liave had no serious meaning ? or that Lorenzo listened to 
such praises of his mother as to a jest ? 

I have no doubt that, making allowance for the age in which 
he lived, Pulci was an excellent Christian. His orthodoxy, it is 
true, was not the orthodoxy of the times of Dante or St. Dominic, 
nor yet of that of the Council of Trent. His opinions respect- 
ing the mystery of the Trinity appear to have been more like 
those of Sir Isaac Newton than of Archdeacon Travis. And as- 
suredly he agreed with Origen respecting eternal punishment, 
rather than with Calvin and Mr. Toplady. But a man may ac- 
cord with Newton, and yet be thought not unworthy of the 
" starry spheres." He may think, with Origen, that God in- 
tends all his creatures to be ultimately happy,* and yet be con- 
sidered as loving a follower of Christ as a " dealer of damnation 
round the land," or the burner of a fellow-creature. 

Pulci was in advance of his time on more subjects than one. 
He pronounced the existence of a new and inhabited world, be- 
fore the appearance of Columbus. f He made the conclusion, 
doubtless, as Columbus did, from the speculations of more scien- 
tific men, and the rumours of seamen ; but how rare are the 
minds that are foremost to throw aside even the most innocent 
prejudices, and anticipate the enlargements of the public mind ! 
How many also are calumniated and persecuted for so doing, 
whose memories, for the same identical reason, are loved, perhaps 
adored, by the descendants of the calumniators ! In a public li- 
brary, in Pulci's native place, is preserved a little withered relic, 
to which the attention of the visitor is drawn with reverential 
complacency. It stands, pointing upwards, under a glass-case, 
looking like a mysterious bit of parchment ; and is the finger of 
Galileo ; of that Galileo, whose hand, possessing that finger, is 
supposed to have been tortured by the Inquisition for writing 
what every one now believes. He was certainly persecuted and 
imprisoned by the Inquisition. Milton saw and visited him un- 
der the restraint of that scientific body in his own house. Yet 
Galileo did more by his disclosures of the star&,towards elevating 

* Canto XXV. The passage will be found in the present volume, 
t Id. And tills also. 


our ideas of the Creator, than all the so-called saints and polemics 
that screamed at one another in the pulpits of East and West. 

Like the Commedia of Dante, Pulci's " Commedia" (for such 
also in regard to its general cheerfulness,* and probably to its 
mediocrity of style, he calls it) is a representative in great mea- 
sure of the feeling and knowledge of his time ; and though not 
entirely such in a learned and eclectic sense, and not to be com- 
pared to that sublime monstrosity in point of genius and power, 
is as superior to it in liberal opinion and in a certain pervading 
lovingness, as the author's aifectionate disposition, and his coun- 
try's advance in civilisation, combined to render it. The editor 
of the Parnaso Italiano had reason to notice this engaging per- 
sonal character in our author's work. He says, speaking of the 
principal romantic poets of Italy, that the reader will " admire 
Tasso, will adore Ariosto, but will love Pulci."f And all minds, 
in which lovingness produces love, will agree with him. 

The Morganie Maggiore is a history of the fabulous exploits 
and death of Orlando, the great hero of Italian romance, and of 
the wars and calamities brought on his fellow Paladins and their 
sovereign Charlemagne by the envy, ambition, and treachery of 
the misguided monarch's favourite, Gan of Maganza (Mayence), 
Count of Poictiers. It is founded on the pseudo-history of Arch- 
bishop Turpin, which, though it received the formal sanction of 
the Church, is a manifest forgery, and became such a jest with 
the wits, that they took a delight in palming upon it their most 
incredible fictions. The title {Morganie the Great) seems to have 
been either a whim to draw attention to an old subject, or the re- 
sult of an intention to do more with the giant so called than took 
place ; for though he is a conspicuous actor in the earlier part of 
the poem, he dies when it is not much more than half completed. 

* Canto xxvii. stanza 2. 

" S' altro ajuto qui non si dimostra, 
Sara, pur tragedia la istoria nostra. 

Ed io pur commedia pensato avea 
Iscriver del niio Carlo finalmente, 
Ed Alcuin cosl mi promettea," &c. 

+ •• lu Hue tu adorerai I' Ariosto, tu ammirerei 11 Tasso, ma tu amerai il 
rulci." — Parn. Ital. vol. ix. p. 344. 

176 PULCI. 

Orlando, the champion of the faith, is the real hero of it, and 
Gan the anti-hero or vice. Charlemagne, the reader hardly 
need be told, is represented, for the most part, as a very different 
person from what he appears in history. In truth, as Ellis and 
Panizzi have shewn, he is either an exaggeration (still iTiisrepre- 
sented) of Charles Martel, the Armorican chieftan, who conquer- 
ed the Saracens at Poictiers, or a concretion of all the Charleses 
of the Carlovingian race, wise and simple, potent and weak.** 

The story may be thus briefly told. Orlando quits the €iourt 
of Charlemagne in disgust, but is always ready to return fo it 
when the emperor needs his help. Th6 best Paladins follow, to 
seek him. He meets with and converts the giant Morgante, 
whose aid he receives in many adventures, aiTiong which is the 
taking of Babylon. The other Paladins, his cousin Rinaldo es- 
pecially, have their separate adventures, all more or less mixed 
up with the treacheries and thanklessness of . Gan (for they assist 
even him), and the provoking trust reposed in him by Charle- 
magne ; and at length the villain crowns his infamy by luring 
Orlando with most of the Paladins into the pass of Roncesvalles, 
where the hero himself and almost all his companions are slain 
by the armies of Gan's fellow-traitor, ]\{arsilius, king of Spain. 
They die, however, victorious ; and the two royal and noble scoun- 
drels, by a piece of prosaical justice better than poetical, are des- 
patched like common malefactors with a halter. 

There is, perhaps, no pure invention in the whole of this en- 
largement of old ballads and chronicles, except the characters of 
another giant, and of a rebel angel ; for even Morgante's history, 
though told in a very different manner, has its prototype in the 
fictions of the pretended archbishop. f The Paladins are well dis- 

* Ellis's Specimens of Early English Poetical Romances, vol. ii. p. 287 ; 
and Panizzi's Essay on the Romantic Narrative Poetry of the Italians, in his 
edition of Boiardo and Ariosto, vol. i. p. 113. 

t De Vita Caroli Magni et Rolandi Historia, &c. cap. xviii. p. 39 (Ciam- 
pi's edition). The giant in Turpin is named Ferracutus, or Fergus. He was 
of the race of Goliath, had the strengtii of forty men, and was twenty cubits 
higli. During the suspension of a mortal combat with Orlando, they discuss 
the mysteries of the Christian faith, which its champion explains by a variety 
of similes and the most beautiful beggings of the question ; after which the 
giant stakes the credit of their respective beliefs on the event of their encounter. 


linguislicd from one another ; Orlando as foremost alike in prow- 
ess and magnanimity, Rinaldo by his vehemence, llicciardetto by 
his amours, Astolfo by an ostentatious rashness and self-commit- 
tal ; but in all these respects they appear to have been made to 
llie autlior's hand. Neither does the poem exhibit any prevailino- 
torce of imagery, or of expression, apart from popular idiomatic 
j)liraseology ; still less, though it has plenty of infernal mafic, 
does it present us with any magical enchantments of the alluring 
order, as in Ariosto ; or with love stories as good as Boiardo's, or 
t'vcn witli any of the luxuries of landscape and description that 
are to be found in both of those poets ; albeit, in the fourteenth 
canto, there is a lonij catalomie raisonne of the whole animal crea- 
tion, which a lady has worked for Rinaldo on a pavilion of silk 
and gold. 

To these negative faults must be added the positive ones of too 
many trifling, unconnected, and uninteresting incidents (at least 
to readers who cannot taste the flavour of the racy Tuscan 
idiom) ; great occasional prolixity, even in the best as well as 
worst passages, not excepting Orlando's dying speeches ; harsh- 
ness in spite of his fluency (according to Foscolo), and even bad 
grammar ; too many low or over-familiar forms of speech (so 
the graver critics allege, though, perhaps, from want of animal 
spirits or a more comprehensive discernment) ; and lastly (to say 
nothing of the question as to the gravity or levity of the theol- 
ogy), the strange exhibition of whole successive stanzas, contain- 
ijig as many questions or affirmations as lines, and commencing 
each line with the same words. They meet the eye like palisa- 
does, or a file of soldiers, and turn truth and pathos itself into a 
jest. They were most likely imitated from the popular ballads. 
The following is the order of words in which a young lady thinks 
fit to complain of a desert, into which she has been carried away 
by a giant. After seven initiatory O's addressed to her friends 
and to life in general, she changes the key into E : 

" E" questa la mia patria dov' io nacqui? 
E' qucsto il mio palagio e '1 mio castello ? 
E' questo il iiido ov' alcun tempo giucqui ? 
E' questo il padre e *1 mio dolco fratello? 


178 PULCI. 

E' questo il popol dov' io tanto piacqui ? 

E' questo il regno giusto antico e bello ? 

E' questo il porto do la mia salute ? 

E' questo il premio d' ogui mia virtute ? ' 

Ove son or le mie purpuree veste ? 

Ove son or le gemme e le ricchezze ? 

Ove son or gi^ le notturne feste ? 

Ove son or le mie delicatezze? 

Ove son or le mie compagne oneste ? 

Ove son or le fuggite dolcezze? 

Ove son or le damigelle mie ? 

Ove son, dico ? ome, non son gi^ quie."* 

Is this the country, then, where I was born ? 
Is this my palace, and my castle this ? 
Is this the nest I woke in, every morn ? 
Is this my father's and my brother's kiss ? 
Is this the land they bred me to adorn ? 
Is this the good old bovver of all my bliss? 
Is this the haven of my youth and beauty ? 
Is this the sure reward of all my duty ? 

Where now are all my wardrobes and their treasures ? 
Where now arc all my riches and my rights? 
Where now are all the midnight feasts and measures ? 
Where now are all the delicate delights ? 
Where now are all the partners of my pleasures ? 
Where now are all the sweets of sounds and sigfhts ? 
Where now are all my maidens ever near ? 
Where, do I say ? Alas, alas, not here ! 

There are seven more " where nows," including lovers, and 
" proffered husbands," and " romances," and ending with the 
startling question and answer. — the counterpoint of the former 
close, — 

" Ove son 1' aspre selve e i lupi adesso 
E gli orsi, e i draghi, e i tigri ? Son qui presso." 

Where now are all the woods and forests drear, 
Wolves, tigers, bears, and dragons ? Alas, here ! 

These are all very natural thoughts, and such, no doubt, as 
would actually pass tln-ough the mind of the young lady, in the 

* Canto xix. st. 21. 



candour of desolation ; but the mechanical iteration of her mode 
of putting them renders them irresistibly ludicrous. It reminds 
us of the wager laid by the poor queen in the play of Richard 
the Second, when she overhears the discourse of the gardener : 

" My v/retchedness unto a row of pins, 
They'll talk of state." 

Did Pulci expect his friend Lorenzo to keep a grave face during 
the recital of these passages ? Or did he flatter himself that the 
comprehensive mind of his hearer could at one and the same 
time be amused with the banter of some old song and the pathos 
of the new one ?* 

* When a proper name happens to be a part of the tautology, the look is 
still more extraordinary. Orlando is remonstrating with Riualdo on his being 
unseasonably in love : 

" Ov' e, Rinaldo, la tna gagliardia? 
Ov' 6, Rinaldo, il tuo somnio poterc? 
Ov' 6, Rinaldo, il tuo senno di pria ? 
Ov' 6, Rinaldo, il tuo antivedere? 
Ov' e, Rinaldo, la tua fantasia ? 
Ov' b, Rinaldo, 1' arme e '1 tuo destriere ? 
Ov' 6, Rinaldo, la tua gloria e fama? 
Ov' b, Rinaldo, il tuo core ? a la dama." 

Canto xvl. st. 50. 

Oh where, Rinaldo, is thy gagliardizo? 
Oh where, Rinaldo, is thy might indeed ? 
Oh where, Rinaldo, thy repute for wise ? 
Oh where, Rinaldo, thy sagacious heed? 
Oh where, Rinaldo, thy free-thoughted eyes? 
Oh where, Rinaldo, thy good arms and steed? 
Oh where, Rinaldo, thy renown and glory? 
Oh where, Riualdo, thou ? — In a love-story. 

The incessant repetition of the names in the burdens of modem songs is hardly 
so bad as this. The single line questions and answers in the Greek drama 
were nothing to it. Yet there is a still more extraordinaiy play upon words ia 
canto xxiii. st. 49, consisting of the description of a hermitage. It is the only 
one of the kind which I remember in the poem, and would have driven some 
of our old hunters after alliteration mad with envy : — 

La casa cosa parea hretta e brutta, 
Vinta dal venio ; e la nalta e la nolle 

180 PULCI. 

The want both of good love-episodes and of descriptions of 
external nature, in the Morgante, is remarkable ; for Pulci's ten- 
derness of heart is constantly manifest, and he describes himself 
as beins almost absorbed in his woods. That he understood love 
well in all its force and delicacy is apparent from a passage con- 
nected with this pavilion. The fair embroiderer, in presenting it 
to her idol Rinaldo, undervalues it as a gift which his great heart, 
nevertheless, will not disdain to accept ; adding, with the true 
lavishment of the passion, that " she wishes she could give him 
the sun ;" and that if she were to say, after all, that it was her 
own hands which had worked the pavilion, she should be wrong, 
for Love himself did it. Rinaldo v/ishes to thank her, but is so 
struck with her magnificence and affection, that the words die on 
his lips. The way also in which another of these loving ad- 
mirers of Paladins conceives her affection for one of them, and 
persuades a vehemently hostile suitor quietly to withdraw his 
claims by presenting him with a ring and a graceful speech, is in 

Stilla le stelle, ch' a tetto era tuito : 
Del pane appena ne dette ta' dotte : 
Pere avea pure,'e qaalche fratta fruita ; 
E svina e svena di botto una botte : 
Poscia per pesci lasche prese a V esca : 
Ma il letto allotta a la. frasca i\x fresca" 

This holy hole was a vile thin-hnWt thing, 

Blown by the blast ; the night nought else o'erhead 

But staring stars the rude roof entering ; 

Their sup of supper was no splendid spread ; 

Poor pears their fare, and such-like libelling 

Of quantum suff. ; — their butt all but ; — bad bread ; — 

A fiash of fish instead of flush of flesh ; 

Tlieir bed a frisk al-fresco, freezing fresh. 

Really, if Sir Philip Sidney and other serious and exquisite gentlemen had not 
sometimes taken a positively grave interest in the like pastimes of paronomasia, 
one should hardly conceive it possible to meet with them even in tragi-comedy. 
Did Pulci find these also in his ballad-authorities ? If his Greek-loving critics 
made objections here, they had the advantage of him : unless indeed they too, 
hi their Alexandrian predilections, had a sneaking regard for certain shapings 
of verse into altars and hatchets, such as have been charged upon Theocritus 
himself, and which might bo supposed to warrant any other conceit on occa- 


a taste as liigh as any thing in Boiardo, and superior to the more 
animal passion of the love in tlicir great successor.* Yet the 
tenderness of Pulci rather shews itself in the friendship of the 
Paladins for one another, and in perpetual little escapes of gene- 
p reus and alTectionate impulse. This is one of the great charms 
of the Morgante. The first adventure in the book is Orlando's 
encounter with three giants in behalf of a good abbot, in whom 
he discovers a kinsman ; and this goodness and relationship com- 
bined move the Achilles of Christendom to tears. Morgante, one 
of these giants, who is converted, becomes a sort of squire to his 
conqueror, and takes such a liking to him, that, seeing him one 
day deliver himself not without peril out of the clutches of a 
devil, he longs to go and set free the whole of the other world 
from devils. Indeed there is no end to his affection for him. Ri- 
naldo and other Paladins, meantime, cannot rest till they have 
set out in search of Orlando. Tliey never meet or part with 
him without manifesting a tenderness proportionate to their valour, 
— the old Homeric candour of emotion. The devil Ashtaroth 
himself, who is a great and proud devil, assures Rinaldo, for 
whom he has conceived a regard, that there is good feeling {gcn- 
tilczza) even in hell ; and Rinaldo, not to hurt the feeling, an- 
swers that he has no doubt of it, or of the capability of " friend- 
ship" in that quarter ; and he says he is as " sorry to part with 
him as with a brother." The passage will be found in our ab- 
stract. There are no such devils as these in Dante ; though 
Milton has something like them : 

" Devil with devil damn'd 
Firm concord holds : men only disagree." 

It is supposed that the character of Ashtaroth, which is a very 

* See, iu the original, the story of Meridiana, canto vii. King Manfredonio 
has come in loving hostility against her to endeavour to win her affection by 
his prowess. He finds her assisted by the Paladins, and engaged by her own 
heart to Uliviero ; and in the despair of his discomfiture, expresses a wish to 
die by her hand. Meridiana, with graceful pity, begs Ills acceptance of a 
jewel, and recommends him to go home with his army ; to which he griev- 
ingly consents. This indeed is beautiful ; and perhaps I ought to have given 
an abstract of it, as a specimen of what Pulci could have done in this way, had 
he chosen^ 


182 PULCI. 

new and extraordinary one, and does great honour to the daring 
goodness of Pulci's imagination, was not lost upon Milton, who 
was not only acquainted with the poem, but expressly intimates 
the pleasure he took in it.* Rinaldo advises this devil, as Burns 
did Lucifer, to '' take a thought and mend." Ashtaroth, who 
had been a seraph, takes no notice of the advice, except with a 
waving of the recollection of happier times. He bids the hero 
farewell, and says he has only to summon him in order to receive 
his aid. This retention of a sense of his former angelical dig- 
nity has been noticed by Foscolo and Panizzi, the two best 
writers on these Italian poems. "j" A Calvinist would call the ex- 
pression of the sympathy " hardened." A humanist knows it to 
be the result of a spirit exquisitely softened. An unbounded ten- 
derness is the secret of all that is beautiful in the serious portion 
of our author's genius. Orlando's good-natured giant weeps 
even for the death of the scoundrel Margutte ; and the awful 
hero himself, at whose death nature is convulsed and the heav- 
ens open, begs his dying horse to forgive him if ever he has 
wronged it. 

A charm of another sort in Pulci, and yet in most instances, 
perhaps, owing the best part of its charmingness to its being 
connected with the same feeling, is his wit. Foscolo, it is true, 
says it is, in general, more severe than refined ; and it is perilous 

* " Perhaps it was from that same pohtic drift that the devil whipt St. Je- 
rome in a lenten dream for reading Cicero ; or else it was a fantasm bred by 
the fever which had then seized him. For had an angel been his discipliner, 
unless it were for dwelling too much upon Ciceronianisms, and had chastised 
the reading and not the vanity, it had been plainly partial ; first to correct him 
for grave Cicero, and not for scurrile Plautus, whom he confesses to have been 
reading not long before ; next, to correct him only, and let so many more an- 
cient fathers wax old in those pleasant and florid studies without the lash of 
such a tutoring apparition ; msomuch that Basil teaches how some good use 
may be made of Margites, a sportful poem, not now extant, writ by Homer ; 
and why not then of Morgante, an Italian romance much to the same pur- 
pose?" — Arcopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, Prose 
"Works, folio, 1697, p. 378. I quote the passage as extracted by Mr. Meri- 
valo in the preface to his " Orlando in Roncesvalles," — Poems, vol. ii. p. 41. 

t Ut sup. p. 222. Foscolo's remark is to be found in his admirable article 
on the Narrative and Romantic Poems of the Italians, in the Quarterly Re- 
view, vol. xxi. p. 525. 


to differ with such a critic on such a point ; for much of it, un- 
fortunately, is lost to a foreign reader, in consequence of its de- 
pcndance on the piquant old Tuscan idiom, and on popular say- 
ings and allusions. Yet I should think it impossible for Pulci in 
general to be severe at the expense of some more agreeable qual- 
ity ; and I am sure that the portion of his wit most obvious to a 
foreigner may claim, if not to have originated, at least to have 
been very like the style of one who was among its declared ad- 
mirers, — and who was a very polished writer, — Voltaire. It con- 
sists in treating an absurdity with an air as if it were none ; or 
as if it had been a pure matter of course, erroneously mistaken 
for an absurdity. Thus the good abbot, whose monastery is 
blockaded by the giants (for the virtue and simplicity of his char- 
actor must be borne in mind), after observing that the ancient 
fathers in the desert had not only locusts to eat, but manna, which 
he has no doubt was rained down on purpose from heaven, la- 
ments that the " relishes" provided for himself and his brethren 
should have consisted of "showers of stones." The stones, 
while the abbot is speaking, come thundering down, and he ex- 
claims, " For God's sake, knight, come in, for the manna is fall- 
ino- !" This is exactly in the style of the Dictionnaire Philoso- 
pliique. So when Margutte is asked what he believes in, and says 
he believes in " neither black nor blue," but in a good capon, 
" whether roast or boiled," the reader is forcibly reminded of 
Voltaire's Traveller, Scarmentado, who, when he is desired by 
the Tartars to declare which of their two parties he is for, the 
party of the black-mutton or the white-mutton, answers, that the 
dish is "equally indifferent to him, provided it is tender." Vol- 
taire, however, does injustice to Pulci, when he pretends that in 
matters of belief he is like himself, — a mere scoffer. The friend 
of Lucrezia Tornabuoni has evidently the tenderest veneration 
for all that is good and lovely in the Catholic faith ; and what- 
ever liberties he might have allowed himself in professed extrav- 
ao;anzas, when an age without Church-authority encouraged them, 
and a reverend canon could take part in those (it must be ac- 
knowledger!) unseemly " high jinks," he never, in the Morgante, 
when speaking in his own person, and not in that of the worst 
characters, intimates disrespect towards any opinion which he did 

184 PULCI. 

not hold to be irrelevant to a right faith. It is observable that 
his freest expressions are put in the mouth of the giant Margutte, 
the lowest of these characters, who is an invention of the author's, 
and a most extraordinary personage. He is the first unmitigated 
blackguard in fiction, and is the greatest as well as first. Pulci 
is conjectured, with great probability, to have designed him as a 
caricature of some real person ; for Margutte is a Greek who, in 
point of morals, has been horribly brought up, and some of the 
Greek refugees in Italy were greatly disliked for the cynicism 
of their manners and the grossness of their lives. Margutte is a 
glutton, a drunkard, a liar, a thief, and a blasphemer. He boasts 
of having every vice, and no virtue except fidelity ; which is 
meant to reconcile Morgante to his company ; but though the lat- 
ter endures and even likes it for his amusement, he gives him to 
understand that he looks on his fidelity as only securable by the 
bastinado, and makes him the subject of his practical jokes. The 
respectable giant Morgante dies of the bite of a crab, as if to 
shew on what trivial chances depends the life of the strongest. 
Margutte laughs himself to death at sight of a monkey putting 
his boots on and off; as though the good-natured poet meant at 
once to express his contempt of a merely and grossly anti-serious 
mode of existence, and his consideration, nevertheless, towards 
the poor selfish wretch who had had no better training. 

To this wit and this pathos let the reader add a style of singu- 
lar ease and fluency, — rhymes often the most unexpected, but 
never at a loss, — a purity of Tuscan acknowledged by every 
body, and ranking him among the authorities of the language, — 
and a modesty in speaking of his own pretensions equalled only 
by his enthusiastic extolments of genius in others ; and the read- 
er has before him the lively and afiecting, hopeful, charitable, 
large-hearted Luigi Pulci, the precursor, and in some respects 
exemplar, of Ariosto, and, in Milton's opinion, a poet worth read- 
ing for the " good use" that may be made of him. It has been 
strangely supposed tliat his friend Politian, and Ficino the Platon- 
ist, not merely helped him with their books (as he takes a pride in 
telling us), but wrote a good deal of the latter part of the Mor- 
gante, particularly the speculations in matters of opinion. As if 
(to say nothing of the difference of style) a man of genius, how- 


ever lively, did not go through the gravest reflections in tlio 
course of his life, or could not enter into any theological or met- 
aphysical question, to which he chose to direct his attention. 
Animal spirits themselves are too often but a counterbalance to 
the most thoughtful melancholy; and one fit of jaundice or hyp- 
ochondria might have enabled the poet to see more visions of the 
unknown and the inscrutable in a single day, than perhaps ever 
entered the imagination of the elegant Latin scholar, or even the 
disciple of Plato. 





Jp Twelve Paladins had the Emperor Charlemagne in his court ; 
and the most wise and famous of them was Orlando. It is of 
him I am about to speak, and of his friend Morgante, and of Gan 
the traitor, who beguiled him to his death in Roncesvalles, where 
he sounded his horn so mightily after the dolorous rout. 

It was Easter, and Charles had all his court with him in Paris, 
making high feast and triumph. There was Orlando, the first 
among them, and Ogier the Dane, and Astolfo the Englishman, 
and Ansuigi ; and there came Angiolin of Bayonne, and Ulivie- 
ro, and the gentle Berlinghieri ; and there was also Avolio and 
Avino, and Otho of Normandy, and Richard, and the wise Namo, 
and the aged Salamon, and Walter of Monlione, and Baldwin 
who was the son of the wretched Gan. The good emperor was 
too happy, and oftentimes fairly groaned for joy at seeing all his 
Paladins toG-ether. 

But Fortune stands watchinjr in secret to baffle our desio-ns. 
While Charles was thus hugging himself with delight, Orlando 
governed every thing at court, and this made Gan burst with 
envy ; so that he began one day talking with Charles after the 
following manner : — " Are we always to have Orlando for our 
master ? I have thought of speaking to you about it a thousand 
times. Orlando has a great deal too much presumption. Here 
are we, counts, dukes, and kings, at your service, but not at his ; 
and we have resolved not to be governed any longer by one so 
much younger than ourselves. You began in Aspramont to give 
him to understand how valiant he was, and that he did great 
things at that fountain ; whereas, if it had not been for the good 
Gerard, I know very well where the victory would have been. 
The truth is, he has an eye upon the crown. This, Charles, is 


the worthy who has deserved so much ! All your generals are 
afflicted at it. As for me, I shall repass those mountains over 
which I came to you with seventy -two counts. Do you take him 
for a Mars ?" 

Orlando happened to- hear these words as he sat apart, and it 
displeased him with the lord of Pontiers that he should speak so, 
but much more that Charles should believe him. He would have j 
killed Gan, if Uliviero had not prevented him and taken his 
sword out of his hand ; nay, he would have killed Charlemagne ; 
but at last he went from Paris by himself, raging with scorn and 
grief He borrowed, as he went, of Ermillina the wife of Ogier, 
the Dane's sword Cortana and his horse Rondel, and proceeded 
on his way to Brava. His wife, Alda the Fair, hastened to em- 
brace him ; but while she was saying, " Welcome, my Orlando," 
he was going to strike her with his sword, for his head was be- 
wildered, and he took her for the traitor. The fair Alda marvel- 
led greatly, but Orlando recollected himself, and she took hold of 
the bridle, and he leaped from his horse, and told her all that had 
passed, and rested himself with her for some days. 

He then took his leave, being still carried away by his disdain, 
and resolved to pass over into Heathendom ; and as he rode, he 
thought, every step of the way, of the traitor Gan ; and so, riding 
on wherever the road took him, he reached the coiifines between 
the Christian countries and the Pagan, and came upon an abbey, 
situate in a dark place in a desert. 

Now above the abbey was a great mountain, inhabited by three 
fierce giants, one of whom was named Passamonte, another Ala- 
bastro, and the third Morgante ; and these giants used to disturb 
the abbey by throwing things down upon it from the mountain 
with slings, so that the poor little monks could not go out to fetch 
wood or water. Orlando knocked, but nobody would open till 
the abbot was spoken to. At last the abbot came himself, and 
opening the door bade him welcome. The good man told him 
the reason of the delay, and said that since the arrival of the 
giants they had been so perplexed that they did not know what 
to do. "Our ancient fathers in the desert," quoth he, "were 
rewarded according to their holiness. It is not to be supposed 
that they lived only upon locusts ; doubtless, it also rained man- 


na upon them from heaven ; but hero one is regaled with stones, 
which the giants pour on us from the mountain. Tliese are our 
nice bits and relishes. The fiercest of the three, Morgante, 
plucks up pines and other great trees by the roots, and casts 
them on us." While they were talking thus in the cemetery, 
there came a stone which seemed as if it would break Rondel's 

" For God's sake, cavalier," said the abbot, " come in, for the 
manna is falling." 

" My dear Abbot," answered Orlando, " this fellow, methinks, 
does not wish to let my horse feed ; he wants to cure him of be- 
ing restive ; the stone seems as if it came from a good arm." 

" Yes," replied the holy father, " I did not deceive you. I 
think, some day or other, they will cast the mountain itself 
on us." 

Orlando quieted his horse, and then sat down to a meal ; after 
which he said, " Abbot, I must go and return the present that 
has been made to my horse." The abbot with great tenderness 
endeavoured to dissuade him, but in vain ; upon which he crossed 
him on the forehead, and said, " Go, then ; and the blessing of 
God be with you." 

Orlando scaled the mountain, and came where Passamonte 
was, who, seeing him alone, measured him with his eyes, and 
asked him if he would stay with him for a page, promising to 
make him comfortable. " Stupid Saracen," said Orlando, " 1 
come to you, according to the will of God, to be your death, and 
not your foot-boy. You have displeased his servants here, and 
are no longer to be endured, dog that you are !" 

The giant, finding himself thus insulted, ran in a fuiy to his 
weapons ; and returning to Orlando, slung at him a large stone, 
which struck him on the head with such force, as not only made 
his helmet rinii again, but felled him to the earth. Passamonte 
thought he was dead. " What could have brought that paltry 
fellow here ?" said he, as he turned away. 

But Christ never forsakes his followers. While Passamonte 
was going away, Orlando* recovered, and cried aloud, " How 
now, giant ? do you fancy you have killed me ? Turn back, 
for unless you have wings, your escape is out of the question, 


dog of a renegade !" The giant, greatly marvelling, turned 
back ; and stooping to pick up a stone, Orlando, who had Cor- 
tana naked in his hand, cleft his skull ; upon which, cursing 
Mahomet, the monster tumbled, dying and blaspheming, to the 
ground. Blaspheming fell the sour-hearted and cruel wretch ; 
but Orlando, in the mean while, thanked the Father and the 

The Paladin went on, seeking for Alabastro, the second giant ; 
who, when he saw him, endeavoured to pluck up a great piece 
of stony earth by the roots. " Ho, ho !" cried Orlando, " you 
too are for throwing stones, are you ?" Then Alabastro took 
his sling, and flung at him so large a fragment as forced Orlando 
to defend himself, for if it had struck him, he would no more 
have needed a surgeon ;* but collecting his strength, he thrust 
his sword into the giant's breast, and the loggerhead fell dead. 

Now Morgante, the only surviving brother, had a palace made, 
after giant's fashion, of earth, and boughs, and shmgles, in which 
he shut himself up at night. Orlando knocked, and disturbed 
him from his sleep, so that he came staring to the door like a 
madman, for he had had a bewildering dream. 

" Who knocks there ?" quoth he. 

" You will know too soon," answered Orlando; " I am come to 
make you do penance for your sins, like your brothers. Divine 
Providence has sent me to avenge the wrongs of the monks upon 
the whole set of you. Doubt it not ; for Passamonte and Ala- 
bastro are already as cold as a couple of pilasters." 

" Noble knight," said Morgante, "do me no ill ; but if you 
are a Christian, tell me in courtesy who you are." 

" I will satisfy you of my faith," replied Orlando ; " I adore 
Christ ; and if you please, you may adore him also." 

" I have had a strange vision," replied Morgante, with a low 
voice : " I was assailed by a dreadful serpent, and called upon 
Mahomet in vain ; then I called upon your God who was cruci- 

* A common pleasantry in the old romances.—" Galaor went in, and then 
the halberders attacked him on one side, and the knight on the other. He 
snatched an axe from one, and turned to the knight and smote him, so that he 
had no need of a surgeon."— Southey's Amadis of Gaul, vol. i. p. 146. 


fied, and he succoured me, and 1 was delivered from the serpent; 
BO I am disposed to become a Cliristian." 

" If you keep in tliis mind," returned Orhmdo, " you shall 
worship the true God, and come with me and be my companion, 
and I will love you with perfect love. Your idols are false and 
vain ; the true God is the God of the Christians. Deny tiie un- 
just and villanous worship of your Mahomet, and be baptised in 
tiie name of my God, who alone is worthy." 

*' I am content," said Morgante. 

Then Orlando embraced him, and said, " I will lead you to 
the abbey." 

" Let us go quickly," replied Morgante, for he was impatient 
to make his peace with the monks. 

Orlando rejoiced, saying, " My good brother, and devout with- 
al, you must ask pardon of the abbot ; for God has enliglitened 
you, and accepted you, and he would have you practise hu- 

" Yes," said Morgante, " thanks to you, your God shall hence- 
forth be my God. Tell me your name, and afterwards dispose 
of me as vou will." And he told him that he was Orlando. 

" Blessed Jesus be thanked," said the giant, " for I have al- 
ways heard you called a perfect knight ; and as I said, I will 
follow you all my life long." 

And so conversing, they went together towards the abbey ; and 
by the way Orlando talked with Morgante of the dead giants, and 
sought to comfort him, saying they had done the monks a thousand 
injuries, and "our Scripture says the good shall be rewarded and 
the evil punished, and we must submit to the will of God. The 
doctors of our Church," continued he, " are all agreed, that if 
those who are glorified in heaven were to feel pity for their mise- 
rable kindred who lie in such horrible confusion in hell, their 
beatitude would come to nothing; and this, you see, would plainly 
be unjust on the part of God. But such is the firmness of their 
faith, that what appears good to him appears good to them. Do 
what he may, they hold it to be done :ivell, and that it is impossi- 
ble for him to err; so that if their very fathers and mothers 
are suffering everlasting punishment, it does not disturb them 



fc- ■■■ ■■ " " ' ' " " " '■ ■ ■ 1 1 ■ ■ -■ ■■ — — I ■ I— ■ I ] 


an atom. This is the custom, I assure you, in the choirs; 

" A word to the wise," said Morgante ; " you shall see if I 
grieve for my brethren, and whether or no I submit to the will of 
God, and behave myself like an angel. So dust to dust ; and 
now let us enjoy ourselves. I will cut off their hands, all four 
of them, and take them to these holy monks, that they may be 
sure they are dead, and not fear to go out alone into the desert. 
They will then be certain also that the Lord has purified me, and 
taken me out of darkness, and assured to me the kingdom of 

* " Sonsi i nostri dottori accordati, 
Pigliando tutti una conclusion e, 
Che que' die son nel ciel glorificati, 
S' avessin nel pensier compassione 
De' miseri parent! che damiati 
Son ne lo inferno in gran confusione, 
La lor felicity, nulla sarebbe : 
E vedi che qui ingiusto Iddio parebbe. 

Ma egli anno posto in Gesti ferma spene ; 
E tanto pare a lor, quanto a lui pare : 
AfFerman cit) ch' e' fa, che facci bene, 
E che non possi in nessun modo errare : 
Se padre o madre e ne 1' eterne pene, 
Di questo non si posson contarbare : 
Che quel che place a Dio, sol place a loro : 
Questo s' osserva ne 1' eterno coro. 

Al savio suol bastar poche parole, 
Disse Morgante : tu il potrai vedere, 
De' miei fratelli, Orlando, se mi duole, 
E s' io m' accorder6 di Dio al volere. 
Come tu di che in ciel servar si suole : 
Morti co' morti ; or pensiam di godere : 
Io vo' tagliar le mani a tutti quanti, 
E porteroUe a que' monaci santi." 

This doctrine, which is horrible blasphemy in the eyes of natural feeling, is 
good reasoning in Catholic and Calvinistic theology. They first make the 
Deity's actions a necessity from more barbarous assumption, then square them 
according to a dictum of the Councils, then compliment him by laying all that 
he has made good and kindly within us mangled and mad at his feet. Mean- 
time they think themselves qualified to denounce Moloch and Jugghanaut ! 


heaven." So saying, the giant cut ofl* the hands of his brethren, 
and left their bodies to tlie beasts and birds. 

They went to the abbey, where the abbot was expecting Orlan- 
do in great anxiety ; but the monks not knowing wliat had liap- 
pened, ran to the abbot in great haste and alarm, saying, " ^V'ill 
you suffer this giant to come in ?" And when the abbot saw 
the giant, he changed countenance. Orlando, perceiving him 
thus disturbed, made haste and said, " Abbot, peace be with you ! 
The giant is a Christian ; he believes in Christ, and has renoun- 
ced his false prophet, Mahomet." And Morgante shewing the 
hands in proof of his faith, the abbot thanked Heaven with great 
contentment of mind. 

The abbot did much honour to Morgante, comparing him with 
St. Paul ; and they rested there many days. One day, wander- 
ing over the house, they entered a room where the abbot kept a 
quantity of armour ; and INIorgante saw a bow which pleased 
him, and he fastened it on. Now there was in the place a great 
scarcity of water ; and Orlando said, like his good brother, 
"Morgante,! wish you would fetch us some water." "Com- 
mand me as you please," said he ; and placing a great tub on 
his shoulders, he went towards a spring at which he had been ac- 
customed to drink, at the foot of the mountain. Having reached 
the spring, he suddenly heard a great noise in the forest. He 
took an arrow from the quiver, placed it in the bow, and raising 
his head, saw a great herd of swine rushing towards the spring 
where he stood. Morgante shot one of them clean through the 
head, and laid him sprawling. Another, as if in revenge, ran to- 
wards the giant, without giving him time to use a second arrow ; 
so he lent him a cuff on the head which broke the bone, and 
killed him also ; which stroke the rest seeing fled in haste tlirough 
the valley. Morgante then placed the tub full of water upon one 
of his shoulders, and the two porkers on the other, and returned 
to the abbey which was at some distance, without spilling a 

The monks were delighted to see the fresh water, but still 
more the pork ; for there is no animal to whom food comes amiss. 
They let their breviaries therefore go to sleep a while, and fell 


heartily to work, so that the cats and dogs had reason to lament 
the polish of the bones. 

" But why do we stay here doing nothing ?" said Orlando one 
day to ]\Iorgante ; and he shook hands with the abbot, and told 
him he must take his leave. " I must go," said he, " and make 
up for lost time. I ought to have gone long ago, my good father ; 
but I cannot tell you what I feel within me, at the content I have 
enjoyed here in your company. I shall bear in mind and in 
heart with me for ever the abbot, the abbey, and this desert, so 
great is the love they have raised m me in so short a time. The 
great God, who reigns above, must thank you for me, in his own 
abode. Bestow on us your benediction, and do not forget us hi 
your prayers." 

When the abbot heard the County Orlando talk thus, his heart 
melted within him for tenderness, and he said, " Knight, if we 
have failed in any courtesy due to your prowess and great gen- 
tleness (and indeed what we have done has been but little), pray 
put it to the account of our ignorance, and of the place which we 
inhabit. We are but poor men of the cloister, better able to re- 
gale you with masses and orisons and paternosters, than with din- 
ners and suppers. You have so taken this heart of mine by the 
many noble qualities I have seen in you, that I shall be witli you 
still wherever you go ; and, on the other hand, you will always 
be present here with me. This seems a contradiction, but you 
are wise, and will take my meaning discreetly. You have saved 
the veiy life and spirit within us ; for so much perplexity had 
those giants cast about our place, that the way to the Lord among 
us was blocked up. May He who sent you into these woods re- 
ward the justice and piety by which we are delivered from our 
trouble. Thanks be to him and to you. We shall all be discon- 
solate at your departure. We shall grieve that we cannot detain 
you among us for months and years ; but you do not wear these 
weeds ; you bear arms and armour ; and you may possibly 
merit as well in carrying those, as in wearing this cap. You 
read your Bible, and your virtue has been the means of shewing 
the giant the way to heaven. Go in peace then, and prosper, 
whoever you may be. I do not seek your name ; but if ever I 
am asked who it was that came among us, I shall say that it was 


an angel from God. If there is any armour or other tiling that 
you would have, go into the room where it is, and take it." 

•' If you have any armour that would suit my companion," 
replied Orlando, '" that I will accept with pleasure." 

" Come and see," said the abbot ; and they went to a room 
that was full of armour. Morgante looked all about, but could 
find nothing large enough, except a rusty breast-plate, which 
fitted him marvellously. It had belonged to an enormous giant, 
who was killed there of old by Orlando's father, Milo of Angrante. 
There was a painting on the wall which told the whole story : 
how the giant had laid cruel and long siege to the abbey ; and 
how he had been overthrown at last by the great Milo. Orlando 
seeing this, said within himself: "O God, unto whom all things 
are known, how came Milo here, who destroyed this giant ?" 
And reading certain inscriptions which were there, he could no 
longer keep a firm countenance, but the tears ran down his 

A\'hen the abbot saw Orlando weep, and his brow redden, and 
the liglit of his eyes become child-like for sweetness, he asked 
him the reason ; but, finding him still dumb with emotion, he 
said, '• I do not know whether you are overpow^ered by admira- 
tion of what is painted in this chamber. You must know that I 
am of high descent, though not through lawful wedlock. I be- 
lieve I may say I am nephew or sister's son to no less a man 
than that Rinaldo, who was so great a Paladin in the world, 
though my own father was not of a lawful mother. Ansuigi 
was his name ; my own, out in the world, was Chiaramonte ; 
and this Milo was my father's brother. Ah, gentle baron, for 
blessed Jesus' sake, tell me what name is yours !" 

Orlando, all clowincr with affection, and bathed in tears, re- 
plied, " My dear abbot and cousin, he before you is your Orlan- 
do." Upon this, they ran for tenderness into each other's arms, 
weeping on both sides with a sovereign afTection, too high to be 
expressed. The abbot was so overjoyed, that he seemed as if 
he would never have done embracing Orlando. " Bj w^hat for- 
tune," said the knight, " do I find you in this obscure place ? 
Tell me, my dear abbot, how was it you became a monk, and 
did not follow arms, like mvself and the rest of us?" 


" It is the will of God," replied the abbot, hastening to give 
his feelings utterance. '•' Many and divers are the paths he 
points out for us by which to arrive at his city ; some walk it 
with the sword — some with pastoral staff. Nature makes the 
inclination different, and therefore there are different ways for 
us to take : enough if we all arrive safely at one and the same 
place, the last as well as the first. We are all pilgrims through 
many kingdoms. We all wish to go to Rome, Orlando ; but we 
go picking out our journey through different roads. Such is the 
trouble in body and soul brought upon us by that sin of the old 
apple. Day and night am I here with ray book in hand — day 
and night do you ride about, holding your sword, and sweating 
oft both in sun and shadow ; and all to get round at last to the 
home from which we departed — I say, all out of anxiety and 
hope to get back to our home of old." And the giant hearing 
them talk of these things, shed tears also. 

The Paladin and the giant quitted the abbey, the one on horse- 
back and the other on foot, and journeyed through the desert till 
they came to a magnificent castle, the door of which stood open. 
They entered, and found rooms furnished in the most splendid 
manner — beds covered with cloth of gold, and floors rejoicing in 
variegated marbles. There was even a feast prepared in the 
saloon, but nobody to eat it, or to speak to them. 

Orlando suspected some trap, and did not quite like it ; but 
Morgante thought nothing worth considering but the feast. 
" Who cares for the host," said he, " when there's such a din- 
ner ? Let us eat as much as we can, and bear off the rest, I 
always do that when I have the picking of castles." 

They accordingly sat down, and being very hungry with their 
day's journey, devoured heaps of the good things before them, 
eating with all the vigour of health, and drinking to a pitch of 
weakness.* They sat late in this manner enjoying themselves, 
and then retired for the nieht into rich beds. 

* " E furno al bere hifermi, al manfriar sani." 

I am not sure that I am right in my construction of this passage. Perhaps 
Pulci means to say, that they had the appetites of men in health, and th9 
thirst of a fever. 


But what was their astonishment in tlic morning at finding that 
they could not get out of the place ! There was no door. All 
the entrances had vanished, even to any feasible window. 

" We must be dreaming," said Orlando. 

" jMy dinner was no dream, I'll swear," said the giant. " A3 
for the rest, let it be a dream if it pleases." 

Continuing to search up and down, they at length found a 
vault with a tomb in it ; and out of the tomb came a voice, say- 
ing, " You must encounter with me, or stay here for ever. Lift, 
therefore, the stone that covers me." 

" Do you hear that ?" said Morgante ; " I'll have him out, if 
it's the devil himself. Perhaps it's two devils, Filthy-dog and 
Foul-mouth, or Itclfmg and Evil-tail."* 

" Have him out," said Orlando, " whoever he is, even were it 
as many devils as were rained out of heaven into the centre." 

Morgante lifted up the stone, and out leaped, surely enough, a 
devil in the likeness of a dried-up dead body, black as a coal. 
Orlando seized him, and the devil grappled with Orlando. Mor- 
gante was for joining him, but the Paladin bade him keep back. 
It was a hard struggle, and the devil grinned and laughed, till the 
giant, who was a master of wrestling, could bear it no longer : so 
he doubled him up, and, in spite of all his efforts, thrust him back 
into the tomb. 

" You'll never get out," said the devil, " if you leave me shut 

" Why not ?" inquired the Paladin. 

" Because your giant's baptism and my deliverance must go 
together," answered the devil. " If he is not baptised, you can 
have no deliverance ; and if I am not delivered, I can prevent it 
still, take my word for it." 

Orlando baptised the giant. The two companions then issued 
forth, and hearing a mighty noise in the house, looked back, and 
saw it all vanished. 

"I could find it in my heart," said Morgante, "to go down to 
those same regions below, and make all the devils disappear in 
like manner. Why shouldn't we do it ? We'd set free all the 

* Cagnazzo, Farfarello, Libicocco, and Malacoda ; names of devils in Dante. 


poor souls there. Egad, I'd cut off Minos's tail — I'd pull out 
Charon's beard by the roots — make a sop of Phlegyas, and a sup 
of Phlegethon — unseat Pluto, — kill Cerberus and the Furies with 
a punch of the face a-piece — and set Beelzebub scampering like 
a dromedary." 

" You might find more trouble than you wot of," quoth Orlando, 
' and get worsted besides. Better keep the straight path, than 
thrust your head into out-of-the-way places." 

Morgante took his lord's advice, and went straightforward with 
liim through many great adventures, helping him with loving 
good-will as often as he was permitted, sometimes as his pioneer, 
and sometimes as his finisher of troublesome work, such as a 
slaughter of some thousands of infidels. Now he chucked a spy 
into a river — now felled -a rude ambassador to the earth (for he 
didn't stand upon ceremony) — now cleared a space round him in 
battle with the clapper of an old bell which he had found at the 
monastery — now doubled up a king in his tent, and bore him 
away, tent and all, and a Paladin with him, because he would not 
let the Paladin go. 

In the course of these services, the giant was left to take care 
of a lady, and lost his master for a time ; but the ofiice being at 
an end, he set out to rejoin him, and, arriving at a cross-road, met 
with a very extraordinary personage. 

This was a giant huger than himself, swarthy-faced, horrible, 
brutish. He came out of a wood, and appeared to be journeying 
somewhere. Morgante, who had the great bell-clapper in his 
hand above-mentioned, struck it on the ground with astonishment, 
as much as to say, " Who the devil is this ?" and then set him- 
self on a stone by the way-side to observe the creature. 

" What's your name, traveller ?" said Morgante, as it came 

" My name's Margutte," said the phenomenon. "I. intended 
to be a giant myself, but altered my mind, you see, and stopped 
half-way ; so that I am only twenty feet or so." 

" I'm glad to see you," quoth his brother-giant. " But tell me, 
are you Christian or Saracen ? Do you believe in Christ or in 
Apollo .?" 

" To tell you the truth," said the other, " I believe neither in 


black nor blue, but in a good capon, whether it be roast or boiled. 
I believe sometimes also in butter, and, when I can get it, in new 
wine, particularly the rough sort ; but, above all, I believe in 
wine that's good and old. Mahomet's prohibition of it is all 
moonshine. I am the son, you must know, of a Greek nun and 
a Turkish bishop ; and the first thing I learned was to play the 
fiddle. I used to sing Homer to it. I was then concerned in a 
bra\\ 1 in a mosque, in which the old bishop somehow happened to 
be killed ; so I tied a sword to my side, and went to seek my 
fortune, accompanied by all the possible sins of Turk and Greek. 
People talk of the seven deadly sins ; but I have seventy-seven 
that never quit me, summer or winter ; by which you may judge 
of the amount of my venial ones. I am a gambler, a cheat, a 
ruffian, a highwayman, a pickpocket, a glutton (at beef or blows) ; 
have no shame whatever ; love to let every body know what I 
can do ; lie, besides, about what I can't do ; have a particular 
attachment to sacrilege ; swallow perjuries like figs; never give 
a farthing to any body, but beg of every body, and abuse them 
into the bargain ; look upon not spilling a drop of liquor as the 
chief of all the cardinal virtues ; but must own I am not much 
given to assassination, murder being inconvenient ; and one thing 
I am bound to acknowledge, which is, that I never betrayed a 

" That's as well," observed Moi'gante ; " because you see, as 
you don't believe in any thing else, I'd have you believe in this 
bell-clapper of mine. So now, as you have been candid with me, 
and I am well instructed in your ways, we'll pursue our journey 

The best of giants, in those days, were not scrupulous in their 
modes of living ; so that one of the best and one of the worst got 
on pretty well together, emptying the larders on the road, and 
paying nothing but douses on the chops. When they could find 
no inn, they hunted elephants and crocodiles. Morgante, who was 
the braver of the two, delighted to banter, and sometimes to cheat, 
Margutte ; and he ate up all the fare ; which made the other, 
notwithstandinor the credit he j^ave himself for readiness of wit 
and tongue, cut a very sorry figure, and seriously remonstrate : 
" I reverence you, said Margutte, " in otiier matters ; but in eat- 


ing, you really don't behave well. He who deprives me of my 
share at meals is no friend ; at every mouthful of which he robs 
me, I seem to lose an eye. I'm for sharing every thing to a nicety, 
even if it be no better than a fig." 

" You are a fine fellow," said Morgante ; •' you gain upon me 
very much. You are ' the master of those who know.' "* 

So saying, he made him put some wood on the fire, and per- 
form a hundred other offices to render every thing snug ; and 
then he slept : and next day he cheated his great scoundrelly com- 
panion at drink, as he had done the day before at meat ; and 
the poor shabby devil complained ; and Morgante laughed till 
he was ready to burst, and again and again always cheated him. 

There was a levity, nevertheless, in Margutte, which restored 
his spirits on the slightest glimpse of good fortune ; and if he real- 
ised a hearty meal, he became the happiest, beastliest, and most 
confident of giants. The companions, in the course of their jour- 
ney, delivered a damsel from the clutches of three other giants. 
She was the daughter of a great lord ; and when she got home, 
she did honour to Morgante as to an equal, and put Margutte into 
the kitchen, where he was in a state of bliss. He did nothing but 
swill, stuff, surfeit, be sick, play at dice, cheat, filch, go to sleep, 
guzzle again, laugh, chatter, and tell a thousand lies. 

Morgante took leave of the young lady, who made him rich 
presents. Margutte, seeing this, and being always drunk and im- 
pudent, daubed his face like a Christmas clown, and making up 
to her with a frying-pan in his hand, demanded " something for 
the cook." The fair hostess gave him a jewel : and the vaga- 
bond shewed such a brutal eagerness in seizing it with his filthy 
hands, and making not the least acknowledgment, that when they 
got out of the house, Morgante was ready to fell him to the earth. 
He called him scoundrel and poltroon, and said he had disgraced 
him for ever. 

" Softly !" said the brute-beast. " Didn't you take me with 
you, knowing what sort of fellow I was ? Didn't I tell you I had 
every sin and shame under heaven ; and have I deceived you by 
the exhibition of a single virtue ?" 

* " II maestro di color cho sanno." A jocose application of Dante's praise 
of Aristotle. 


Morgante could not help laughing at a candour of this excess- 
ive nature. So they went on their way till they came to a wood, 
where they rested themselves by a fountain, and Margutte fell 
fast asleep. He had a pair of boots on, which Morgante felt 
tempted to draw off, that he might see what he would do on wa- 
king. He accordingly did so, and threw them to a little distance 
among the bushes. The sleeper awoke in good time, and,. look- 
ing and searching round about, suddenly burst into roars of laugh- 
ter. A monkey had got the boots, and sat pulling them on and 
off, making the most ridiculous gestures. The monkey busied 
himself, and the light-minded drunkard laughed ; and at every 
fresh gesticulation of the new boot-wearer, the laugh grew louder 
and more tremendous, till at length it was found impossible to 
be restrained. The glutton had a laughing fit. In vain he 
tried to stop himself; in vain his fingers would have loosened the 
buttons of his doublet, to give his lungs room to play. They 
couldn't do it ; so he laughed and roared till he burst. The snap 
was like the splitting of a cannon. Morgante ran up to him, but 
it was of no use. He was dead. 

Alas ! it was not the only death ; it was not even the most trivial 
cause of a death. Giants are big fellows, but Death's a bigger, 
though he may come in a little shape. Morgante had succeeded 
in joining his master. He helped him to take Babylon ; he kill- 
ed a whale for him at sea that obstructed his passage ; he played 
the part of a main-sail during a storm, holding out his arms and a 
great hide ; but on coming to shore, a crab bit him in the heel ; 
and behold the lot of the great giant — he died ! He laughed, and 
thought it a very little thing, but it proved a mighty one. " He 
made the East tremble," said Orlando ; " and the bite of a crab 
has slain him !" 

O life of ours, weak, and a fallacy !* 

Orlando embalmed his huge friend, and had him taken to Bab- 
ylon, and honourably interred ; and after many an adventure, in 
which he regretted him, his own days were closed by a far baser, 
though not so petty a cause. 

How shall I speak of it ? exclaims the poet. How think of 

* " O vita nostra, debole e fallace !" 


the horrible slaughter about to fall on the Christians and their 
greatest men, so that not a dry eye shall be left in France ? How 
express my disgust at the traitor Gan, whose heart a thousand 
pardons from his sovereign, and the most undeserved rescues of 
him by the warrior he betrayed, could not shame or soften ? 
How mourn the weakness of Charles, always deceived by him, 
and always trusting ? How dare to present to my mind the good, 
the great, the ever-generous Orlando, brought by the traitor into 
the doleful pass of Roncesvalles and the hands of myriads of his 
enemies, so that even his superhuman strength availed not to deliver 
him out of the slaughter-house, and he blew the blast with his 
dying breath; which was the mightiest, the farthest heard, and 
the most melancholy sound that ever came to the ears of the un- 
deceived ? 

Gan was known well to every body but his confiding sove- 
reign. The Paladins knew him well ; and in their moments of 
indignant disgust often told him so, though they spared him the 
consequences of his misdeeds, and even incurred the most frightful 
perils to deliver him out of the hands of his enemies. But he 
was brave ; he was in favour with the sovereign, who was also 
their kinsman ; and they were loyal and loving men, and knew 
that the wretch envied them for the greatness of their achieve- 
ments, and might do the state a mischief; so they allowed them- 
selves to take a kind of scornful pleasure in putting up with him. 
Their cousin Malagigi, the enchanter, had himself assisted Gan, 
though he knew him best of all, and had prophesied that the in- 
numerable endeavours of his envy to destroy his king and coun- 
try would bring some terrible evil at last to all Christendom. 
The evil, alas ! is at hand. The doleful time has come. It will 
be followed, it is true, by a worse fate of the wretch himself; but 
not till the valleys of the Pyrenees have run rivers of blood, and 
all France is in mourning. 



This is the 

" sad and fearful story 
Of the Roncesvalles fight ;" 

an event which national and religious exaggeration impressed deeply on the 
popular mind of Europe. Hence Italian romances and Spanish ballads : hence 
the famous peissage in Milton, 

" When Charlemain with all his peerage fell 
By Fontarabbia :" 

hence Dante's record of the dolorosa rotta (dolorous rout) in the Inferno, where 
he compares the voice of Nimrod with the horn sounded by the dying Orlando : 
hence the peasant in Cervantes, who is met by Don Quixote singing the bat- 
tle as he comes along the road in the morning : and hence the song of Roland 
actually thundered forth by the army of William the Conqueror as they ad- 
vanced against the English. 

But Charlemagne did not " fall," as Milton has stated. Nor does Puici 
make him do so. In this respect, if in little else, the Italian poet adhered to 
the fact. The whole story is a remarkable instance of what can be done by 
poetry and popularity towards misrepresenting and aggrandising a petty though 
striking adventure. The simple fact was the cutting off the rear of Charle- 
magne's army by the revolted Geiscons, as he returned from a successful expe- 
dition into Spain. Two or three only of his nobles perished, among whom was 
his nephew Roland, the obscure warden of his marches of Brittany. But Charle- 
magne was the temporal head of Christendom ; the poets constituted his 
nephew its champion ; and hence all the glories and superhuman exploits of 
the Orlando of Pulci and Ariosto. The whole assumption of the wickedness 
of the Saracens, particularly of the then Saracen king of Spain, whom Pulci's 
authority, the pseudo- Archbishop, Turpin, strangely called Marsilius, was noth- 
ing but a pious fraud ; the pretended Marsilius having been no less a person 
than the great and good Abdoiilrahmaiin the First, who wrested the dominion 
of that country out of the hands of the usurpers of his family-rights. Yet so 
potent and long-lived are the most extravagant fictions, when genius has put 
its heart into them, that to this day we read of the devoted Orlando and his 
friends not only with gravity, but with the liveliest emotion. 



A MISERABLE man am 1, cries the poet ; for Orlando, beyond a 
doubt, died in Roncesvalles ; and die therefore he must in my 
verses. Ahogether impossible is it to save him. I thought to 
make a pleasant ending of this my poem, so that it should be hap- 
pier somehow, throughout, than melancholy ; but though Gan 
will die at last, Orlando must die before him, and that makes a 
tragedy of all. I had a doubt, whether, consistently with the 
truth, I could give the reader even that sorry satisfaction ; for at 
the beginning of the dreadful battle, Orlando's cousin, Rinaldo, 
who is said to have joined it before it was over, and there, as well 
as afterwards, to have avenged his death, was far away from the 
seat of slaughter, in Egypt ; and how was I to suppose that he 
could arrive soon enough in the valleys of the Pyrenees ? But 
an angel upon earth shewed me the secret, even Angelo Poli- 
ziano, the glory of his age and country. He informed me how 
Arnauld, the ProveuQal poet, had written of this very matter, and 
brought the Paladin from Egypt to France by means of the won- 
derful skill in occult science possessed by his cousin Malagigi — 
a wonder to the ignorant, but not so marvellous to those who 
know that all the creation is full of wonders, and who have differ- 
ent modes of relating the same events. By and by, a great many 
things will be done in the world, of which we have no conception 
now, and people will be inclined to believe them works of the 
devil, when, in fact, they will be very good works, and contribute 
to angelical effects, whether the devil be forced to have a hand in 
them or not ; for evil itself can work only in subordination to 
good. So listen when the astonishment comes, and reflect and 
think the best. Meantime, we must speak of another and more 


truly devilish astonishment, and of the pangs of mortal flesh and 

The traitor Gan, for the fiftieth time, had secretly brought the 
infidels from all quarters against his friend and master, the Em- 
peror Charles ; and Charles, by the help of Orlando, had con- 
quered them all. The worst of them, Marsilius, king of Spain, 
had agreed to pay the court of France tribute ; and Gan, in spite 
of all the suspicions he excited in this particular instance, and his 
known villany at all times, had succeeded in persuading his cre- 
dulous sovereign to let him go ambassador into Spain, where he 
put a final seal to his enormities, by plotting the destruction of his 
employer, and the special overthrow of Orlando. Charles was 
now old and white-haired, and Gan was so too ; but the^one was 
only confirmed in his credulity, and the other in his crimes. The 
traitor embraced Orlando over and over again at taking leave, 
praying him to write if he had anything to say before the ar- 
rangements with Marsilius, and taking such pains to seem loving 
and sincere, that his villany was manifest to every one but the 
old monarch. He fastened with equal tenderness on Uliviero, 
who smiled contemptuously in his face, and thought to himself, 
*' You may make as many fair speeches as you choose, but you 
lie." All the other Paladins who were present thought the same, 
and they said as much to the emperor ; adding, that on no account 
should Gan be sent ambassador to Marsilius. But Charles was 
infatuated. His beard and his credulity had grown old together. 

Gan was received with great honour in Spain by Marsilius. 
The king, attended by his lords, came fifteen miles out of Sara- 
gossa to meet him, and then conducted him into the city amid 
tumults of delight. There was nothing for several days but 
balls, and games, and exhibitions of chivalry, the ladies throwing 
flowers on the heads of the French knights, and the people shout- 
ing " France ! France ! Mountjoy and St. Denis !" 

Gan made a speech, " like a Demosthenes," to King Marsilius 
in public ; but he made him another in private, like nobody but 
himself. The king andJie were sitting in a garden ; they were 
traitors both, and began to understand, from one another's looks, 
that the real object of the ambassador was yet to be discussed. 
Marsilius accordingly assumed a more than usually cheerful and 


confidential aspect ; and, taking his visitor by the hand, said, 
" You know the proverb, Mr. Ambassador — ' At dawn, the moun- 
tain ; afternoon, the fountain.' Dillerent things at ditferent 
liours. So here is a fountain to accommodate us." 

It was a very beautiful fountain, so clear that you saw your 
face in it as in a mirror ; and the spot was encircled with fruit- 
trees that quivered with the fresh air. Gan praised it very 
much, contriving to insinuate, on one subject, his satisfaction 
with the glimpses he got into another. Marsilius understood 
him ; and as he resumed the conversation, and gradually en- 
couraged a mutual disclosure of their thoughts, Gan, without 
appearing to look him in the face, was enabled to do so by con- 
templating the royal visage in the water, where he saw its ex- 
pression become more and more what he desired. Marsilius, 
meantime, saw the like symptoms in the face of Gan. By de- 
grees, he began to touch on that dissatisfaction with Charlemagne 
and his court, which he knew was in both their minds : he 
lamented, not as to the ambassador, but as to the friend, the inju- 
ries which lie said he had received from Charles in the repeated 
attacks on his dominions, and the emperor's wish to crown 
Orlando king of them ; till at length he plainly uttered his belief, 
that if that tremendous Paladin were but dead, good men would 
get their rights, and his visitor and himself have all things at 
their disposal. 

Gan heaved a sigh, as if he was unwillingly compelled to 
allow the force of what the king said ; but, unable to contain 
himself long, he lifted up his face, radiant with triumphant wick- 
edness, and exclaimed, " Every word you utter is truth. Die he 
must ; and die also must Uliviero, who struck me that foul blow 
at court. Is it treachery to punish atfronts like those ? I have 
planned every thing — I have settled every thing already with 
their besotted master. Orlando could not be expected to be 
brought hither, where he has been accustomed to look for a 
crown ; but he will come to the Spanish borders- — to Ronces- 
valles — for the purpose of receiving the tribute. Charles will 
await him, at no great distance, in St. John Pied de Port. Or- 
lando will bring but a small band with him ; you, when you 



meet him, will have secretly your whole army at your back. 
You surround him ; and who receives tribute then ?" 

The new Judas had scarcely uttered these words, when the 
delight of him and his associate was interrupted by a change in 
the face of nature. The sky was suddenly overcast ; it thun- 
dered and lightened ; a laurel was split in two from head to foot ; 
the fountain ran into burning blood ; there was an earthquake, 
and the carob-tree under which Gan was sitting, and which was 
of the species on which Judas Iscariot hung himself, dropped 
some of its fruit on his head. The hair of the head rose in 

Marsilius, as well as Gan, was appalled at this omen ; but on 
assembling his soothsayers, they came to the conclusion that the 
laurel-tree turned the omen against the emperor, the successor of 
tlie Caesars ; though one of them renewed the consternation of 
Gan, by saying that he did not understand the meaning of the 
tree of Judas, and intimating that perhaps the ambassador could 
explain it. Gan relieved his consternation with anger ; the habit 
of wickedness prevailed over all considerations ; and the king 
prepared to march for Roncesvalles at the head of all his forces. 

Gan wrote to Charlemagne, to say how humbly and properly 
Marsilius was coming to pay the tribute into the hands of Orlando, 
and how handsome it would be of the emperor to meet him half 
way, as agreed upon, at St. John Pied de Port, and so be ready 
to receive him, after the payment, at his footstool. He added a 
brilliant account of the tribute and its accompanying presents. 
They included a crown in the shape of a garland which had a 
carbuncle in it that gave light in darkness ; two lions of an " im- 
measurable length, and aspects that frightened every body ;" 
some " lively buffalos," leopards, crocodiles, and giraffes ; arms 
and armour of all sorts ; and apes and monkeys seated among the 
rich merchandise that loaded the backs of the camels. This im- 
aginary treasure contained, furthermore, two enchanted spirits, 
called " Floro and Faresse," who were confined in a mirror, and 
were to tell the emperor wonderful things, particularly Floro 
(for there is nothing so nice in its details as lying) ; and Or- 
lando was to have heaps of caravans full of Eastern wealth, and 
a hundred while horses, all with saddles and bridles of gold. 


There was a beautiful vest, too, for Uliviero, all over jewels, 
worth ten thousand " seraffi," or more. 

The good emperor wrote in turn to say how pleased lie was 
with the ambassador's diligence, and that matters were arranged 
precisely as he wished. His court, however, had its suspicions 
still. Nobody could believe that Gan had not some new mischief 
in contemplation. Little, nevertheless, did they imagine, after tlic 
base endeavours he had but lately made against them, that he had. 
immediately plotted a new and greater one, and that his object in 
briniiiniz Charles into the neighbourhood of Roncesvalles was to 
deliver liim more speedily into the hands of TMarsilius, in the event 
of the latter's destruction of Orlando. 

Orlando, however, did as his lord and sovereign desired. He 
went to Roncesvalles, accompanied by a moderate train of war- 
riors, not dreaming of the atrocity that awaited him. Gan him- 
self, meantime, had hastened on to France before Marsilius, in 
order to shew himself free and easy in the presence of Charles, 
and secure the success of his plot ; while Marsilius, to make as- 
surance doubly sure, brought into the passes of Roncesvalles no 
less than three armies, who were successively to fall on the Pa- 
ladin, in case of the worst, and so extinguish him with numbers. 
He had also, by Gan's advice, brought heaps of wine and good 
cheer to be set before his victims in the first instance ; " for that," 
said the traitor, " will render the onset the more effective, the feast- 
ers being unarmed ; and, supposing prodigies of valour to await 
even the attack of your second army, you will have no trouble 
with vour third. One thing, however, I must not forget," added 
he ; " mv son Baldwin is sure to be with Orlando ; you must 
take care of his life for my sake." 

" I give him this vest off my own body," said the king ; " let 
him wear it in tlie battle, and have no fear. My soldiers shall 
be directed not to touch him." 

Gan went away rejoicing to France. He embraced the court 
and his sovereign all round, with the air of a man who had 
brought them nothing but blessings ; and the old king wept for 
very tenderness and delight. 

" Something is going on wrong, and looks very black," thought 
Malasi<^i, the good wizard : " and Rinaldo is not here, and it is in- 


dispensably necessary that he should be. I must find out where 
he is, and Ricciardetto too, and send for them with all speed, and 
at any price." 

Malagigi called up, by his art, a wise, terrible, and cruel spirit, 
named Ashtaroth ; no light personage to deal with — no little spirit, 
such as plays tricks with you like a fairy. A much blacker vis- 
itant was this. 

" Tell me, and tell me truly of Rinaldo," said Malagigi to the 

Hard looked the demon at the Paladin, and said nothing. His 
aspect was clouded and violent. He wished to see whether his 
summoner retained all the force of his art. 

The enchanter, with an aspect still cloudier, bade Ashtaroth 
lay down that look. While giving this order, he also made signs 
indicative of a disposition to resort to angrier compulsion ; and 
the devil, apprehending that he would confine him in some hateful 
place, loosened his tongue, and said, " You have not told me what 
you desire to know of Rinaldo." 

" I desire to know what he has been doing, and where he is," 
returned the enchanter. 

" He has been conquering and baptising the world, east and 
west," said the demon, " and is now in Egypt with Ricciardetto." 

" And what has Gan been plotting with Marsilius," inquired 
Malagigi, " and what is to come of it ?" 

" On neither of those points can I enlighten you," said the 
devil. "I was not attending to Gan at the time, and we fallen 
spirits know not the future. Had we done so, we had not been 
so willing to incur the danger of falling. All I discern is, 
that, by the signs and comets in the heavens, something dreadful 
is about to happen — something very strange, treacherous, and 
bloody ; and that Gan has a seat ready prepared for him in hell." 

" Within three days," cried the enchanter, loudly, " fetch Ri- 
naldo and Ricciardetto into the pass of Roncesvalles. Do it, and 
I hereby undertake never to summon thee more." 

" Suppose they will not trust themselves with me," said the 

" Enter Rinaldo's horse, and bring him, whether he trust thee 
or not." 


" It shall be done," returned the demon ; " and my serving- 
devil Foul-Mouth, or Fire-Ilc<l, shall enter the horse oi Riceim-- 
detto. Doubt it not. Am I not wise, and thyself power/ul V 

There was an earthquake, and Ashtaroth disappeared. 

Marsilius has now made his first movement towards the de- 
struction of Orlando, by sending before him his vassal-king Blan- 
chardin with his presents of wines and other luxuries. The 
temperate but courteous hero took them in good part, and distrib- 
uted them as the traitor wished ; and then Blanchardin, on pre- 
tence of iroinn forward to salute Charlemaene at St. John Pied de 
Port, returned and put himself at the head of the second army, 
which was the post assigned him by his liege lord. The device 
on his Hag was an " Apollo" on a field azure. King Falseron, 
whose son Orlando had slain in battle, headed the first army, the 
device of which was a black figure of the devil Belphegor on a 
dapple-grey field. The third army was under King Balugante, 
and had for ensign a Mahomet with golden wings in a field of 
red. Marsilius made a speech to them at night, in which he con- 
fessed his ill faith^ but defended it on the ground of Charles's 
hatred of their religion, and of the example of "Judith and Holo- 
fernes." He said that he had not come there to pay tribute, and 
sell his countrymen for slaves, but to make all Christendom pay 
tribute to them as conquerors ; and he concluded by recommend- 
ing to their good-will the son of his friend Gan, whom they would 
know by the vest he had sent him, and who was the only soul 
among the Christians they were to spare. 

This son of Gan, meantime, and several of the Paladins who 
were disgusted with Charles's credulity, and anxious at all events 
to be with Orlando, had joined the hero in the fated valley ; so 
that the little Christian host, considering the tremendous valour 
of their lord and his friends, and the comparative inefficiency of 
that of the inlidels, were at any rate not to be sold for nothing. 
Rinaldo, alas ! the second thunderbolt of Christendom, was des- 
tined not to be there in time to save their lives. He could only 
avenge the dreadful tragedy, and prevent still worse consequences 
to the whole Christian court and empire. The Paladins had in 
vain begged Orlando to be on his guard against treachery, and 
ocnd for a more numerous body of men. The great heart of the 


Champion of the Faith was unwilling to think the worst as long 
as- he could help it. He refused to summon aid that might be 
superfluous ; neither would he do any thing but what his liege 
lord had desired. And yet he could not wholly repress a misgiv- 
ing, A shadow had fallen on his heart, great and cheerful as it 
was. The anticipations of his friends disturbed him, in spite of 
the face with which he met them. I am not sure that he did not, 
by a certain instinctive foresight, expect death itself; but he felt 
bound not to encourage the impression. Besides, time pressed ; 
the moment of the looked-for tribute was at hand ; and little 
combinations of circumstances determine often the greatest events. 

King Blanchardin had brought Orlando's people a luxurious 
supper ; King Marsilius was to arrive early next day with the 
tribute ; and Uliviero accordingly, with the morning sun, rode 
forth to reconnoitre, and see if he could discover the peaceful 
pomp of the Spanish court in the distance. Guottibuoffi was with 
him, a warrior who had expected the very worst, and repeatedly 
implored Orlando to believe it possible. Uliviero and he rode up 
the mountain nearest them, and from the top of it beheld the first 
army of Marsilius already forming in the passes. 

" O Guottibuoffi !" exclaimed he, " behold thy prophecies come 
true ! behold the last day of the glory of Charles ! Every where 
I see the arms of the traitors around us. I feel Paris tremble all 
the way through France, to the ground beneath my feet. O 
Malagigi, too much in the right wert thou ! O devil Gan, this 
then is the consummation of thy good offices !" 

Uliviero put spurs to his horse, and galloped back down the 
mountain to Orlando. 

" Well," cried the hero, " what news ?" 

" Bad news," said his cousin ; " such as you would not hear 
of yesterday. Marsilius is here in arms, and all the world has 
come with him." 

The Paladins pressed round Orlando, and entreated him to 
sound his horn, in token that he needed help. His only answer 
was, to mount his horse, and ride up the mountain with San- 

As soon, however, as he cast forth his eyes and beheld what 
was round about him, he turned in sorrow, and looked down into 


Roncesvalles, and said, " valley, miserable indeed ! the blood 
that is shed in thee this day will colour thy name for ever." 

Many of the Paladins had ridden after him, and they again 
pressed him to sound his horn, if only in pity to his own people. 
He said, "If Caesar and Alexander were here, Scipio and Han- 
nibal, and Nebuchadnezzar with all his flags, and Death stared 
me in the face with his knife in his hand, never would I sound 
my horn for the baseness of fear." 

Orlando's little camp were furious against the Saracens. They 
armed themselves with the greatest impatience. There was 
nothing but lacing of helmets and mounting of horses ; and good 
Archbishop Turpin went from rank to rank, exhorting and en- 
couraging the warriors of Christ. Accoutrements and habili- 
ments were put on the wrong way ; words and deeds mixed in 
confusion ; men running against one another out of very absorp- 
tion in themselves ; all the place full of cries of " Arm ! arm ! 
the enemy !" and the trumpets clanged over all against the 

Orlando and his captains withdrew for a moment to consulta- 
tion. He fairly groaned for sorrow, and at first had not a word 
to say ; so wretched he felt at having brought his people to die 
in Roncesvalles. 

Uliviero spoke first. He could not resist the opportunity of 
comforting himself a little in his despair, with referring to his 
unheeded advice. 

" You see, cousin," said he, " what has come at last. Would 
to God you had attended to what I said ; to what Malagigi said ; 
to what we all said ! I told you Marsilius was nothing but an 
anointed scoundrel. Yet forsooth, he was to bring us tribute ! 
and Charles is this moment expecting his mummeries at St. John 
Pied de Port ! Did ever any body believe a word that Gan said, 
but Charles ? And now you see this rotten fruit has come to a 
head ; this medlar has got its crown." 

Orlando said nothing in answer to Uliviero ; for in truth he had 
nothing to say. He broke away to give orders to the camp ; 
bade them take refreshment ; and then addressing both officers 
and men, he said, " I confess, that if it had entered my heart to 
conceive the king of Spain to be such a villain, never would you 


have seen this day. He has exchanged with me a thousand 
courtesies and good words ; and 1 thought that the worse ene- 
mies we had been before, the better friends we had become now. 
I fancied every human being capable of this kind of virtue on a 
good opportunity, saving, indeed, such base-hearted wretches as 
can never forgive their very forgivers ; and of these I certainly 
did not suppose him to be one. Let us die, if we must die, like 
honest and gallant men ; so that it shall be said of us, it was only 
our bodies that died. It becomes our souls to be invincible, and 
our glory immortal. Our motto must be, ' A good heart and no 
hope.' The reason why I did not sound the horn was, partly be- 
cause I thought it did not become us, and partly because our liege 
lord could be of little use, even if he heard it. Let Gan have 
his glut of us like a carrion crow ; but let him find us under 
heaps of his Saracens, — an example for all time. Heaven, my 
friends, is with us, if earth is against us. Methinks I see it open 
this moment, ready to receive our souls amidst crowns of glory ; 
and therefore, as the cliampion of God's church, I give you my 
benediction ; and the good archbishop here will absolve you ; 
and so, please God, we shall all go to Heaven and be happy." 

And with these words Orlando sprang to his horse, crying, 
" Away against the Saracens !" but he had no sooner turned his 
face than he wept bitterly, and said, " O holy Virgin, think not 
of me, the sinner Orlando, but have pity on these thy servants." 

Archbishop Turpin did as Orlando said, giving the whole band 
his benediction at once, and absolving them from their sins, so 
that every body took comfort in the thought of dying for Christ, 
and thus they embraced one another, weeping ; and then lance 
was put to thigh, and the banner was raised that was won in the 
jousting at Aspramont. 

And now with a mighty dust, and an infinite sound of horns, 
and tambours, and trumpets, which came filling the valley, the 
first army of the infidels made its appearance, horses neighing, 
and a thousand pennons flying in the air. King Falseron led 
them on, saying to his officers, " Now, gentlemen, recollect what 
I said. The first battle is for the leaders only ; — and, above all, 
let nobody dare to lay a finger on Orlando. He belongs to my- 


self. The revenge of my son's death is mine. I will cut the 
man clown that comes between us." 

"Now, friends," said Orlando, "every man for liimsclf, and 
St. Michael for us all. There is no one here that is not a perfect 

And he might well say it ; for the flower of all France was 
there, except Rinaldo and Ricciardctto ; every man a picked man ; 
all friends and constant companions of Orlando. There was 
Richard of Normandy, and Guottibuoffi, and Uliviero, and Count 
Anselm, and Avolio, and Avino, and the gentle Berlinghieri, and 
his brother, and Sansonetto, and the good Duke Egibard, and As- 
tolfo the Englishman, and Angiolin of Cayona, and all the other 
Paladins of France, excepting those two whom I have mentioned. 
And so the captains of the little troop and of the great array sat 
looking at one another, and singling one another out, as the latter 
came on ; and then either side began raising their war-cries, and 
the mob of the infidels halted, and the knights put spear in rest, 
and ran for a while, two and two in succession, each one against 
the other. 

Astolfo was the first to move. He ran against Arlotto of Soria ; 
and Angiolin then ran against Malducco ; and IMazzarigi the 
Renegade came against Avino ; and Uliviero was borne forth by 
his horse Rondel, who couldn't stand still, against Malprimo, the 
first of the Captains of Falseron. 

And now lances began to be painted red, without any brush 
but themselves ; and the new colour extended itself to the buck- 
lers, and the cuishes, and the cuirasses, and the trappings of the 

Astolfo thrust his antagonist's body out of the saddle, and his 
soul into the other world ; and Angiolin gave and took a terrible 
blow with Malducco ; but his horse bore him onward ; and Avino 
had something of the like encounter with jMazzarigi ; but Uliviero, 
thousfh he received a thrust which hurt him, sent his lance right 
through the heart of Malprimo. 

Falseron was daunted at this blow. " Verily," thought he, 
" this is a miracle." Uliviero did not press on among the Sara- 
cens, his wound was too painful ; but Orlando now put himself 
and his whole band into motion, and you may guess what an up- 


roar ensued. The sound of the rattling of the blows and helmets 
was as if the forge of Vulcan had been thrown open. Falseron 
beheld Orlando coming so furiously, that he thought him a Luci- 
fer who had burst his chain, and was quite of another mind than 
when he proposed to have him all to himself. On the contrary, 
he recommended himself to his gods ; and turning away, begged 
for a more auspicious season of revenge. But Orlando hailed 
and arrested him with a terrible voice, saying, " O thou traitor ! 
Was this the end to which old quarrels were made up ? Dost 
thou not blush, thou and thy fellow-traitor Marsilius, to have 
kissed me on the cheek like a Judas, when last thou wert in 


Orlando had never shewn such anger in his countenance as he 
did that day. He dashed at Falseron with a fury so swift, and 
at the same time a mastery of his lance so marvellous, that though 
he plunged it in the man's body so as instantly to kill him, the 
body did not move in the saddle. The hero himself, as he rush- 
ed onwards, was fain to see the end of a stroke so perfect, and, 
turning his horse back, he touched the carcass with his sword, 
and it fell on the instant. They say, that it had no sooner fallen 
than it disappeared. People got off their horses to lift up the body, 
for it seemed to be there still, the armour being left ; but when 
they came to handle the armour, it was found as empty as the 
shell that is cast by a lobster. O new, and strange, and porten- 
tous event ! proof manifest of the anger with which God regards 

When the first infidel army beheld their leader dead, such fear 
fell upon them, that they were for leaving the field to the Pala- 
dins ; but they were unable. Marsilius had drawn the rest of 
his forces round the valley like a net, so that their shoulders were 
turned in vain. Orlando rode into the thick of them, with Count 
Anselm by his side. He rushed like a tempest ; and wherever 
he went, thunderbolts fell upon helmets. The Paladins drove 
here and there after them^ each making a whirlwind round about 
him and a bloody circle. Uliviero was again in the 7Jielee ; and 
Walter of Amulion threw himself into it ; and Baldwin roared 
like a lion ; and Avino and Avolio reaped the wretches' heads 
like a turnip-field : nnd blows blinded men's eyes ; and Arch- 


bishop Turpin himself had changed his crozicr lor a kiiicc, and 
chased a new flock before him to the mountains. 

Yet what could be done against foes without number ? Multi- 
tudes iill up the spaces leil by the dead without stopping. Mar. 
silius, from his anxious and raging post, constantly pours them in. 
Tlie Paladins are as units to thousands. Why tarry the horses 
of Rinaldo and Ricciardetto ? 

The horses did not tarry ; but fate had been quicker than en- 
chantment. Ashtaroth, nevertheless, had presented himself to Ri- 
naldo in Egypt, as though he had issued out of a flash of light- 
ning. After telling his mission, and giving orders to hundreds of 
invisible spirits round about him (for the air was full of them), 
he and Foul-Mouth, his servant, entered the horses of Rinaldo and 
Ricciardetto, which began to neigh and snort and leap with the 
fiends within them, till otfthey flew through the air over the pyr- 
amids, crowds of spirits going like a tempest before them. Ric- 
ciardetto shut his eyes at first, on perceiving himself so high in 
the air ; but he speedily became used to it, though he looked down 
on the sun at last. In this manner they passed the desert, and 
the sea-coast, and the ocean, and swept the tops of the Pyrenees, 
Ashtaroth talking to them of wonders by the way ; for he was 
one of the wisest of the devils, and knew a great many things 
which were then unknown to man. He laughed, for instance, as 
they went over sea^ at the notion, among other vain fancies, 
that nothing was to be found beyond the pillars of Hercules ; 
" for," said he, '• the earth is round, and the sea has an even sur- 
face all over it ; and there are nations on the other side of the 
globe, who walk with their feet opposed to yours, and worship 
other eods than the Christians." 

" Hah !" said Rinaldo ; " and may I ask whether they can be 
saved ?" 

" It is a bold tiling to ask," said the devil ; " but do you take 
the Redeemer for a partisan, and fancy he died for you only ? 
Be assured he died for the whole world. Antipodes and all. Per- 
haps not one soul will be left out the pale of salvation at last, but 
the whole human race adore the truth, and find mercy. The 
Christian is the only true religion ; but Heaven loves all good- 
ness that believes honestly, whatsoever the belief may be." 


Rinaldo was mightily taken with the humanity of the devil's 
opinions ; but they were now approaching the end of their jour- 
ney, and began to hear the noise of the battle ; and he could no 
longer think of any thing but the delight of being near Orlando, 
and plunging into the middle of it. 

" You shall be in the very heart of it instantly," said his bear- 
er. ''I love you, and would fain do all you desire. Do not fancy 
that all nobleness of spirit is lost among us people below. You 
know what the proverb says, ' There's never a fruit, however de- 
generate, but will taste of its stock.' I was of a diiferent order 

of beings once, and But it is as well not to talk of happy 

times. Yonder is Marsilius ; and there goes Orlando. Farewell, 
and give me a place in your memory." 

Rinaldo could not find words to express his sense of the devil's 
good-will, nor that of Foul-Mouth himself. He said : " Ashta- 
roth, I am as sorry to part with you as if you were a brother ; 
and I certainly do believe that nobleness of spirit exists, as you say, 
among your people below. I shall be glad to see you both some- 
times, if you can come ; and I pray God (if my poor prayer be 
worth any thing) that you may all repent and obtain his pardon ; 
for without repentance, you know, nothing can be done for you." 

" If I might suggest a favour," returned Ashtaroth, " since you 
are so good as to wish to do me one, persuade Malagigi to free me 
from his service, and I am yours for ever. To serve you will be 
a pleasure to me. You will only have to say, ' Ashtaroth,' and 
my good friend here will be with you in an instant." 

" I am obliged to you," cried Rinaldo, " and so is my brother. 
I will write Malagigi, not merely a letter, but a whole packet-full 
of your praises ; and so I will to Orlando ; and you shall be set 
free, depend on it, your company has been so perfectly agree- 

" Your humble servant," said Ashtaroth, and vanished with his 
companion like lightning. 

But thev did not jro far. 

There was a little chapel by the road-side in Roncesvalles, 
which had a couple of bells ; and on the top of that chapel did 
the devils place themselves, in order that they might catch the 
souls of the infidels as they died, and so carry them off to the in- 


fernal regions. Guess if their wings had plenty to do that day ! 
Guess if Minos and Rhadamantlius were busy, and Charon sung 
in his boat, and Lucifer hugged himself for joy. Guess, also, if 
the tables in heaven groaned with nectar and anibrosia, and good 
old St. Peter had a dry hair in his beard. 

The two Paladins, on their horses, dropped right into the mid- 
dle of the Saracens, and began making such havoc about them, 
that jMarsilius, who overlooked the fight from a mountain, thought 
his soldiers had turned one against the other. He therefore de- 
scended in fury with his third army ; and Rinaldo, seeing him 
coming, said to Ricciardetto, " We had better be off here, and 
join Orlando ;" and with these w^ords, he gave his horse one turn 
round before he retreated, so as to enable his sword to make a 
bloody circle about him ; and stories say, that he sheared off 
twenty heads in the twirl of it. He then dashed through the as- 
tonished beholders towards the battle of Orlando, who guessed it 
could be no other than his cousin, and almost dropped from his 
liorse, out of desire to meet him. Ricciardetto followed Rinaldo ; 
and Uliviero coming up at the same moment, the rapture of the 
whole party is not to be expressed. They almost died for joy. 
After a thousand embraces, and questions, and explanations, and 
expressions of astonishment (for the infidels held aloof awhile, to 
take breath from the horror and mischief they had undergone), 
Orlando refreshed his little band of heroes, and then drew Rinal- 
do apart, and said, " O my brother, I feel such delight at seeing 
you, I can hardly persuade myself I am not dreaming. Heaven 
be praised for it. I have no other wish on earth, now that I see 
you before I die. Why didn't you write ? But never mind. 
Here you are, and I shall not die for nothing." 

" I did write," said Rinaldo, " and so did Ricciardetto ; but 
villany intercepted our letters. Tell me what to do, my dear 
cousin ; for time presses, and all the world is upon us." 

" Gan has brought us here," said Orlando, " under pretence 
of receiving tribute from Marsilius — you see of what sort ; and 
Charles, poor old man, is waiting to receive his homage at the 
town of St. John ! I have never seen a lucky day since you left 
us. I believe I have done for Charles more than in duty bound, 



and that my sins pursue me, and I and mine must all perish in 

" Look to Marsilius," exclaimed Rinaldo ; " he is right upon 

Marsilius was upon them, surely enough, at once furious and 
frightened at the coming of the new Paladins ; for his camp, nu- 
merous as it was, had not only held aloof, but turned about to fly 
like herds before the lion ; so he was forced to drive them back, 
and bring up his other troops, reasonably thinking that such 
numbers must overwhelm at last, if they could but be kept to- 

Not the less, however, for this, did the Paladins continue to 
fight as if with joy. They killed and trampled wheresoevr they 
went ; Rinaldo fatiguing himself with sending infinite numbers 
of souls to Ashtaroth, and Orlando making a bloody passage 
towards Marsilius, whom he hoped to settle as he had done 

In the course of this his tremendous progress, the hero struck 
a youth on the head, whose helmet was so good as to resist the 
blow, but at the same time flew off; and Orlando seized him by 
the hair to kill him. " Hold !" cried the youth, as loud as want 
of breath could let him ; " you loved my father — I'm Bujaforte." 

The Paladin had never seen Bujaforte ; but he saw the like- 
ness to the good old Man of the Mountain, his father ; and he let 
go the youth's hair, and embraced and kissed him. " O Buja- 
forte !" said he ; " I loved him indeed — my good old man ; but 
what does his son do here, fighting against his friend ?" 

Bujaforte was a long time before he could speak for weeping. 
At length he said, " Orlando, let not your noble heart be pained 
with ill thoughts of my father's son. I am forced to be here by 
my lord and master Marsilius. I had no friend left me in the 
world, and he took me into his court, and has brought me here 
before I knew what it was for ; and I have made a shew of fight- 
ing, but have not hurt a single Christian. Treachery is on every 
side of you. Baldwin himself has a vest given him by Mar- 
silius, that every body may know the son of his friend Gan, 
and do him no injury. See there — look how the lances avoid 


''Put your helmet on again," said Orlando, "and beiiave just 
as you have done. Never will your father's friend be an enemy 
to the son. Only take care not to come across llinaldo." 

The hero then turned in fury to look for Baldwin, who was 
hasteninix towards him ut that moment with friendliness in his 

" 'Tis strange," said Baldwin ; " I liave done my duty as well 
as I could, yet no body will come against me. I have slain right 
and left, and cannot comprehend what it is that makes the stoutest 
infidels avoid me." 

" Take off your vest," cried Orlando, contemptuously, " and 
you will soon discover the secret, if you wish to know it. Your 
lather has sold us to Marsilius, all but his honourable son." 

" If my flither," cried Baldwin, impetuously tearing off the 
vest, " has been such a villain, and I escape dying any longer, 
by God ! I will plunge this sword through his heart. But I am 
no traitor, Orlando ; and you do me wrong to say it. You do 
me foul dishonour, and I'll not survive it. Never more shall 
you behold me alive." 

Baldwin spurred off into the fight, not v.aiting to hear another 
word from Orlando, but constantly crying out, " You have done 
me dishonour ;" and Orlando was very sorry for what he had 
said, for he perceived that the youth was in despair. 

And now the fiorht ra7ed bevond all it had done before : and 
the Paladins themselves began to fall, the enemy were driven 
forward in such multitudes by Marsilius. There was unhorsing 
of foes, and re-seating of friends, and great cries, and anguish, 
and unceasing labour ; and twenty Pagans went down for one 
Christian ; but still the Christians fell. One Paladin disappeared 
after another, havinjr too much to do for mortal men. Some 
could not make way through the press for very fatigue of killing, 
and others were liampered with the falling horses and men. 
Sansonetto was thus beaten to earth by the club of Grandonio ; 
and \V^alter d'Amulion had his shoulders broken ; and Angiolin 
of Bayonxi, having lost his lance, was thrust down by Marsilius, 
and Angiolin of Bellonda by Sirionne ; and Berlinghieri and Ot- 
tone are gone ; and then Astolfo went, in revenge of whose death 
Orlando turned the spot on which he died into a gulf of Saracen 


blood. Rinaldo met the luckless Bujaforte, who had just begun 
to explain how he seemed to be fighting on the side which his 
father hated, when the impatient hero exclaimed, " He who is 
not with me is against me ;" and gave him a volley of such hor- 
rible cuffs about the head and ears, that Bujaforte died without 
being able to speak another word. Orlando, cutting his way to a 
spot in which there was a great struggle and uproar, found the 
poor youth Baldwin, the son of Gan, with two spears in his 
breast. " I am no traitor now," said Baldwin ; and so saying, 
fell dead to the earth ; and Orlando lilted up his voice and wept, 
for he was bitterly sorry to have been the cause of his death. 
He then joined Rinaldo in the hottest of the tumult ; and all the 
surviving Paladins 2:athered about them, includina: Turpin the 
archbishop, who fought as hardily as the rest ; and the slaughter 
was lavish and horrible, so that the eddies of the wind chucked 
the blood into the air, and earth appeared a very see thing-caul- 
dron of hell. At length down went Uliviero himself. He had 
become blind witli his own blood, and smitten Orlando without 
knowing him, who had never received such a blow in his life. 

" How now, cousin !" cried Orlando ; •• have you too gone over 
to the enemy ?'"' 

" O, my lord and master, Orlando,'" cried tlie other, " I ask 
your pardon, if I have struck you. I can see notliing — I am 
dying. The traitor Arcaliffe has stabbed me in the back ; but I 
killed him for it. If you love me. lead my horse into tlie thick ot 
them, so tiiat I mav not die unavenged.'"' 

" I shall die mvsclf before Ions:." said Orlando, " out of verv 
toil and grief; so we will go together. I have lost all hope, all 
pride, all wish to live any longer : but not my love for Uliviero. 
Come — let us give them a few blows yet ; let them see what you 
can do with your dying hands. One faith, one death, one only 
wish be ours." 

Orlando led his cousin's horse where the press was thickest, 
and dreadful was the strength of the dvins: man and of his half- 
dying companion. They made a street, through which they pass- 
ed out of tlie battle ; and Orlando led his cousin awav to his tent, 
and said. " Wait a little till I return, tor I will so and sound the 
horn on the hill yonder." 


" 'Tis of no use," said Uliviero ; " and my «p.rit is faijt going, 
and desires to be with its l^ord and Saviour.'* He would have 
said more, but his words came from him imperfectly, like those 
of a man m a dream ; only his cousin gathered that he meant to 
commend to him his sister, Orlando's wife, Alda the Fair, of whom 
indo<-d the great Paladin had not thought so much in this world 
as he might have done. And with these ini[>erfect words he ex- 

But Orlando no sooner saw him deafl, than he felt as if he was 
left alone on the earth ; and he was quite willing to leave it ; 
only he wished that Charles at St. John Pied de Port should hear 
how the case stood l>eforc he went ; and so he took up the horn, 
and blew it three times with such force that the blood burst out of 
his nose and mouth. Turpin says, that at the third blast the horn 
broke in two. 

In spite of all the noLse of the battle, the sound of the horn broke 
over it like a voice out of the other world. They say that bird« 
fell dead at it, and that the whole Saracen army drew back in 
terror. But fearfuller still was its effect at St. John Pied de Port. 
Charlemagne was sitting in the rnidst of his court when the sound 
reached him ; and Gan was there. The emperor was t^ie first to 
hear it. 

" Do you hear that ?" said he to his nobles. " Did you hear 
the horn, as I heard it ?" 

Upon this they all listened ; and Gan felt his heart misgive him. 

The horn sounded the second time. 

" What is the meaning of this?" said Charles. 

" Orlando is hunting," observed Gan, " and the stag is kill- 
ed. He is at the old pastime that he was so fond of in Aspra- 

But when the horn sounded yet a third time, and the blast was 
one of so dreadful a vehemence, every body looker! at the other, 
and then they all looked at Gan in fury. Charles rose from his 
Beat. " This is no hunting of the stag," said he. " The sound 
goes to my verj' heart, and, I confess, makes rne tremble. I am 
awakened out of a great dream. O Gan ! O Gan ! Not for 
thee do I blush, but for myself, and for nobody else. O my God, 
what is to be done ! But whatever is to be done, must be done 


quickly. Take this villain, gentlemen, and keep him in hard 
prison. O foul and monstrous villain ! Would to God I had not 
lived to see this day ! O obstinate and enormous folly ! O Mal- 
agigi, had I but believed thy foresight ! 'Tis thou wert the wise 
man, and I the grey-headed fool." 

Ogier the Dane, and Namo and others, in the bitterness of their 
grief and anger, could not help reminding the emperor of all which 
they had foretold. But it was no time for words. They put the 
traitor into prison ; and then Charles, with all his court, took his 
way to Roncesvalles, grieving and praying. 

It was afternoon when the horn sounded, and half an hour af- 
ter it when the emperor set out ; and meantime Orlando had re- 
turned to the fight that he might do his duty, however hopeless, 
as long as he could sit his horse, and the Paladins were now re- 
duced to four ; and though the Saracens suffered themselves to 
be mowed down like grass by them and their little band, he found 
his end approaching for toil and fever, and so at length he with- 
drew out of the fight, and rode all alone to a fountain which he 
knew of, where he had before quenched his thirst. 

His horse was wearier still than he, and no sooner had its mas- 
ter alighted, than the beast, kneeling down as if to take leave, and 
to say, '•' I have brought you to your place of rest," fell dead at 
his feet. Orlando cast water on him from the fountain, not wish- 
ing to believe him dead ; but when he found it to no purpose, he 
grieved for him as if he had been a human being, and addressed 
him by name in tears, and asked forgiveness if ever he had done 
him wrong. They say, that the horse at these words once more 
opened his eyes a little, and looked kindly at his master, and so 
stirred never more. 

They say also that Orlando then, summoning all his strength, 
smote a rock near him with his beautiful sword Durlindana, think- 
ing to shiver the steel in pieces, and so prevent its falling into the 
hands of the enemy ; but though the rock split like a slate, and a 
deep fissure remained ever after to astonish the eyes of pilgrims, 
the sword remained unhurt. 

" O strong Durlindana," cried he, " O noble and worthy sword, 
had I known thee from the first as I know thee now, never would 
I have been brought to this pass." 


And now Riiuildo and Ricciardctto and Turj)in came up, liav- 
ing given chase to tlie Saracens till they were weary, and Orlando 
gave joyful welcome to his cousin, and they told him how the 
battle was won, and then Orlando knelt before Turpin, his face all 
in tears, and begged remission of his sins, and confessed them, 
and Turpin gave him absolution ; and suddenly a light came 
down upon him from heaven like a rainbow, accompanied witli a 
sound of music, and an angel stood in the air blessing him, and 
then disappeared ; upon which Orlando fixed his eyes on the hilt 
of his sword as on a crucifix, and embraced it and said, " Lord, 
vouchsafe that I may look on this poor instrument as on the 
symbol of the tree upon which Thou sufferedst thy unspeakable 
martyrdom !" and so adjusting the sword to his bosom, and em- 
bracing it closer, he raised his eyes, and appeared like a creature 
seraphical and transfigured ; and in bowing his head he breathed 
out his pure soul. A thunder was then heard in the heavens, and 
the heavens opened and seemed to stoop to the earth, and a flock 
of angels was seen like a white cloud ascending with his spirit, 
who were known to be what they were by the trembling of their 
wings. The white cloud shot out golden fires, so that the whole 
air was full of them ; and the voices of the angels mingled in 
song with the instruments of their brethren above, which made an 
inexpressible harmony, at once deep and dulcet. The priestly 
warrior Turpin, and the two Paladins, and the hero's squire Te- 
rigi, who were all on their knees, forgot their own beings, in 
following the miracle with their eyes. 

It was now the office of that squire to take horse and ride off 
to the emperor at St. John Pied de Port, and tell him of all that 
had occurred ; but in spite of what he had just seen, he lay for a 
time overwhelmed with grief. He then rose, and mounted his 
steed, and left the Paladins and the archbishop with the dead 
body, who knelt about it, guarding it with weeping love. 

The good squire Terigi met the the emperor and his cavalcade 
comincr towards Roncesvalles, and alighted and fell on his knees, 
telling him the miserable news, and how all his people were 
slain but two of his Paladins, and himself, and the good arch- 
bishop. Charles for anguish began tearing his while locks ; but 
Terigi comforted him against so doing, by giving an account of 


the manner of Orlando's death, and how he had surely gone to 
heaven. Nevertheless, the squire himself was broken-hearted 
with grief and toil ; and he had scarcely added a denouncement 
of the traitor Gan, and a hope that the emperor would appease 
Heaven finally by giving his body to the winds, than he said, 
" The cold of death is upon me ;" and so he fell dead at the em- 
peror's feet. 

Charles was ready to drop from his saddle for wretchedness. 
He cried out, " Let nobody comfort me more. I will have no 
comfort. Cursed be Gan, and cursed this horrible day, and this 
place, and every thing. Let us go on, like blind miserable men 
that we are, into Roncesvalles ; and have patience if we can, out 
of pure misery, like Job, till we do ail that can be done." 

So Charles rode on with his nobles ; and they say, that for the 
sake of the champion of Christendom and the martyrs that died 
with him, the sun stood still in the sky till the emperor had seen 
Orlando, and till the dead were buried. 

Horrible to his eyes was the sight of the field of Roncesvalles. 
The Saracens, indeed, had forsaken it, conquered ; but all his Pala- 
dins but two were lefi; on it dead ; and the slaughtered heaps among 
which they lay made the whole valley like a great dumb slaugh- 
ter-house, trampled up into blood and dirt, and reeking to the heat. 
The very trees were dropping with blood ; and every thing, so to 
speak, seemed tired out, and gone to a horrible sleep. 

Charles trembled to his heart's core for wonder and agony. 
After dumbly gazing on the place, he again cursed it with a sol- 
emn curse, and wished that never grass might grow within it 
again, nor seed of any kind, neither within it, nor on any of its 
mountains around with their proud shoulders ; but the anger of 
Heaven abide over it for ever, as on a pit made by hell upon 

Then he rode on, and came up to where the body of Orlando 
awaited him with the Paladins, and the old man, weeping, threw 
himself as if he had been a reckless youth from his horse, and 
embraced and kissed the dead body, and said, " I bless thee, Or- 
lando. I bless thy whole life, and all that thou wast, and all that 
thou ever didst, and thy mighty and holy valour, and the father 
that begot thee j and I ask pardon of thee for believing those 


who broiiglit tlicc to thine end. They slitiU have their rcwunl, 
O thou beloved one ! But, indeed, it is thou thut livcst, and I 
that am worse than dead," 

And now, beliokl a wonder. For the emperor, in the fervour of 
his heart and of the memory of what had passed between tliem, 
caHed to mind that Orhmdo had promised to give him his sword, 
shoukl he die before him ; and he lifted up his voice more brave- 
ly, and adjured him even now to return it to him gladly ; and it 
pleased God that the dead body of Orlando should rise on its feet, 
and kneel as he was wont to do at the feet of his liege lord, and 
gladly, and with a smile on its face, return the sword to tlie Em- 
peror Charles. As Orlando rose, the Paladins and Turpin knelt 
down out of fear and horror, especially seeing him look with a 
stern countenance ; but when they saw that he knelt also, and 
smiled, and returned the sword, their hearts became re-assured, 
and Charles took the sword like his liege lord, though trembling 
with wonder and atfection : and in truth he could hardly clench 
his fmgers around it. 

Orlando was buried in a great sepulchre in Aquisgrana, and 
the dead Paladins were all embalmed and sent with majestic cav- 
alcades to their respective counties and principalities, and every 
Christian was honourably and reverently put in the earth, and 
recorded among the martyrs of the Church. 

But meantime the flying Saracens, thinking to bury their own 
dead, and ignorant of what still awaited them, came back into the 
valley, and Rinaldo beheld them with a dreadful joy, and shewed 
them to Charles. Now the emperor's cavalcade had increased 
every moment ; and they fell upon the Saracens with a new 
and unexpected battle, and the old emperor, addressing the sword 
of Orlando, exclaimed, " My strength is little, but do thou do thy 
duty to thy master, thou famous sword, seeing that he returned it 
to me smiling, and that his revenge is in my hands." And so 
saying, he met Balugante, the leader of the infidels, as he came 
borne along by his frightened horse ; and the old man, raising 
the sword with both hands, cleaved him, with a delighted mind, to 
the chin. 

O sacred Emperor Charles ! O well-lived old man ! Defender 
of the Faith ! light and glory of the old time ! thou hast cut oil 



the other ear of Malchus, and shewn how rightly thou wert born 
into the world, to save it a second time from the abyss. 

Again fled the Saracens, never to come to Christendom more : 
but Charles went after them into Spain, he and Rinaldo and Ric- 
ciardetto and the good Turpin ; and they took and fired Sara- 
gossa ; and Marsilius was hung to the carob-tree under which he 
had planned his villany with Gan ; and Gan was hung, and 
drawn and quartered, in Roncesvalles, amidst the execrations of 
the country. 

And if you ask, how it happened that Charles ever put faith in 
such a wretch, I shall tell you that it was because the good old 
emperor, with all his faults, was a divine man, and believed in 
others out of the excellence of his own heart and truth. And such 
was the case with Orlando himself. 


Critical Notice of Ijis £ifc aixb ©cuius. 




While Puici in Florence was elevating romance out of tlie 
street-ballads, and laying the foundation of the chivalrous epic, a 
poet appeared in Lombardy (whether inspired by his example is 
uncertain) who was destined to carry it to a graver though still 
cheerful height, and prepare the way for the crowning glories of 
Ariosto. lo some respects he even excelled Ariosto : in all, with 
the exception of style, shewed himself a genuine though imma- 
ture master. 

Little is known of his life, but that little is very pleasant. It 
exhibits him in the rare light of a poet who was at once rich, ro- 
mantic, an Arcadian and a man of the world, a feudal lord and 
an indulgent philosopher, a courtier equally beloved by prince 
and people. 

]\Iatteo Maria Boiardo, Count of Scandiano, Lord of Arceto, 
Casalgrande, (Sec, Governor of Reggio, and Captain of the cita- 
del of Modena (it is pleasant to repeat such titles when so adorn- 

* The materials for the biogra})liy in this notice liavc been gathered from 
Tiraboschi and others, but more immediately from the copious critical memoir 
from the pen of Mr. Paiiizzi, in that gentleman's admirable edition of the com- 
bined poems of Boiardo and Ariosto, in nine volumes octavo, published by Mr. 
Pickerin<T. I have been under obligations to this work in the notice of PuIl-i, 
and shall again be so in that of Boiardo's successor; but I must not a third time 
run the risk of omitting to give it my thanks (such as they are), and of earnestly 
recommending every lover of Italian poetry, who can afford it, to possess him- 
self of tills learrned, entertaining, and only satisfactory edition of either of the 
Orlanilos. The author writes an Enghsh almost as correct as it is elegant; and 
he is as painstaking as he is lively. 


ed), is understood to Imve been born about the year 1434, at 
Scandiano, a cas'de at the foot of the Apennines, not far from 
Regeio, and famous for its vines. 

He was of an ancient family, once lords of Rubiera, and son 
of Giovanni, second count of Scandiano, and Lucia, a lady of 
a branch of the Strozzi family in Florence, and sister and aunt 
of Tito and Erole Strozzi, celebrated Latin poets. His parents 
appear to have been wise people, for they gave him an education 
that fitted him equally for public and private life. He was even 
taught, or acquired, more Greek than was common to the men 
of letters of that age. His whole life seems, accordingly, to 
have been divided, with equal success, between his duties as a 
servant of the dukes of Modena, both military and civil, and the 
prosecution of his beloved art of poetry, — a combination of pur- 
suits which have been idly supposed incompatible. Milton's 
poetry did not hinder him from being secretary to Cromwell, and 
an active partisan. Even the sequestered Spenser was a states- 
man ; and poets and writers of fiction abound in the political his- 
tories of all the great nations of Europe. When a man possess- 
es a thorough insight into any one intellectual department (ex- 
cept, perhaps, in certain corners of science), it only sharpens his 
powers of perception for the others, if he chooses to apply them. 

In the year 1469, Boiardo was one of the noblemen who went 
to meet the Emperor Frederick the Third on his way to Ferrara, 
when Duke Borso of Modena entertained him in that city. Two 
years afterwards, Borso, who had been only Marquis of Ferrara, 
received its ducal title from the Pope ; and on going to Rome to 
be invested with his new honours, the name of our poet is again 
found among the adorners of his state. A few days after his re- 
turn home this prince died ; and Boiardo, favoured as he had 
been by him, appears to have succeeded to a double portion of 
regard in the friendship of the new duke, Ercole, who was more 
of his own age. 

During all this period, from his youth to his prime, our author 
varied his occupations with Italian and Latin poetry ; some of it 
addressed to a lady of the name of Antonia Caprara, and some 
to another, whose name is thought to have been Rosa ; but whe- 
ther -these ladies died, or his love was diverted elsewhere, he took 


to wife, ill the year 1472, Taddca Gonzaga, of the noble liouse 
of that name, daughter of the Count of NoveHara. In the 
course of the same year he is supposed to have begun his 
great poem. A popular court favourite, in the prime of life, 
marrying and commencing a great poem nearly at one and the 
same time, presents an image of prosperity singularly delightful. 
By this lady Boiardo had two sons and four daughters. The 
vounscr son, Francesco Maria, died in his childhood : but tlie 
elder, Camillo, succeeded to his father's title, and left an heir to 
it, — the last, I believe, of the name. The reception given to the 
poet's bride, when he took her to Scandiano, is said to have been 
very splendid. 

In the cnsuinor year the duke his master took a wife himself. 
She was Eleonora, daughter of the King of Naples: and the 
newly-married poet was among the noblemen who were sent to 
escort her to Ferrara. For several years afterwards, his time 
was probably filled up with the composition of the Orlando In- 
7iamoralo, and the entertainments given by a splendid court. He 
was appointed Governor of Reggio, probably in 1478. At the 
expiration of two or three years he was made Captain of the cit- 
adel of Modena ; and in 1482 a war broke out with the Vene- 
tians, in which he took part, for it interrupted the progress of 
his poem. In 1484 he returned to it; but ten years afterwards 
was again and finally interrupted by the unprincipled descent of 
the French on Italy under Charles the Eighth ; and in the De- 
cember following he died. The Orlando Innamorato was thus 
left unfinished. Eight years before his decease the author pub- 
lished what he had written of it up to that time, but the first 
complete edition was posthumous. The poet was writing when 
the French came : he breaks off with an anxious and bitter no- 
tice of the interruption, though still unable to deny himself a 
last word on the episode which he was relating, and a hope that 
lie should conclude it another time. 

" Mcntrc chc io canto, o Dio rcdcntorc, 
Vcilo r Italia tutta a fiamma c foco, 
Per questi Galli, che con gran valore 
Vcngon, per disertar non so che loco : 



Per6 vi lascio in questo vano amore 

Di Fiordespina ardente poco a poco: 
Un' altra volta, se mi iia concesso, 
Racconterovvi il tutto per espresso." 

But while I sing, mine eyes, great God ! behold 

A flaming fire light all the Italian sky, 
Brouo"ht by these French, who, with their myriads bold, 

Come to lay waste, I know not where or why. 
Therefore, at present, I must leave untold 

How love misled poor Fiordespina's eye.* 
Another time, Fate willing, I shall tell. 

From first to last, how every thing befell, 

/ Besides the Orlando Innamorato, Boiardo wrote a variety of 
prose works, a comedy in verse on the subject of Timon, lyrics 
of great elegance, with a vein of natural feeling running through 
them, and Latin poetry of a like sort, not, indeed, as classical in 
its style as that of Politian and the other subsequent revivers of 
the ancient manner, but perhaps not the less interesting on that 
account ; for it is difficult to conceive a thorough copyist in style 
expressing his own thorough feelings. Mr. Panizzi, if I am not 
mistaken, promised the world a collection of the miscellaneous 
poems of Boiardo ; but we have not yet had the pleasure of see- 
ing them. In his life of the poet, however, he has given several 
specimens, both Latin and Italian, which are extremely agreeable. 

^s The Latin poems consist of ten eclogues and a few epigrams ; 
but the epigrams, this critic tells us, are neither good nor on a fit- 
ting subject, being satirical sallies against Nicolo of Este, who 
had attempted to seize on Ferrara, and been beheaded. Boiardo 
was not of a nature qualified to indulge in bitterness. A man of 
his chivalrous disposition probably misgave himself while he was 
writing these epigrams. Perhaps he suffered them to escape his 
pen out of friendship for the reigning branch of the family. But 
it must be confessed, that some of the best-natured men have too 
often lost sight of their higher feelings during the pleasure and 
pride of composition. 

With respect to the comedy of Timon, if the whole of it is writ- 

-^ ten as well as the concluding address of the misanthrope (which 

* She had taken a damsel m male attire for a man. 


Mr. Panizzi has extracted into his pages), it must be very pleas- 
ant. Timon conceals a treasure in a tomb, and thinks he has 
balHed some knaves who had a design upon it. He therefore 
takes leave of his audience with the following benedictions : 

'• Pur ho scacciatc qiieste due formiche, 
Che raspav;mo 1' oro alia niia buca, 
Or vadan pur, che Dio Ic malediche. 

Cotal fortuna a casa li conduca. 
Clie lor fiacchi le gambe al priiuo passo, 
E ncl secondo 1' osso della nuca. 

Voi altri, che ascoltate giuso al basso, 
Chiedete, se volete alcuna cosa, 
Prima ch' io parta, pcrchfe mo vi lasso. 

Bench 6 abbia 1' alma irata e disdegnosa, 
Da inmusti oltraggi combattuta e vinta, 
A voi gift, non 1' avr6 tanto ritrosa. 

In me non b pictade al tutto estinta : 
Faccia di voi la prova clii gli pare, 
Sino alia corda, che mi trovo cinta ; 

Gli prester6, volendosi impiccarc." 

So ! I've got rid of these two creeping things, 
That fain would have scratched up my buried gold. 
They're gone; and may the curse of God go with them! 
May they reach home just in good time enough 
To break their legs at the first step in doors, 
And necks i' the second ! — And now then, as to you, 
Good audience, — groundlings, — folks who love low places, 
You too perhaps would fain get something of me, 
Ere I take leave. — Well ; — angered though I be, 
Scornful and torn with race at being ground 
Into the dust with wrong, I'm not so lost 
To all concern and charity for others 
As not to be still kind enough to part 
With something near to me — something that's wound 
About my very self Here, sirs ; mark this ; — 

[ Untying the cord round his xcaist. 
Let any that would put me to the test. 
Take it with all my heart, and hang themselves. 

The comedy of Timon, which was chiefly taken from Lucian, 
and one, if not more, of Boiardo's prose translations from other 



ancients, were written at the request of Duke Ercole, who was a 
great lover of dramatic versions of this kind, and built a theatre 
for their exhibition at an enormous expense. These prose trans, 
lations consist of Apuleius's Golden Ass, Herodotus (the Duke's 
order), the Golden Ass of Lucian, Xenophon's Cyropmdia (not 
printed), Emilius Probus (also not printed, and supposed to be 
Cornelius Nepos), and Riccobaldo's credulous Historia Univer- 
salis, with additions. It seems not improbable, that he also trans- 
lated Homer and Diodorus ; and Doni the bookmaker asserts, that 
he wrote a work called the Testamento delV Anima (the Soul's 
Testament) : but Mr. Panizzi calls Doni " a barefaced impostor ;" 
and says, that as the work is mentioned by nobody else, we may 
be " certain that it never existed," and that the title was " a for- 
gery of the impudent priest." 

Nothing else of Boiardo's writing; is known to exist, but a col- 
lection of official letters in the archives of Modena, which, accord- 
ing to Tiraboschi, are of no great importance. It is difficult to 
suppose, however, that they would not be worth looking at. The 
author of the Orlando Innamorato could hardly write, even upon 
the driest matters of government, with the aridity of a common 
clerk. Some little lurking well-head of character or circum- 
stance, interesting to readers of a later age, would probably break 
through the barren ground. Perhaps the letters went counter to 
some of the good Jesuit's theology. 

Boiardo's prose translations from the authors of antiquity are 
so scarce, that Mr. Panizzi himself, a learned and miscellaneous 
reader, says he never saw them.* I am willing to get the only 
advantage in my power over an Italian critic, by saying that I 
have had some of them in my hands, — brought there by the pleas- 
ant chances of the bookstalls ; but I can give no account of them. 
A modern critic, quoted by this gentleman (Gamba, Testi di Lin- 
gua), calls the version of Apuleius "rude and curious;" but 
adds, that it contains " expressions full of liveliness and propri- 
ety." By "rude" is probably meant obsolete, and compara- 
tively unlearned. Correctness of interpretation and classical 

* Crescimbeni himself had not seen the translation from Apuleius, nor, ap- 
parently, several others. — Commentari. t^*c. vol. ii. part ii. lib. vii. sect. xi. 


nicety of style (as Mr. Panizzi observes) were tlic growths of a 
later age. 

Nothing is told us by his biographers of tlie person of Boiardo : 
and it is not safe to determine a man's phijsiq^uc from his writings, 
unless perliaps with respect to the greater or less amount of his 
animal spirits ; for the able-bodied may Write effeminately, and 
the feeblest supply the defect of corporal stamina witli spiritual. 
Portraits, liowever, seem to be extant. IMazzuchelli discovered 
that a medal had been struck in the poet's honour ; and in the 
castle of Scandiano (though " the halls where knights and ladies 
listened to the adventures of the Paladin are now turned into 
granaries," and Orlando himself has nearly disappeared from the 
outside, wliere he was painted in huge dimensions as if " en- 
trusted with the wardenship") there was a likeness of Boiardo 
executed by Niccolo dell' Abate, together with tlie principal 
events of the Orhindo Innamorato and the J^neid. But part of 
these paintings (Mr. Panizzi tells us) were destroyed, and part 
removed from the castle to Modena " to save them from certain 
loss;'"' and he docs not add whether the portrait was among the 

From anecdotes, however, and from the poet's writings, we 
gather the nature of the man ; and this appears to have been 
very amiable. There is an aristocratic tone in his poem, when 
speaking of the sort of people of whom the mass of soldiers is 
wont to consist ; and Foscolo says, that the Count of Scandiano 
v/rites like a feudal lord. But common soldiers are not apt to be 
the elite of mankind ; neither do we know with how good-natured 
a smile the mention of them may have been accompanied. Peo- 
ple often give a tone to what they read, more belonging to their 
own minds than the author's. All the accounts left us of Boiar- 
do, hostile as well as friendly, prove him to have been an indul- 
gent and popular man. According to one, he was fond of making 
personal inquiries among its inhabitants into the history of his na- 
tive place ; and he requited them so generously for their infor- 
mation, that it was customary with them to say, when they wished 
good fortune to one another, " Heaven send Boiardo to your 
house !" There is ^aid to have been a tradition at Scandiano, 
that having tried in vain one day, as he was riding out, to dis- 


cover a name for one of his heroes, expressive of his lofty char- 
acter, and the word Rodamonie coming into his head, he galloped 
back with a pleasant ostentation to his castle, crying it out aloud, 
and ordering the bells of the place to be rung in its honour ; to 
the astonishment of the good people, who took " Rodamonte" for 
some newly-discovered saint. His friend Paganelli of Modena, 
who wrote a Latin poem on the Empire of Cupid, extolled the 
Governor of Reggio for ranking among the deity's most generous 
vassals, — one who, in spite of his office of magistrate, looked with 
an indulgent eye on errors to which himself was liable, and who 
was accustomed to prefer the study of love-verses to that of the 
law. The learned lawyer, his countryman Panciroli, probably 
in resentment, as Panizzi says, of this preference, accused him of 
an excess of benignity, and of being fitter for writing poems than 
punishing ill deeds ; and in truth, as the same critic observes, 
•'' he must have been considered crazy by the whole tribe of law- 
yers of that age," if it be true that he anticipated the opinion of 
Beccaria, in thinking that no crime ought to be punished with death. 
The great work of this interesting and accomplished person, 
the Orlando Innamorato, is an epic romance, founded on the love 
of the great Paladin for the peerless beauty Angelica, whose name 
has enamoured the ears of posterity. The poem introduces us to 
the pleasantest paths in that track of reading in which Milton has 
told us that his " young feet delighted to wander." Nor did he 
forsake it in his age. 

" Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp, 
When Agrican with all his northern powers 
Besieged Albracca, as romances tell. 
The city of Gallaphrone, from whence to win 
The fairest of her sex, Angelica." — Paradise Regained. 

The Orlando Innamorato may be divided into three principal 
I portions : — the search for Angelica by Orlando and her other 
I lovers; the siege of her father's city Albracca by the Tartars; 
and that of Paris and Charlemagne by the Moors. These, ho\f- 
ever, are all more or less intermingled, and with the greatest 
art ; and there are numerous episodes of a like intertexture. 
The fairies and fairy-gardens of British romance, and the fabu- 
lous glories of the house of Este, now proclaimed for the first 


time, were added by the author to the encliantments of Pulci, to- 
gether with a pervading elegance ; and had tlie poem been com- 
pleted, we were to have heard again of the traitor Gan of Ma- 
ganza, for the purpose of exalting the imaginary founder of that 
house, Ruggero. 

This resuscitation of the Helen of antiquity, under a more scdu-. 
cing form, was an invention of Boiardo's ; so was the subjection 
of Charles's hero Orlando to the passion of love ; so, besides the 
heroine and her name, was that of other interesting characters 
with beautiful names, which afterwards figured in Ariosto. This 
inventive faculty is indeed so conspicuous in every part of the 
work, on small as well as great occasions, in fairy-adventures 
and those of flesh and blood, that although the author appears to 
have had both his loves and his fairies suggested to him by our 
romances of Arthur and the Round Table, it constitutes, next to 
the pervading elegance above mentioned, his chief claim to our 
admiration. Another of his merits is a certain tender gallantry, 
or rather an honest admixture of animal passion with spiritual, 
also the precursor of the like ingenuous emotions in Ariosto ; and 
he furthermore set his follower the example, not only of good 
breeding, but of a constant heroical cheerfulness, looking with 
faith on nature. Pulci has a constant cheerfulness, but not with 
S3 much grace and dignity. Foscolo has remarked, that Boiar- 
do's characters even surpass those of Ariosto in truth and variety, 
and that his Angelica more engages our feelings ;* to which I 
will venture to add, that if his style is less strong and complete, 
it never gives us a sense of elaboration. I should take Boiardo to 
have been the healthier man, though of a less determined will than 
Ariosto, and perhaps, on the whole, less robust. You find in Bo- 
iardo almost all which Ariosto perfected, — chivalry, battles, com- 
bats, loves and graces, passions, enchantments, classical and ro- 
mantic fable, eulogy, satire, mirth, pathos, philosophy. It is like 
the first sketch of a great picture, not the worse in some respects 
for being a sketch ; free and light, though not so grandly colour- 
ed. It is the morning before the sun is up, and when the dew is 
on the grass. Take the stories which are translated in the pres- 

* Article on the Narrative and Romantic Poems of the Italians, in the Quar- 
terly Rerieic, No. G2, p. 527. 



ent volume, and you might fancy them all written by Ariosto, 
with a difference ; the Death of Agrican perhaps with minuter 
touches of nature, but certainly not with greater simplicity and 
earnestness. In the Saracen Friends there is just Ariosto's bal- 
ance of passion and levity ; and in the story which I have enti- 
tled Seeing and Believing, his exhibition of triumphant cunning. 
During the lives of Pulci and Boiardo, the fierce passions and 
severe ethics of Dante had been gradually giving way to a gent- 
ler and laxer state of opinion before the progress of luxury ; and 
though Boiardo's enamoured Paladin retains a kind of virtue not 
common in any age to the heroes of warfare, the lord of Scan- 
diano, who appears to have recited his poem, sometimes to his vas- 
sals and sometimes to the ducal circle at court, intimates a smi- 
ling suspicion that such a virtue would be considered a little rude 
and obsolete by his hearers. Pulci's wandering gallant, Uliviero, 
who in Dante's time would have been a scandalous profligate, 
had become the prototype of the court-lover in Boiardo's. The 
poet, however, in his most favourite cliaracters, retained and rec- 
ommended a truer sentiment, as in the instance of the loves of 
Brandimart and Fiordelisa ; and there is a graceful cheerfulness 
in some of his least sentimental ones, which redeems them from 
grossness. I know not a more charming fancy in the whole lov- 
ing circle of fairy-land, than the female's shaking her long tress- 
es round Mandricardo, in order to furnish him with a mantle, 
when he issues out of the enchanted fountain.* 

* "E' suoi capelli a se sciolse di testa, 
Che n' avea molti la dama gioconda; 
Ed, abbracciato il cavalier con festa, 
Tutto il coperse de la treccia bionda : 
Cosi, nascosi entrambi di tal vesta, 
Uscir' di quella fonte e la bell' onda." 

Her locks she loosened from her lovely head, 
For many and long had that same lady fair ; 
And clasping him in mirth as round they spread, 
Covered the knight with the sweet shaken hair : 
And so, thus both to^rether (Tormented, 
They issued from the fount to the fresh air. 

Readers of the Faerie Queeiie will here see where Spenser has been, among his 
other visits to the Bowers of Bliss. 



But Boiardo's poein was unfinislied : there are many prosaical 
passages in it, many lame and liarsli lines, incorrect and even 
ungranuiiatical expressions, trivial images, and, above all, many 
Lombard provincialisms, which are not in their nature of a "sig- 
nificant or graceful" sort,* and which shocked the fastidious Flor- 
entines, the arbiters of Italian taste. It was to avoid these in his 
own poetry, that Boiardo's countryman Ariosto carefully studied 
the Tuscan dialect, if not visited Florence itself; and the conse- 
quence was, that his greater genius so obscured the popularity of 
his predecessor, that a remarkable process, unique in the history of 
letters, appears to have been thought necessary to restore its perusal. 
The facetious Berni, a Tuscan wit full of genius, without omitting 
any particulars of consequence, or adding a single story except of 
himself, re-cast the whole poem of Boiardo, altering the diction 
of almost every stanza, and supplying introductions to the cantos 
after the manner of Ariosto ; and the Florentine idiom and unfail- 
ing spirit of this re-fashioner's verse (though, what is very curi- 
ous, not till after a long ciiance of its being overlooked itself, and 
a posthumous editorship which has left doubts on the authority of 
the text) gradually effaced almost the very mention of the man's 
name who had supplied him with the whole staple commodity of 
his book, with all the heart of its interest, and with far the great- 
er part of the actual words. The first edition of Berni was pro- 
hibited in consequence of its containing a severe attack on the 
clergy ; but even the prohibition did not help to make it popular. 
The reader may imagine a^ similar occurrence in England, by 
supposing that Dryden had re-written the whole of Chaucer, and 
that his reconstruction had in the course of time as much surpass- 
ed the original in popularity, as his version of the Flower and the 
Lenf did, up to the beginning of the present century. 

I do not mean to compare Chaucer with Boiardo, or Dryden 
with Berni. Fine poet as I think Boiardo, I hold Chaucer to be 
a far finer ; and spirited, and in some respects admirable, as are 
Dryden's versions of Chaucer, they do not equal that of Boiardo 
by the Tuscan. Dryden did not apprehend the sentiment of 
Chaucer in any such degree as Berni did that of his original. 

* Foscolo, ut sup. p. 528. 


Indeed, Mr. Panizzi himself, to whom the world is indebted both 
for the only good edition of Boiardo and for the knowledge of the 
most curious facts respecting Berni's rifacimento, declares himself 
unable to pronounce which of the two poems is the better one, the 
original Boiardo, or the re-modelled. It would therefore not very- 
well become a foreigner to give a verdict, even if he were able ; 
and I confess, after no little consideration (and apart, of course, 
from questions of dialect, which I cannot pretend to look into), I 
feel myself almost entirely at a loss to conjecture on which side 
the superiority lies, except in point of invention and a certain 
early simplicity. The advantage in those two respects unques- 
tionably belongs to Boiardo ; and a great one it is, and may not 
unreasonably be supposed to settle the rest of the question in his 
favour ; and yet Berni's fancy, during a more sophisticate period 
of Italian manners, exhibited itself so abundantly in his own witty 
poems, his pen at all times has such a charming facility, and he 
proved himself, in his version of Boiardo, to have so strong a sym- 
pathy with the earnestness and sentiment of his original in his 
gravest moments, that I cannot help thinking the two men would 
have been each what the other was in their respective times ; — 
the Lombard the comparative idler, given more to witty than, se- 
rious invention, under a corrupt Roman court ; and the Tuscan 
the originator of romantic fictions, in a court more suited to him 
than the one he avowedly despised. I look upon them as two 
men singularly well matched. The nature of the present work 
does not require, and the limits to which it is confined do not per- 
mit, me to indulge myself in a comparison between them corrob- 
orated by proofs ; but it is impossible not to notice the connexion : 
and therefore, begging the reader's pardon for the sorry substitute 
of affirmative for demonstrative criticism, I may be allowed to 
say, that if Boiardo has the praise of invention to himself, Berni 
thoroughly appreciated and even enriched it ; that if Boiardo has 
sometimes a more thoroughly charming simplicity, Berni still ap- 
preciates it so well, that the difference of their times is sufficient 
to restore the claim of equality of feeling ; and finally, that if 
Berni strengthens and adorns the interest of the composition with 
more felicitous expressions, and with a variety of lively and beau- 
tiful trains of thought, you feel that Boiardo was quite capable 


of them all, and might have done precisely the same had he lived 
in Berni's age. in the greater part of the poem the original is 
altered in notliing except diction, and often (so at least it seems to 
me) for no other reason than the requirements of tiie Tuscan man- 
ner. And this is the case with most of the noblest, and even the 
liveliest j)assages. My first acquaintance, for example, with the 
Orlando Inuamoraio was through the medium of Bcrni ; and on 
turning to those stories in his version, which I have translated 
from his original for the present volume, I found that every pas- 
sage but one, to which I had given a mark of admiration, was the 
property of the old poet. That single one, however, was in the 
exquisitest taste, full of as deep a feeling as any thing in its com- 
pany (I have noticed it in the translated passage). And then, in 
the celebrated introductions to his cantos, and the additions to Bo- 
iardo's passages of description and character (those about Roda- 
monte, for example, so admired by Foscolo), if Berni occasionally 
shews a comparative want of faith which you regret, he does it 
with a regret on his own part, visible through all his jesting. 
Lastly, the sino;ular and indio;nant strength of his execution often 
makes up for the trustingness that he was sorry to miss. If I 
were asked, in short, which of the two poems I should prefer 
keeping, were I compelled to choose, I should first complain of 
being forced upon so hard an alternative, and then, with many a 
look after Berni, retain Boiardo. Tlie invention is his ; the first 
earnest impulse ; the unmisgiving joy ; the primitive morning 
breath, when the town-smoke has not polluted the fields, and the 
birds are singing their '• wood-notes wild." Besides, after all, 
one cannot be sure that Berni could have invented as Boiardo did. 
If he could, he would probably have written some fine serious 
poem of his own. And Panizzi has observed, with striking and 
conclusive truth, that " without Berni the Orlando Innamoraio 
will be read and enjoyed ; without Boiardo not even the name of 
the poem remains." 

Nevertheless this conclusion need not deprive us of either work. 
Berni raised a fine polished edifice, copied and enlarged after that 
of Boiardo ; — on the other hand, the old house, thank Heaven, re- 
mains ; and our best way of settling the question between the two 
is, to be glad that we have got both. Let the reader who is rich 

246 BOIxiRDO. 

in such possessions look upon Berni's as one of his town mansions, 
erected in the park-like neighbourhood of some metropolis ; and 
Boiardo's as the ancient country original of it, embosomed in the 
woods afar off, and beautiful as the Enchanted Castle of Claude — 

" Lone sitting by the shores of old romance." 

A late amiable man of wit, Mr. Stewart Rose, has given a prose abstract of 
Berni's Orlando Innamorato, with occasional versification; but it is hardly more 
than a dry outline, and was, indeed, intended only as an introduction to his 
Version of the Furioso. A good idea, however, of one of the phases of Berni's 
humour may be obtained from the same gentleman's abridgment of the Animali 
Parlanti of Casti, in which he has introduced a translation of the Tuscan's 
description of himself and of his way of life, out of his additions to Boiardo's 
poem. The verses in the prohibited edition of Berni's Orlando, in w^hich he 
denounced the corruptions of the clergy, have been published, for the first time 
in this country, in the notes to the twentieth canto of Mr. Panizzi's Boiardo. 
They have all his peculiar wit, together with a Ladheran earnestness ; and shew 
him, as that critic observes, to have been " Protestant at his heart." 

Since writing this note I have called to mind that a translation of Berni's 
axjcount of hhnself is to be found in Mr. Rose's prose abstract of the Jnnamo' 



Angelica, daughter of Galafron, king of Cathay, the most beautiful of woman- 
kind, and a possessor of the art of magic, comes, with her brother ArgaUa, to 
the court of Charlemagne under false pretences, in order to carry away his 
knights to the country of her father. Her immediate purpose is defeated, and her 
brother slain ; but all the knights, Orlando in particular, fall in love with her ; 
and she herself, in consequence of drinking at an enchanted fountain, becomes 
m love with Rinaldo. On the other hand, Rinaldo, from drinking a neighbour- 
ing fountain of a reverse quality, finds his own love converted to loathincr. 
Various adventures arise out of these circumstances ; and the fountains are 
again drunk, wdth a mutual reversal of their eflects. 


It was the month of May and the feast of Pentecost, and Char- 
lemagne had ordained a great jousting, which brought into Paris 
an infinite number of people, baptised and infidel ; for there was 
truce proclaimed, in order that every knight might come. There 
was King Grandonio from Spain, with his serpent's face ; and 
Ferragus, with his eyes like an eagle ; and Balugante, the em- 
peror's kinsman ; and Orlando, and Rinaldo, and Duke Namo ; 
and Astolfo of England, the handsomest of mankind ; and the en- 
chanter Malagigi ; and Isoliero and Salamone ; and the traitor 
Gan, with his scoundrel followers ; and, in short, the whole flow- 
er of the chivalry of the age, the greatest in the world. The ta- 
bles at which they feasted were on three sides of the hall, with 
the emperor's canopy midway at the top; and at that first table 
sat crowned heads ; and down the table on the right sat dukes 
and marquises ; and down the table on the left, counts and cava- 
liers. But the Saracen nobles, after their doggish fashion, looked 
neither for chair nor bench, but preferred a carpet on the floor, 
which was accordingly spread for them in the midst. 

High sat Charlemagne at the head of his vassals and his Pala- 
dins, rejoicing in the thought of all the great men of which they 
consisted, and holding the infiJels cheap as the sands which are 
scattered by the tempest. To each of his lords, as they drank, he 
sent round, by his pages, gifts of enamelled cups of exquisite 
workmanship ; and to every body some mark of his princely dis- 
tinction ; and so they were all sitting and hearing music, and 
feasting off' dishes of gold, and talking of lovely things with low 
voices,* when suddenly there came into the hall four enormous 

* " Con parlar basso e bei ragionamenti." 


giants, in the midst of whom was a lady, and behind the lady 
there followed a cavalier. She was a very lily of the field, and 
a rose of the garden, and a morning-star ; in short, so beautiful 
that the like had never been seen. There was Galerana in the 
hall ; there was Alda, the wife of Orlando ; and Clarice, and 
Armellina the kind-hearted, and abundance of other ladies, all 
beautiful till she made her appearance ; but after that they seem- 
ed nothing. Every Christian knight turned his face that way ; 
and not a Pagan remained on the floor, but arose and got as near 
to her as he could ; while she, with a cheerful sweetness, and a 
smile fit to enamour a heart of stone, began speaking the following 
words : 

" High-minded lord, the renown of your worthiness, and the- 
valour of these your knights, which echoes from sea to sea, en- 
courages me to hope, that two pilgrims who have come from the 
ends of the world to behold you, will not have encountered their 
fatigue in vain. And to the end that I may not hold your atten- 
tion too long with speaking, let me briefly say, that this knight 
here, Uberto of the Lion, a prince renowned also for his achieve- 
ments, has been wrongfully driven from out his dominions ; and 
that 1, who was driven out with him, am his sister, whose name 
is Angelica. Fame has told us of the jousting this day appoint- 
ed, and of the noble press of knights here assembled, and how 
your generous natures care not to win prizes of gold or jewels, 
or gifts of cities, but only a wreath of roses ; and so the prince 
my brother has come to prove his own valour, and to say, that if 
any or all of your guests, whether baptised or infidel, choose to 
meet him in the joust, he will encounter them one by one, in the 
green meadow without the walls, near the place called the Horse- 
block of Merlin, by the Fountain of the Pine. And his condi- 
tions are these, — that no knight who chances to be thrown shall 
have license to renew the combat in any way whatsoever, but 
remain a submissive prisoner in his hands ; he, on the other 
hand, if himself be thrown, agreeing to take his departure out 
of the country with his giants, and to leave his sister, for prize, 
in the hands of the conqueror." 

Kneeling at the close of these words, the lady awaited the an- 
swer of Charlemagne, and every body gazed on her with aston- 


ishmcnt. Orlando especially, more than all the rest, felt irre- 
sistibly drawi^ towards her, so that his iieart trembled, and ho 
changed countenance. But he felt ashamed at the same time ; 
and casting his eyes down, he said to himself, " Ah, mad and un- 
worthy Orlando ! whither is thy soul being hurried ? I am 
drawn, and cannot say nay to what draws me. I reckoned the 
whole world as nothing, and now I am conquered by a girl. I 
cannot get her sweet look out of my heart. My soul seems to 
die within me, at the thought of being without her. It is love 
that has seized me, and I feel that nothing will set me free ; — 
not strength, nor courage, nor my own wisdom, nor that of any 
adviser. I see the better part, and cleave to the worse."* 

Thus secretly in his heart did the frank and noble Orlando la- 
ment over his new feelings ; and no wonder ; for every knight in 
the hall was enamoured of the beautiful stranger, not excepting 
even old white-headed Duke Namo. Charlemagne himself did 
not escape. 

All stood for awhile in silence, lost in the delight of looking at 
her. The fiery youth Ferragus was the first to exhibit symp- 
toms in his countenance of uncontrollable passion. He refrained 

* Video meliora, proboque, (|*c. Writers were now beginning to pride them- 
selves on their classical reading. The present occasion, it must be owned, was a 
very good one for introducing the passage from Horace. The previous words 
have an affecting ingenuousness ; and, indeed, the whole stanza is beautiful : 

"lo non mi posso dal cor dipartire 

La dolce vista del viso sereno, 
Perch' io mi sento senza lei morire, 

E '1 spirto a poco a poco venir meno. 
Or non mi vale for/a, nb V ardire 

Contra d' amor, che m' ha gii\ posto il freno; 
N6 mi giova sapcr, ne altrui consiglio : 
II meglio veggio, ed al peggior m' appiglio." 

Alas ! I cannot, though I shut mine eyes. 

Lose the sweet look of that delightful face ; 
The very soul within me droops and dies, 

To think that I may fail to gain her grace. 
No strong limbs now, no valour, will suffice 

To burst the spell that roots me to the place : 
No, nor reflection, nor advice, nor force ; 
I see the better part, and clasp the worse. 


with difficulty from going up to the giants, and tearing her out 
of their keeping. Rinaldo also turned as red as fire ; while his 
cousin Malagigi the enchanter, who had discovered that the 
stranger was not speaking truth, muttered softly, as he looked at 
her, " Exquisite false creature ! I will play thee such a trick 
for this, as will leave thee no cause to boast of thy visit." 

Charlemagne, to detain her as long as possible before him, 
made a speech in answer,, in which he talked and looked, and 
looked and talked, till there seemed no end of it. At length, 
however, the challenge was accepted in all its forms ; and the 
lady quitted the hall with her brother and the giants. 

She had not yet passed the gates, when Malagigi the enchanter 
consulted his books ; and that no means might be wanting to 
complete the counteraction of what he suspected, he summoned 
to his aid three spirits out of the lower regions. But how serious 
his look turned, how his very soul within him was shaken, when 
he discovered that the most dreadful disasters hung over Charles 
and his court, and that the sister of the pretended Uberto was 
daughter of King Galafron of Cathay, a beauty accomplished in 
every species of enchantment, and sent there by her father on 
purpose to betray them all ! Her brother's name was not Uberto, 
but Argalia. Galafron had given him a horse swifter than the 
wind, an enchanted sword, a golden lance, also enchanted, which 
overthrew all whom it touched,* and a ring of a virtue so extra- 
ordinary, that if put into the mouth, it rendered the person in- 
visible, and if worn on the finger, nullified every enchantment. 
But beyond even all this, he gave him his sister for a companion ; 
rightly judging, that every body that saw her would fall into the 
proposal of the joust ; and trusting that, at the close of it, she 
would bring him the whole court of France into Cathay, prison- 
ers in her hands. 

* A.pYvpij.ig Myj^aiCTi jxa^^^ov, Kai irixvTa Kparficreis. 

" Make war with silver spears, and you'll beat all." 

The reader mil note the allegory or not, as he pleases. It is a very good alle- 
gory ; but allegory, by the due process of enchantment, becomes matter of fact ; 
and it is pleasant to take it as such. 


Such, Malagigi discovered, was the plot of the accursed inlidel 
hound, Kinii Guhifron.* 

Meantime tlic pretended Uherto had returned to his station at 
tlie Horseblock of Merlin. He had had a beautiful pavilion 
pitched there ; and under this pavilion he lay down awhile to re- 
fresh himself with sleep. His sister Angelica lay down also, 
but in the open air, under the great pine by the fountain. The 
four giants kept watch : and as she lay thus asleep, with her fair 
head on the grass, she appeared like an angel come down from 

By this time Malagigi, borne by one of his demons, had ar- 
rived in the same place. He saw the beauty asleep by the flow- 
ery water, and the four giants all wide awake ; and he said with- 
in his teeth, — " Brute scoundrels^ I will take every one of you 
into my net without a blow." 

Malagigi took his book, and cast a spell out of it ; and in an 
instant the whole four giants were buried in sleep. Then, draw- 
ing his sword, he softly approached the young lady, intending to 
despatch her as quickly: but seeing her look so lovely as she 
slept, he paused, and considered within himself, and resolved to 
detain her in the same state by enchantment, so long as it should 
please him. Laying down the naked sword in the grass, he again 
took his book, and read and read on, and still read on, and fancied 
he was locking up her senses all the while in a sleep unwakeable. 
But the ring of which I have spoken was on her finger. She had 
borrowed it of her brother ; and a superior power rendered all 
other magic of no avail. A touch from Malagigi to prove the 
force of his spell awoke her, to the magician's consternation, 
with a great cry. She fled into the arms of her brother, whom 
it aroused; and, by the help of his sister's knowledge of enchant- 
ment, Arcalia mastered and bound the magician. The book was 
then turned against him, and the place was suddenly filled with 
a crowd of his own demons, every one of them crying out to 
Ano-elica, '• What commandest thou ?" 

" Take this man," said Angelica, " and bear him prisoner to 
the great city between Tartary and India, where my father Gal- 

* " Rb Galafron, il maledetto cane." 


afron is lord. Present him to him in my name, and say it was 
I that took him ; and add, that having so taken the master of the 
book, I care not for all the other lords of the court of Charle- 


At the end of these words, and at one and the same instant, 
the magician was conveyed to the feet of Galafron in Cathay, and 
locked up in a rock under the sea. 

In due time the enamoured knights, according to agreement, 
came to the spot for the purpose of jousting with the supposed 
Uberto, each anxious to have the first encounter, particularly Or- 
lando, in order that he might not see the beauty carried off by 
another. But they were obliged to draw lots ; and thirty other 
names appeared before his, the first of which was that of Astolfo 
the Englishman. 

Now Astolfo was son of the king of England ; and as I 
said before, he was the handsomest man in the world. He was 
also very rich and well bred, and loved to dress well, and was 
as brave as he was handsome ; but his success was not always 
equal to his bravery. He had a trick of being thrown from his 
horse, a failing which he was accustomed to attribute to accident ; 
and then he would mount again, and be again thrown from the 
saddle, in the boldest manner conceivable. 

This gallant prince was habited, on the present occasion, in 
arms worth a whole treasury. His shield had a border of large 
pearls ; his mail was of gold ; on his helmet was a ruby as big 
as a chestnut ; and his horse was covered with a cloth all over 
golden leopards.* He issued to the combat, looking at nobody 
and fearing nothing ; and on his sounding the horn to battle, Ar- 
galia came forth to meet him. After courteous salutations, the 
two combatants rushed together ; but the moment the English- 
man was touched with the golden lance, his legs flew over his 

" Cursed fortune !'* cried he, as he lay on the grass ; " this is 
out of all calculation. But it was entirely owing to the saddle. 
You can't but acknowledge, that if I had kept my seat, the beau- 

* The lions in the shield of England were leopards in the "olden time," and 
it is understood, I believe, ought still to be so, — as Napoleon, with an invidious 
pedantry, once permitted himself to be angry enough to inform us. 


tiful lady would have been mine. But thus it is when Fortune 
chooses to befriend intidels !"* 

The four giants, who had by this time been disenchanted out 
of their sleep by Angelica, took up the English prince, and put 
him in the pavilion. But when he was stripped of his armour, 
he looked so handsome, that the lovely stranger secretly took 
pity on him, and bade them shew him all the courtesies that cap- 
tivity allowed. He was permitted to walk outside by the foun- 
tain ; and Angelica, from a dark corner, looked at him with ad- 
miration, as he walked up and down in the moonlight. f 

The violent Ferragus had the next chance in the encounter, 
and was thrown no less speedily than Astolfo ; but he did not so 
easily put up with the mischance. Crying out, " What are the 
emperor's engagements to me V he rushed with his sword against 
Argalia, who, being forced to defend himself unexpectedly, dis- 
mounted and set aside his lance, and got so much the worse of 
the fight, that he listened to proposals of marriage from Ferragus 
to his sister. The beauty, however, not feeling an inclination to 
match with so rough and savage-looking a person, was so dis- 

* The character of Astolfo, the germ of wJiich is in our own ancient British 
romances, appears to have been completed by the lively invention of Boiardo, 
and is a curious epitome of almost all which has been discerned in tlie travelled 
Englishmen by the envy of poorer and the wit of livelier foreigners. He has 
the handsomeness and ostentation of a Buckingham, the wealth of a Beckford, 
the generosity of a Carlisle, the invincible pretensions of a Crichton, the self- 
commitals and bravery of a Digby, the lucklessness of a Stuart, and the non- 
chalance -under diiriculties" of •' Milord- Wkat-lheit^ in Voltaire's Princess of 
Babylon, where the noble traveller is discovered philosophically reading the 
newspaper in his carriage after it was overturned. English beauty, ever since 
the days of Pope Gregory, with his pun about Angles and Angels, has been 
greatly admired in the south of Europe — not a little, perhaps, on account of the 
general fairness of its complexion. I once heard a fair-faced English gentleman, 
who would have been thought rather eiTeminate-looking at home, called an 
" Angel" by a lady in Genoa. 

t " Stava disciolto, senza guardia alcuna, 
Ed intorno a la fonte sollazzava ; 
Angelica nel lume de la luna, 
Quanto potea nascosa, lo mirava." 

There is somethin£ wonderfully soft and lunar in the liquid monotony of the 
third line. 


mayed at the offer, that, hastily bidding her brother meet her 
in the forest of Arden, she vanished from tlie sight of both, 
by means of the enchanted ring. Argalia, seeing this, took to 
his horse of swiftness, and dashed away in the same direction ; 
Ferragus, in distraction, pursued Argalia ; and Astolfo, thus left 
to himself, took possession of the golden lance, and again issued 
forth — not, indeed, with quite his usual confidence of the result, 
but determined to run all risks, in any thing that might ensue, for 
the sake of the emperor. In fine, to cut this part of the history 
short, Charlemagne, finding the lady and her brother gone, or- 
dered the joust to be restored to its first intention ; and Astolfo, 
who was as ignorant as the others of the treasure he possessed in 
the enchanted lance, unhorsed all comers against him like so 
many children, equally to their astonishment and his own. 

The Paladin Rinaldo now learnt the issue of the fight between 
Ferragus and the stranger, and galloped in a loving agony of 
pursuit after the fair fugitive. Orlando learnt the disappearance 
of Rinaldo, and, distracted with jealousy, pushed forth in like 
manner ; and at length all three are in the forest of Arden, 
hunting about for her who is invisible. 

Now in this forest were two enchanted waters, the one a run- 
ning stream, and the other a built fountain ; the first caused 
every body who tasted it to fall in love, and the other (so to 
speak) to fall out of love ; say, rather, to feel the love turned 
into hate. To the latter of these two waters Rinaldo happened 
to come ; and being flushed with heat and anxiety, he dismounted 
from his horse, and quenched, in one cold draught, both his thirst 
and his passion. So far from loving Angelica as before, or hold- 
ing her beauty of any account, he became disgusted with its pur- 
suit, nay, hated her from the bottom of his heart ; and so, in this 
new state of mind, and with feelings of lofty contempt, he re- 
mounted and rode away, and happened to come on the bank of 
the running stream. There, enticed by the beauty of the place, 
which was all sweet meadow-cround and bowers of trees, he 
again quitted his saddle, and, throwing himself on the ground,"feU 
fast asleep. 

Unfortunately for the proud beauty Angelica, or rather in just 
punishment for her contempt, her palfrey conducted her to this 


very place. Tho water tempted her to drink, and, dismounting 
and tying the animal to one of the trees, she did so, and then 
cast her eyes on tlie sleeping Rinaldo. Love instantly seized her, 
and she stood rooted to tlie spot. 

The meadow round about was all full of lilies of the valley 
and wild roses. Angelica, not knowing what to do, at length 
plucked a quantity of these, and with her white hand she dropped 
them on the face of the sleeper. He woke up ; and seeing who 
it was, not only received her salutations with a change of coun- 
tenance, but remounting his horse, galloped away through the 
thickest part of the forest. In vain the beautiful creature fol- 
lowed and called after him ; in vain asked him what she had 
done to be so despised, and entreated him, at any rate, to take care 
how he went so fast. Rinaldo disappeared, leaving her to wring 
her hands in despair ; and she returned in tears to the spot on 
which she had found him sleeping. There, in her turn, she her- 
self lay down, pressing the spot of earth on which he had lain ; 
and so, weeping and lamenting, yet blessing every flower and bit 
of grass that he had touched, fell asleep out of fatigue and sor- 

As Angelica thus lay, the good or bad fortune of Orlando con- 
ducted him to the same place. The attitude in which she was 
sleeping was so lovely that it is not even to be conceived, much 
less expressed. The very grass seemed to flower on all sides of 
her for joy ; and the stream, as it murmured along, to go talking 
of love.* Orlando stood gazing like a man who had been trans- 
ported to another sphere. " Am I on earth," thought he, " or 
am I in paradise ? Surely it is I myself that am sleeping, and 
this is my dream." 

But his drearn was proved to be none, in a manner which he 

* "La qual dormiva in atto tanto adorno, 

Che pcnsar non si pu6, non ch' io lo scriva : 
Parea che 1' erba a lei fiorisse intorno, 
E d' amor ragionasse quella riva," 

Her posture, as she lay, was exquisite 
Above all words — nay, thought itself above : 
The grass seemed flowering round her In delight, 
And the soft river murmuring of love. 


little desired. Ferragus, who had slain Argalia, came up raging 
with jealousy, and a combat ensued which awoke the sleeper. 
Terrified at what she beheld, she rushed to her palfrey ; and 
while the fighters were occupied with one another, fled away 
through the forest. 

Fast fled the beauty in the direction taken by Rinaldo ; nor 
did she cease travelling, by one conveyance or another, till she 
reached her own country, whither she had sent Malagigi. Him 
she freed from his prison, on condition that he would employ his 
art for the purpose of bringing Rinaldo to a palace of hers, 
which she possessed in an island ; and accordingly Rinaldo was 
inveigled by a spirit into an enchanted barque, which he found 
on a sea-shore, and which conveyed him, without any visible 
pilot, into Joyous Palace (for so the island was called). 

The whole island was a garden, fifteen miles in extent. It 
was full of trees a.nd lawns ; and on the western side, close to 
the sea, was the palace, built of a marble so clear and polished, 
that it reflected the landscape round about. Rinaldo, not know- 
ing what to think of his strange conveyance, lost no time in leap- 
ing to shore ; upon which a lady made her appearance, who in- 
vited him within. The house was a most beautiful house, full of 
rooms adorned with azure and gold, and with noble paintings ; 
and within as well as without it were the loveliest flowers, the 
purest fountains, and a fragrance fit to turn sorrow to joy. The 
lady led the knight into an apartment painted with stories, and 
opening to the garden through pillars of crystal with golden cap- 
itals. Here he found a bevy of ladies, three of whom were 
singing in concert, while another played on some foreign instru- 
ment of exquisite accord, and the rest were dancing round about 
them. When the ladies beheld him coming, they turned the 
dance into a circuit round about himself; and then one of them, 
in the sweetest manner, said, " Sir knight, the tables are set, and 
the hour for the banquet is come :" and with these words they 
all drew him, still dancing, across the lawn in front of the apart- 
ment, to a table that was spread with cloth of gold and fine linen, 
under a bower of damask roses, bv the side of a fountain.* 

Four ladies were already seated there, who rose and placed 
* Supremely elegant all this appears to me. 


Rinaldo at their head, in a chair set with pearls. And truly in- 
deed was he astonished. A repast ensued, consisting of viands 
the most delicate, and wines as fragrant as they were fine, drinik 
out of jewelled cups ; and when it drew towards its conclusion, 
harps and lutes were heard in the distance, and one of the ladies 
said in the knight's ear, " This house, and all that you see in it, 
are yours. For you alone was it built, and the builder is a 
queen ; and happy indeed must you think yourself, for she loves 
you, and she is the greatest beauty in the world. Her name is 

The moment Rinaldo heard the name he so detested, disgust 
and wretchedness fell upon his heart, notwithstanding the joys 
around him. He started up with a changed countenance, and, 
in spite of all that the lady could say, broke off across the garden, 
and never ceased hastening till be reached the place where he 
landed. He would have thrown himself into the sea, rather than 
stay any longer in that island ; but the enchanted barque was still 
on the shore. He sprang into it, and attempted instantly to push 
off, for he still saw nobody in it but himself; but the barque for 
a while resisted his efforts ; till, on his feeling a wish to drown 
himself, or to do any thing rather than return to that detested 
house, it suddenly loosed itself from its moorings, and dashed 
away with him over the sea, as if in a fury. 

All night did the pilotless barque dash on, till it reached, in the 
morning, a distant shore covered with a gloomy forest. Here 
Rinaldo, surrounded by enchantments of a very different sort from 
those which he had lately resisted, was entrapped into a pit. 

The pit belonged to a castle which was hung with human heads, 
and painted red with blood ; and as the Paladin was calling upon 
God to help him, a hideous white-headed old v/oman, of a spite- 
ful countenance, made her appearance on the edge of the pit, and 
told him that he must fight with a monster born of Death and 

" Be it so," said the Paladin. " Let me but remain armed as 
I am, and I fear nothing." For Rinaldo had with him his re- 
nowned sword Fusberta.* 

* Sometimes called in the romances Frusherta (query, from fourbir, to bur- 
nish; ot froisser, to crush?). The meaning does not seem to be known. I 


The old woman laughed in derision. Rinaldo remained in the 
den all night, and next day was taken to a place where a portcul- 
lis was lifted up, and the monster rushed forth. He was a mix- 
ture of hog and serpent, larger than an ox, and not to be looked 
at without horror. He had eyes like a traitor, the hands of a 
man, but clawed, a beard dabbled with blood, a skin of coarse 
variegated colours, too hard to be cut through, and two horns on 
his temples, which he could turn on all sides of him at his plea- 
sure, and which were so sharp that they cut like a sword. 

Rising on his hind-legs, and opening a mouth six palms in 
width, this horrible beast fell heavily on Rinaldo, who was never- 
theless quick enough to give it a blow on the snout which increas- 
ed its fury. Returning the knight a tremendous cuff, it seized 
his coat of mail between breast and shoulder, and tore away a 
great strip of it down to the girdle, leaving the skin bare. Every 
successive rent and blow was of the like irresistible violence ; 
and though the Paladin himself never fought with more force and 
fury, he lost blood every instant. The monster at length tearing 
his sword out of his hand, the Paladin surely began to think that 
his last hour was arrived. 

Looking about to see what might possibly help him, he observ- 
ed overhead a beam sticking out of a wall at the height of some 
ten feet. He took a leap more than human ; and reaching the 
beam with his hand, succeeded in flinging himself up across it. 
Here he sat for hours, the furious brute continually trying to 
reach him. Night-time then came on with a clear starry sky and 
moonlight, and the Paladin could discern no way of escaping, 
when he heard a sound of something, he knew not what, coming 
through the air like a bird. Suddenly a female figure stood on 
the end of the beam, holding something in her hand towards him, 
and speaking in a loving voice. 

It was Angelica, come with means for destroying the monster, 
and carrying the knight away. 

But the moment Rinaldo saw her, desperate as seemed to be 
his condition, he renounced all offers of her assistance ; and at 

ought to have observed, in the notes to Pulci, that the name of Orlando's sword, 
Durlindana (called also Durindana, Durandal, &c.), is understood to mean 


length became so exasperated with her good offices, especially 
wlicn she opened her arms and olFcred to bear iiim away in them, 
that he threatened to cast himself down to the monster if slie did 
not jTO away.* 

Angelica, saying that she would lose her life rather than dis- 
please him, descended from the beam ; and having given the mon- 
6ter a cake of wax which fastened up his teeth, and then caught 
and fixed him in a set of nooses she had brought for that purpose, 
took her miserable departure. Rinaldo upon this got down from 
the beam himself; and liaving succeeded, though with the great- 
est difhculty, in beating and squeezing the life out of the monster, 
dealt such havoc among the people of the castle who assailed him, 
that the horrible old woman, whose crimes had made her the crea- 
ture's housekeeper, and led her to take delight in its cruelty, 
threw herself headlona; from a tower. The Paladin then took his 
wav forth, turning his back on the castle and the sea-shore. 

Angelica returned to the capital of her father's dominion, Al- 
bracca ; and the pertinacity of others in seeking her love being 
as great as that of hers for Rinaldo, she found King Galafron, in 
a short time, besieged there for her sake, by the fierce Agrican, 
kinsj of Tartarv. 

In a short time a jealous feud sprang up between the loving 
friends Rinaldo and Orlando ; and Angelica, torn with conflicting 
emotions, from her dread on her father's account as well as her 
own, and her aversion to every knight but her detester, was at 
one time compelled to apply to Orlando for assistance, and at an- 
other, being afraid that he would have the better of Rinaldo in 
combat, to send him away on a perilous adventure elsewhere, 
with a promise of accepting his love should he succeed. f Or- 
lando went, but not before he had slain Agrican and delivered 
Albracca. Circumstances, however, again took him with her to 
a distance, as the reader will see, ere he could bring her to per- 
form her promise ; and the Paladins in general having again been 

* The force of aversion was surely never better imagined than in this scene 
of the opened arms of beauty, and the knight's preference of the most odious 

t Legalised, I presume, by a divorce from the hero's wife, the fair Alda ; who, 

though she is generally designated by that epithet, seems never to have had 

much of his attention. 



scattered abroad, it happened that Rinaldo a second time found 
himself in the forest of Arden ; and here, without expecting it, 
he became an aUered man ; for he now tasted a very different 
stream from that which had given him his hate for Angelica ; 
namely, the one which had made her fall in love with himself. 
He was led to do this by a very extraordinary adventure. 

In the thick of the forest he had come upon a mead full of 
flowers, in which there was a naked youth, singing in the midst 
of three damsels, who were naked also, and who were dancing 
round about him. They had bunches of flowers in their hands, 
and garlands on their heads ; and as they were thus delighting 
themselves, with faces full of love and joy, they suddenly changed 
countenance on seeing Rinaldo. "Behold," cried they, "the 
traitor ! Behold him, villain that he is, and the scorner of all 
delights ! He has fallen into the net at last." With these words 
they fell upon him with the flowers like so many furies ; and ten- 
der as such scourges might be thought, every blow which the 
roses and violets gave him, every fresh stroke of the lilies and 
the hyacinths, smote him to the very heart, and filled iiis veins 
with fire. The flowers in the hands of the nymphs being ex- 
hausted, the youth gave him a blow on the helmet with a tall 
garden-lily, which felled him to the earth ; and so, taking him by 
the legs, and dragging him over the grass, his conqueror went the 
whole circuit of the mead with him, the nymphs taking the veiy 
garlands off" their heads, and again scourging him with their white 
and red roses.* 

At the close of this discipline, which left him more exhausted 
than twenty battles, his enemies suddenly developed wings from 
their shoulders, the feathers of which were of white and gold and 
vermilion, every feather having an eye in it, not like those in the 
peacock's feathers, but one full of life and motion, being a female 
eye, lovely and gracious. And v.ith these wings they poised 
themselves a little, and so sprung up to heaven. "f" 

* This violent effect of weapons so extremely gentle is beautifully conceived. 

t The "female eye, lovely and gracious," is charmingly painted per se ; but 
of this otherwise thoroughly beautiful description I must venture to doubt, 
whether living eyes of any sort, instead of those in the peacock's feathers, are 
in good taste. The imagination revolts from life misplaced. 


Tlie Paladin, more dead tlian alive, lay helpless among the 
flowers, when a fourth nymph came up to him, of inexpressible 
beauty. She told him that he had grievously otlended the naked 
youth, who was no other than Love himself; and added, that his 
only remedy was to be penitent, and to drink t)f the waters of a 
stream hard by, which he would fmd running from the roots of 
an olive-tree and a pine. With these \yords, she vanished in her 
turn like the rest; and Rinaldo, dragging himself as well as he 
could to the olive and pine, stooped down, and greedily drank of 
the water. Again and again he drank, and wished still to be 
drinking, for it took not only all pain out of his limbs, but all hate 
and bitterness out of his soul, and produced such a remorseful and 
doating memory of Angelica, that he would fain have galloped 
that instant to Cathay, and prostrated himself at her feet. By de- 
grees he knew the place ; and looking round about him, and pre- 
paring to remount his horse, he discerned a knight and a lady in 
the distance. The knight was in a coat of armour unknown to 
him, and the lady kneeling and drinking at a fountain, which was 
the one that had formerly quenched his own thirst ; to wit, the 
Fountain of Disdain. 

Alas ! it was Angelica herself; and the knight was Orlando. 
She had allowed him to bring her into France, ostensibly for the 
purpose of wedding him at the court of Charlemagne, whither the 
hero's assistance had been called against Agramant king of the 
Moors, but secretly with the object of discovering Rinaldo. Ri- 
naldo, behold ! is discovered ; but the fatal averse water has been 
drunk, and Angelica now hates him in turn, as cordially as he 
detested her. In vain he accosted her in the humblest and most 
repentant manner, calling himself the unworthiest of mankind, 
and entreating to be allowed to love her. Orlando, disclosing 
himself, fiercely interrupted him ; and a combat so terrific en- 
sued, that Angelica fled away on her palfrey till she came to a 
large plain, in which she beheld an army encamped. 

The army was Charlemagne's, who had come to meet Roda- 
monte, one of the vassals of Agramant. Angelica, in a tremble, 
related how she had left the two Paladins fighting in the wood ; 
and Charlemagne, who was delighted to find Orlando so near 
hhn, proceeded thither with his lords, and parting the combatants 


by his royal authority, suppressed the dispute between them for 
the present, by consigning the object of their contention to the 
care of Namo duke of Bavaria, with the understanding that she 
was to be the prize of the warrior who should best deserve her 
in the approaching battle with the infidels. 

[This is the last we hear of Angelica in the unfinished poem 
of Boiardo. For the close of her history see its continuation by 
Ariosto in the present volume.] 



Agrican, king of Tartary, in love with Angelica, and baffled by the prowess 
of the unknown Orlando in his attempts to bring the siege of Albracca to a 
favourable conclusion, entices him apart from the battle into a wood, in the hope 
of killing him in single combat. The combat is suspended by the arrival of 
night-time ; and a conversation ensues between the warriors, which is furiously 
interrupted by Agrican's discovery of his rival, and the latter's refusal to re- 
nounce his love. Agrican is slain ; and in his dying moments requests baptism 
at the hand of his conqueror, who, with great tenderness, bestows it. 


The siege of Albracca was going on formidably under the 
command of Agrican, and the city of Galafron was threatened 
with the loss of the monarch's daughter, Angelica, when Orlan- 
do, at his earnest prayer, came to assist him, and changing at 
once the whole course of the war, threw the enemy in his turn 
into transports of anxiety. Wherever the great Paladin came, 
pennon and standard fell before him. Men were cut up and 
cloven down, at every stroke of his sword ; and whereas the 
Indians had been in full rout but a moment before, and the Tar- 
tars ever on their flanks, Galafron himself being the swiftest 
among the spurrers away, it was now the Tartars that fled for 
their lives ; for Orlando was there, and a band of fresh knights 
were about him, and Agrican in vain attempted to rally his troops. 
The Paladin kept him constantly in his front, forcing him to at- 
tend to nobody else. 

The Tartar king, who cared not a button for Galafron and all 
his army,* provided he could but rid himself of this terrible 
knight (whom he guessed at, but did not know), bethought him of 
a stratagem. He turned his horse, and made a show of flying 
in despair. Orlando dashed after him, as he desired ; and Agri- 
can fled till he reached a green place in a wood, with a fountain 
in it. 

The place was beautiful, and the Tartar dismounted to refresh 
himself at the fountain, but without taking off' his helmet, or lay- 
ing aside any of his armour. Orlando was quickly at his back, 
crying out, " So bold, and yet such a fugitive ! How could you 

* " Che tutti insietne, e 'I suo Rb Galafrone, 
Non li stimava quanto un vil bottone." 


fly from a single arm, and yet think to escape ? When a man 
can die with honour, he should be glad to die ; for he may live 
and fare worse. He may get death and infamy together." 

The Tartar king had leaped on his saddle the moment he saw 
his enemy ; and when the Paladin had done speaking, he said in 
a mild voice, " Without doubt you are the best knight I ever en- 
countered ; and fain would I leave you untouched for your own 
sake, if you would cease to hinder me from rallying my people. 
I pretended to fly, in order to bring you out of the field. If you 
insist upon fighting, I must needs fight and slay you ; but I call 
the sun in the heavens to witness, that I would rather not. I 
should be very sorry for your death." 

The County Orlando felt pity for so much gallantry ; and he 
said, "The nobler you shew yourself, the more it grieves me to 
think, that in dying without a knowledge of the true faith, you 
will be lost in the other world. Let me advise you to save* body 
and soul at once. Receive baptism, and go your way in peace." 

Agrican looked him in the face, and replied, " I suspect you 
to be the Paladin Orlando. If you are, I would not lose this op- 
portunity of fighting with you, to be king of Paradise. Talk to 
me no more about your things of the other world ; for you will 
preach in vain. Each of us for himself, and let the sword be 

No sooner said than done. The Tartar drew his sword, boldly 
advancing upon Orlando ; and a cut and thrust fight began, so long 
and so terrible, each warrior being a miracle of prowess, that the 
story says it lasted from noon till night. Orlando then, seeing 
the stars come out, was the first to propose a respite. 

"What are we to do," said he, "now that daylight has left 

Agrican answered readily enough, " Let us repose in this 
meadow, and renew the combat at dawn." 

The repose was taken accordingly. Each tied up his horse, 
and reclined himself on the grass, not far from one another, just 
as if they had been friends, — Orlando by the fountain, Agrican 
beneath a pine. It was a beautiful clear night ; and as they 
talked together before addressing themselves to sleep, the cham- 
pion of Christendom, looking up at the firmament, said, " That is 


a fine piece of worknmnship, that starry spectacle. God made 
it all, — that moon of silver, and those stars of gold, and the light 
of day and the sun, — all for the sake of human kind." 

" You wish, I see, to talk of matters of faith," said the Tartar. 
" Now I may as well tell you at once, that I have no sort of skill 
in such matters, nor learning of any kind. 1 never could learn 
anything when I was a boy. I hated it so, that I broke the man's 
head who was commissioned to teach me ; and it produced such 
an elfect on others, that nobody ever afterwards dared so much as 
shew me a book. My boyhood was therefore passed as it should 
be, in^horsemanship, and hunting, and learning to fight. What is 
the good of a gentleman's poring all day over a book ? Prowess 
to the knight, and prattle to the clergyman. That is my motto." 

" I acknowledge," returned Orlando, " that arms are the first 
consideration of a gentleman ; but not at all that he does himself 
dishonour by knowledge. On the contrary, knowledge is as great 
an embellishment of the rest of his attainments, as the flowers are 
to the meadow before us ; and as to the knowledge of his Maker, 
the man that is without it is no better than a stock or a stone, or 
a brute beast. Neither, without study, can he reach anything 
like a due sense of the depth and divineness of the contemplation." 

" Learned or not learned," said Agrican, " you might shew 
yourself better bred than by endeavouring to make me talk on a 
subject on which you have me at a disadvantage. I have frankly 
told you what sort of person I am ; and I dare say, that you 
for your part are very learned and wise. You will therefore per- 
mit me, if you say anything more of such things, to make you 
no answer. If you choose to sleep, I wish you good night ; but 
if you prefer talking, I recommend you to talk of fighting, or of 
fair ladies. And, by the way, pray tell me — are you, or are you 
not, may I ask, that Orlando who makes such a noise in the 
world ? And what is it, pray, brings you into these parts ? 
Were you ever in love ? I suppose you must have been ; for to 
be a knight and never to have been in love, would be like being a 
man with no heart in his breast." 

The County replied, " Orlando I am, and in love I am.* 

♦ Bemi has here introduced the touching words, " Would I were not so !" 
(Cos! non foss' io !) 


Love has made me abandon every thing, and brought me into 
these distant regions ; and to tell you all in one word, my heart 
is in the hands of the daughter of King Galafron. You have 
come against him with fire and sword, to get possession of his 
castles and his dominions ; and I have come to help him, for no 
object in the world but to please his daughter, and win her beau- 
tiful hand. I care for nothing else in existence." 

Now when the Tartar king Agrican heard his antagonist speak 
in this manner, and knew him to be indeed Orlando, and to be in 
love with Angelica, his face changed colour for grief and jeal- 
ousy, though it could not be seen for the darkness. His heart 
began beating with such violence, that he felt as if he should 
have died. " Well," said he to Orlando, " we are to fight when 
it is daylight, and one or the other is to be left here, dead on the 
ground. I have a proposal to make to you ; nay, an entreaty. 
My love is so excessive for the same lady, that I beg you to leave 
her to me. I will owe you my thanks, and give up the fight my- 
self. I cannot bear that any one else should love her, and I live 
to see it. Why, therefore, should either of us perish ? Give 
her up. Not a soul shall know it."* 

" I never yet," answered Orlando, " made a promise which I 
did not keep ; and, nevertheless, I own to you, that were I to 
make a promise like that, and even swear to keep it, I should not. 
You might as well ask me to tear away the limbs from my body, 
and the eyes out of my head. I could as soon live without 
breath itself, as cease loving Angelica." 

Agrican had scarcely patience enough to let the speaker finish, 
ere he leaped furiously on horseback, though it was midnight. 
" Quit her," said he, " or die !" 

Orlando, seeing the infidel getting up, and not being sure that 
he would not add treachery to fierceness, had been hardly less 
quick in mounting for the combat. " Never !" exclaimed he. 
" I never could have quitted her if I would ; and now I wouldn't 
if I could. You must seek her by other means than these." 

Fiercely dashed their horses together, in the night-time, on the 

* This proposal is in the highest ingenuous spirit of the absurd wilfulness of 
passion, thinking that every tiling is to give way before it, not excepting the 
same identical wishes in other people. 


green mead. Despiteful and terrible were the blows they gave 
and took by the moonliglit. There was no need of their looking 
out for one another, night-time though it was. Tlieir business 
was to take a sharp liced of every movement, as if it iiad been 

Afi-rican fought in a rage : Orlando was cooler. And now the 
struiTcle had lasted more than five hours, and dawn began to be 
visible, when the Tartar king, furious to find so much trouble 
given him, dealt his enemy a blow sharp and violent beyond con- 
ception. It cut the shield in two, as if it had been a cheesecake ; 
and thongli blood could not be drawn from Orlando, because he 
was foted, it shook and bruised him, as if it had started every 
joint in his body. 

His body only, however ; not a particle of his soul. So dread, 
ful was the blow which the Paladin gave in return, that not only 
shield, but every bit of mail on the body of Agrican, was broken 
in pieces, and three of his left ribs cut asunder. 

The Tartar, roaring like a lion, raised his sword with still 
greater vehemence than before, and dealt a blow on the Paladin's 
helmet, such as he had never yet received from mortal man. 
For a moment it took away his senses. His sight failed ; his 
ears tinkled ; his frightened horse turned about to fly ; and he was 
falling from the saddle, when the very action of falling jerked 
his head upwards, and with the jerk he regained his recollection. 

" O my God !" thought he, " what a shame is this ! how shall I 
ever again dare to face Angelica ! I have been fighting, hour 
after hour, with this man, and he is but one, and I call myself 
Orlando. If the combat last any longer, I will bury myself in a 
monastery, and never look on sword again." 

Orlando muttered with his lips closed and his teeth ground to- 
gether ; and you might have thought that fire instead of breath 
came out of his nose and mouth. He raised his sword Durindana 
with both his hands, and sent it down so tremendously on Agri- 
can's left shoulder, that it cut through breast-plate and belly- 
piece down to the very haunch ; nay, crushed the saddle-bow, 
thouo-h it was made of bone and iron, and felled man and horse 
to the earth. From shoulder to hip was Agrican cut through his 

* Very fine all this, I (bink. 


weary soul, and he turned as white as ashes, and felt death upon 
him. He called Orlando to come close to him with a gentle 
voice, and said, as well as he could, " I believe in Him who died 
on the Cross. Baptise me, I pray thee, with the fountain, before 
my senses are gone. I have lived an evil life, but need not be 
rebellious to God in death also. May He who came to save all 
the rest of the world, save me ! He is a God of great mercy." 

And he shed tears, did that king, though he had been so lofty 
and fierce. 

Orlando dismounted quickly, with his own face in tears. He 
gathered the king tenderly in his arms, and took and laid him by 
the fountain, on a marble cirque which it had ; and then he wept 
in concert with him heartily, and asked his pardon, and so bap- 
tised him in the water of the fountain, and knelt and prayed to 
God for him with joined hands. 

He then paused and looked at him ; and when he perceived 
his countenance changed, and that his whole person was cold, he 
left him there on the marble cirque by the fountain, all armed as 
he was, with the sword by his side, and the crown upon his 

I think I may anticipate the warm admiration of the reader for the whole 
of this beautiful episode, particularly its close. " I think," says Panizzi, " that 
Tasso had this passage particularly in \iew when he wrote the duel of Clorinda 
and Tancredi, and her conversion and baptism before dying. The whole pas- 
sage, from stanza xii. (where Agrican receives his mortal blow) to this, is beau- 
tiful ; and the deUcate proceeding of Orlando in leaAdng Agrican's body armed 
even with the sword in his hand, is in the noblest spirit of chivalry." — Edition 
of Boiardo and Ariosto, vol. iii. pace 357. 

The reader will find the original in the Appendix No. I. 

In the course of the poem (canto xix. stanza xxvi.) a knight, with the same 
noble delicacy, who is in distress for a set of anns, borrows those belonging to 
the dead body, with many excuses, and a kiss on its face. 



Prasildo, a nobleman of Babylon, to his great anguish, falls in love with his 
friend's wife, Tisbina; and being overheard by her and her husband threatening 
to kill himself, the lady, hoping to divert him from his passion by time and ab- 
sence, promises to return it on condition of his performing a distant and peril- 
ous adventure. He performs the adventure ; and the husband and wife, suppo- 
sing that there is no other way of her escaping the consequences, resolve to take 
poison ; after which the lady goes to Prasildo's house, and informs him of their 
having done so. Prasildo resolves to die with them ; but hearing, in the mean 
time, that the apothecary had given them a drink that was harmless, he goes 
and tells them of their good fortune ; upon which the husband is so struck with 
his generosity, that he voluntarily quits Babylon for life, and the lady marries 
the lover. The new husband subsequently hears that his friend's life is in dan- 
ger, and quits the wife to go and deliver him from it at the risk of his own, 
which he does. 

This story, which has resemblances to it in Boccaccio and Chaucer, is told to 
Rinaldo while ridincr throuo-h a wood in Asia, with a damsel behind him on the 
same horse. He has encracred to combat in her behalf with a band of knights : 
and the lady relates it to beguile the way. 

The reader is to bear in inind, that the age of chivalry took delight in mooting 
points of love and friendship, such as in after times would have been out of the 
question ; and that the parties in this story are Mahometans, with whom divorce 
was an easy thing, and caused no scandal. 


Iroldo, a knight of Babylon, had to wife a lady of the name 
of Tisbina, whom he loved with a passion equal to that of Tristan 
for Iseult ;* and she returned his love with such fondness, that 
her thoutjhts were occupied with him from morninff till nicht. 
Among other pleasant circumstances of their position, they had a 
neighbour who was accounted the greatest nobleman in tiie citv ; 
and he deserved his credit, for he spent his great riches in doing 
nothing but honour to his rank. He was pleasant in company, 
formidable in battle, full of grace in love ; an open-hearted, ac- 
complished gentleman. 

This personage, whose name was Prasildo, happened to be of a 
party one day with Tisbina, who were amusing themselves in a 
garden, with a game in which the players knelt down with their 
faces bent on one another's laps, and guessed who it was that 
struck them. The turn came to himself, and he knelt down to 
the lap of Tisbina ; but no sooner was he there, than he expe- 
rienced feelings he had never dreamt of ; and instead of trying 
to guess correctly, took all the pains he could to remain in the 
same position. 

These feelings pursued him all the rest of the day, and still 
more closely at night. He did nothing but think and sigh, and 
find the soft feathers harder than any stone. Nor did he get bet- 
ter as time advanced. His once favourite pastime of hunting 
now ceased to afford him any delight. Nothing pleased him but 
to be giving dinners and balls, to make verses and sing them to 
his lute, and to joust and tournay in the eyes of his love, dressed 
in the most sumptuous apparel. But above all, gentle and grace- 
ful as he had been before, he now became still more gentle and 

• The hero and heroine of the famous romance of Tristan de Leonois. 


graceful — for good qualities are always increased when a man is 
in love. Never in my life did I know them turn to ill in that 
case. So, in Prasildo's, you may guess what a super-excellent 
person he became. 

The passion ^hich had thus taken possession of this gentleman 
was not lost upon the lady for want of her knowing it. A mu- 
tual acquaintance was always talking to her on the subject, but 
to no purpose ; she never relaxed her pride and dignity for a mo- 
ment. The lover at last fell ill ; he iiurlv wasted aAvav : and 
was so unhappy, that he gave up all his feastings and entertain- 
ments. The only pleasure* he took was in a solitary wood, in 
wliich he used to plunge himself in order to give way to his grief 
and lamentations. 

It happened one day, early in the morning, while he was thus 
occupied, that Iroldo came into the wood to amuse himself with 
bird-catching. He had Tisbina with him; and as they were 
coming along, they overheard their neighbour during one of his 
paroxysms, and stopped to listen to what he said. 

" Hear me," exclaimed he, " ye flowers and ye woods. Hear 
to what a pass of wretchedness I am come, since that cruel one 
will hear me not. Hear, O sun tliat hast taken away the night 
from the heavens, and you, ye stai*s, and thou the departing moon, 
hear the voice of my grief for the last time, for exist I can no lon- 
ger \ my death is the only way left me to gratify that proud beau- 
ty, to whom it has pleased Heaven to give a cruel heart with a 
merciful countenance. Fain would I have died in her presence. 
It would have comforted me to see her pleased even with that 
proof of my love. But I pray, nevertheless, that she may never 
know it ; since, cruel as she is, she might blame herself for hav- 
ing she^^•n a scorn so extreme ; and I love her so, I would not 
have her pained for all her cruelty. Surely I shall love her 
even in my grave." 

Witli these words, turning pale with his own mortal resolution, 
Prasildo drew his sword, and pronouncing the name of Tisbina 
more than once witli a loving voice, as though its very sound 
would be sufficient to waft liim to Paradise, was about to plunge 
tlie steel into his bosom, when tlie lady herself, by leave of her 


husband, whose manly visage was all in tears for pity, stood sud- 
denly before him. 

" Prasildo," said she, " if you love me, listen to me. You 
have often told me that you do so. Now prove it. I hapi)en to 
be threatened with notiiing less than the loss of life and honour. 
Nothing short of such a calamity could have induced me to beg 
of you tlie service I am going to request ; since there is no 
tjreater shame in the world than to ask favours from those to 
whom we have refused them. But I now promise you, that if 
you do what I desire, your love shall be returned. I give you my 
word for it. 1 give you my honour. On the other side of the 
wilds of Barbary is a garden which has a wall of iron. It has 
four gates. Life itself keeps one; Death another; Poverty the 
third ; the fairy of Riches the fourth. He who goes in at one 
gate must go out at the other opposite ; and in the midst of the 
garden is a tree, tall as the reach of an arrow, which produces 
pearls for blossoms. It is called the Tree of Wealth, and has 
fruit of emeralds and boughs of gold. I must have a bough of 
that tree, or suffer the most painful consequences. Now, then, 
if you love me, I say, prove it. Prove it, and most assuredly I 
shall love you in turn, better than ever you loved myself." 

What need of saying that Prasildo, with haste and joy, under- 
took to do all that she required ? If she had asked the sun and 
stars, and the whole universe, he would have promised them. 
Quitting her in spite of his love, he set out on the journey with- 
out delay, only dressing himself before he left the city in the 
habit of a pilgrim. 

Now you must know, that Iroldo and his lady had set Prasildo 
on that adventure, in the hope that the great distance which he 
would have to travel, and the change which it might assist time 
to produce, would deliver him from his passion. At all events, 
in case this good end was not effected before he arrived at the 
garden, they counted to a certainty on his getting rid of it when 
he did ; because the fiiry of that garden, which was called the 
Garden of Medusa, was of such a nature, that whosoever did 
but look on her countenance forgot the reason for his going thi- 
ther ; and whoever saluted, touched, and sat down to converse 
by her side, forgot all that had ever occurred in his lifetime. 



Away, however, on his steed went our bold lover ; all alone, 
or rather with Love for his companion ; and so, riding hard till 
he came to the Red Sea, he took ship, and journeyed through 
Egypt, and came to the mountains of Barca, where he overtook 
an old grey-headed palmer. 

Prasildo told the palmer the reason of his coming, and the 
palmer told him what the reader has heard about the garden ; 
adding, that he must enter by the gate of Poverty, and take no 
arms or armour with him, excepting a looking-glass for a shield, 
in which the fairy might behold her beauty. The old man gave 
him other directions necessary for his passing out of the gate of 
Riches ; and Prasildo, thanking him, went on, and in thirty days 
found himself entering the garden with the greatest ease, by the 
gate of Poverty. 

The garden looked like a Paradise, it' was so full of beautiful 
trees, and flowers, and fresh grass. Prasildo took care to hold 
the shield over his eyes, that he might avoid seeing the fairy 
Medusa ; and in this manner, guarding his approach, he arrived 
at the Golden Tree. The fairy, who was reclining against the 
trunk of it, looked up, and saw herself in the glass. Wonder- 
ful was the effect on her. Instead of her own white-and-red 
blooming face, she beheld that of a dreadful serpent. The spec- 
tacle made her take to flight in terror ; and the lover finding his 
object so far gained, looked freely at the tree, and climbed it, and 
bore away a bough.* 

With this he proceeded to the gate of Riches. It was all of 
loadstone, and opened with a great noise. But he passed through 
it happily, for he made the fairy who kept it a present of half the 
bough ; and so he issued forth out of the garden, with indescriba- 
ble joy. 

Behold our loving adventurer now on his road home. Every 
step of the way appeared to him a thousand. He took the road 
of Nubia to shorten the journey ; crossed the Arabian Gulf with 

* "Mr. Rose observes, that Medusa may be designed by Boiardo as the ' type 
of conscience;' and he is confirmed in his opinion by the circumstance men- 
tioned in this canto (12, Ub. i. stan. 39) of Medusa not being able to contemplate 
the reflection of her own hideous appearance, though beautiful in the sight of 
others. I fully agree with him." — Panizzi, ut sup., vol. iii. p. 333. 


a breeze in his favour ; and travelling by night as well as by day, 
arrived one fine morning in Babylon. 

No sooner was he there than he sent to tell the object of his 
passion how fortunate he had been. He begged her to name her 
own place and time for receiving the bough at his hands, taking 
care to remind her of her promise ; and he could not help adding, 
that he should die if she broke it. 

Terrible was the grief of Tisbina at this unlooked-for news. 
She threw herself on her couch in despair, and bewailed the hour 
she was born. " What on earth am I to do?" cried the wretched 
lady ; " death itself is no remedy for a case like this, since it is 
only another mode of breaking my word. To think that Prasildo 
should return from the garden of Medusa ! who could have sup- 
posed it possible ? And yet, in truth, what a fool I was to sup- 
pose any thing impossible to love ! O my husband ! little didst 
thou think what thou thyself advisedst me to promise !" 

The husband was coming that moment towards the room ; and 
overhearing his wife grieving in this distracted manner, he en- 
tered and clasped her in his arms. On learning the cause of her 
affliction, he felt as though he should have died with her on the 

*'Alas!" cried he, "that it should be possible for me to be 
miserable while I am so dear to your heart. But you know, O 
my soul ! that when love and jealousy come together, the torment 
is the greatest in the world. Myself — myself, alas ! caused the 
mischief, and myself alone ought to suffer for it. You must keep 
your promise. You must abide by the word you have given, 
especially to one who has undergone so much to perform what 
you asked him. Sweet face, you must. But oh ! see him not 
till after I am dead. Let Fortune do with me what she pleases, 
so that I be saved from a disgrace like that. It will be a comfort 
to me in death to think that I alone, while I was on earth, enjoyed 
the fond looking of that lovely face. Nay," concluded the 
wretched husband, " I feel as though I should die over again, 
if I could call to mind in my grave how you were taken from 


Iroldo became dumb for anguish. It seemed to him as if his 
very heart had been taken out of his breast. Nor was Tisbina 


less miserable. She was as pale as death, and could hardly 
speak to him, or bear to look at him. At length turning her eyes 
upon him, she said, " And do you believe I could make my poor 
sorry case out in this world without Iroldo ? Can he bear, him- 
self, to think of leaving his Tisbina 1 he who has so often said, 
that if he possessed heaven itself, he should not think it heaven 
without her ? O dearest husband, there is a way to make death 
not bitter to either of us. It is to die together. I must only exist 
long enough to see Prasildo ! Death, alas ! is in that thought ; 
but the same death will release us. It need not even be a hard 
death, saving our misery. There are poisons so gentle in their 
deadliness, that we need but faint away into sleep, and so, in the 
course of a few hours, be delivered. Our misery and our folly 
will then alike be ended." 

Iroldo assenting, clasped his wife in distraction ; and for a long 
time they remained in the same posture, half stifled with grief, 
and bathing one another's cheeks with their tears. Afterwards 
they sent quietly for the poison ; and the apothecary made up a 
preparation in a cup, without asking any questions ; and so the 
husband and wife took it. Iroldo drank first, and then endeav- 
oured to give the cup to his wife, uttering not a word, and trem- 
bling in every limb ; not because he was afraid of death, but 
because he could not bear to ask her to share it. At length, 
turning away his face and looking down, he held the cup towards 
her, and she took it with a chilled heart and trembling hand, and 
drank the remainder to the dregs. Iroldo then covered his face 
and head, not daring to see her depart for the house of Prasildo ; 
and Tisbina, with pangs bitterer than death, left him in solitude. 

Tisbina, accompanied by a servant, went to Prasildo, who 
could scarcely believe his ears when he heard that she was at the 
door requesting to speak with him. He hastened down to shew 
her all honour, leading her from the door into a room by them- 
selves ; and when he found her in tears, addressed her in the 
most considerate and subdued, yet still not unhappy manner, 
taking her confusion for bashfulness, and never dreaming what a 
tragedy had been meditated. 

Finding at length that her grief was not to be done away, he 
conjured her by what she held dearest on earth to let him know 


the cause of it ; adding, that he could still die for her sake, if 
his death would do her any service. Tisbina spoke at these 
words ; and Prasildo then heard what he did not wish to hear. 
" I am in your hands," answered she, " while I am yet alive. I 
am bound to my word, but I cannot survive the dishonour which 
it costs me, nor, above all, the loss of the husband of my heart. 
You also, to whose eyes I have been so welcome, must be pre- 
pared for my disappearance from the earth. Had my affections 
not belonged to another, ungentle would have been my heart not 
to have loved yourself, who are so capable of loving ; but (as you 
must well know) to love two at once is neither fitting nor in one's 
power. It was for that reason I never loved you, baron ; I was 
only touched with compassion for you ; and hence the mise- 
ries of us all. Before this day closes, I shall have learnt the 
taste of death." And without further preface she disclosed to 
him how she and her husband had taken poison. 

Prasildo was struck dumb with horror. He had thought his 
felicity at hand, and was at the same instant to behold it gone for 
ever. She who was rooted in his heart, she who carried his life 
in her sweet looks, even she was sitting there before him, already, 
so to speak, dead. 

" It has pleased neither Heaven nor you, Tisbina," exclaimed 
the unhappy young man, " to put my best feelings to the proof. 
Often have two lovers perished for love ; the world will now behold 
a sacrifice of three. Oh, why did you not make a request to me 
in your turn, and ask me to free you from your promise ? You 
say you took pity on me ! Alas, cruel one, confess that you have 
killed yourself, in order to kill me. Yet why ? Never did I 
think of giving you displeasure ; and I now do what I would have 
done at any time to prevent it, I absolve you from your oath. 
Stay, or go this instant, as it seems best to you.'" 

A stronger feeling than compassion moved the heart of Tisbina 
at these words. " This indeed," replied she, " I feel to be noble; 
and truly could I also now die to save you. But life is flitting ; 
and how may I prove my regard ?" 

Prasildo, who had in good earnest resolved that three instead of 
two should perish, experienced such anguish at the extraordinary 
position in which he found all three, that even her sweet words 


came but dimly to his ears. He stood like a man stupified ; then 
begged of her to give him but one kiss, and so took his leave 
without further ado, only intimating that her way out of the 
house lay before her. As he spake, he removed himself from her 

Tisbina reached home. She found her husband with his head 
covered up as she left him ; but when she recounted what had 
passed, and the courtesy of Prasildo, and how he had exacted 
from her but a single kiss, Iroldo got up, and removed the cover- 
ing from his face, and then clasping his hands, and raising it to 
heaven, he knelt with grateful humility, and prayed God to give 
pardon to himself, and reward to his neighbour. But before he 
had ended, Tisbina sunk on the floor in a swoon. Her weaker 
frame was the first to undergo the effects of what she had taken. 
Iroldo felt icy chill to see her, albeit she seemed to sleep sweetly. 
Her aspect was not at all like death. He taxed Heaven with 
cruelty for treating two loving hearts so hardly, and cried out 
against Fortune, and life, and Love itself. 

Nor was Prasildo happier in his chamber. He also exclaimed 
against the bitter tyrant " whom men call Love ;" and protested, 
that he would gladly encounter any fate, to be delivered from the 
worse evils of his false and cruel ascendency. 

But his lamentations were interrupted. The apothecary who 
sold the potion to the husband and wife was at the door below, 
requesting to speak with him. The servants at first had refused to 
carry the message ; but the old man persisting, and saying it was 
a matter of life and death, entrance for him into his master's 
chamber was obtained. 

" Noble sir," said the apothecary, " I have always held you in 
love and reverence. I have unfortunately reason to fear that 
somebody is desiring your death. This morning a handmaiden 
of the lady Tisbina applied to me for a secret poison ; and just 
now it was told me, that the lady herself had been at this house. 
I am old, sir, and you are young ; and I warn you against the 
violence and jealousies of w^omankind. Talk of their flames of 
love ! Satan himself burn them, say I, for they are fit for noth- 
ing better. Do not be too much alarmed, however, this time : for 
in truth I gave the young woman nothing of the sort that she 


asked for, but only a draught so innocent, tliat if you have taken 
it, it will cost you but four or five hours' sleep. So, in God's 
name, give up the whole foolish sex ; for you may depend on it, 
that in this city of ours there are ninety-nine wicked ones among 
them to one good." 

You may guess how Prasildo's heart revived at these words. 
Truly might he be compared to flowers in sunshine after rain ; he 
rejoiced through all his being, and displayed again a cheerful 
countenance. Hastily thanking the old man, he lost no time in 
repairing to the house of his neighbours, and telling them of 
their safety : and you may guess how the like joy was theirs. 

But behold a wonder ! Iroldo was so struck with the gene- 
rosity of his neighbour's conduct throughout the whole of this 
extraordinary atfair, that nothing would content his grateful 
though ever-grieving heart, but he must fairly give up Tisbina 
after all. Prasildo, to do him justice, resisted the proposition as 
stoutly as he could ; but a man's powers are ill seconded by an 
unwilling heart ; and though the contest was long and handsome, 
as is customary between generous natures, the husband adhered 
firmly to his intention. In short, he abruptly quitted the city, 
declaring that he would never again gee it, and so left his wife to 
the lover. And I must add (concluded the fair lady who was 
telling the story to Rinaldo), that although Tisbina took his de- 
parture greatly to heart, and sometimes felt as if she should die 
at the thoughts of il, yet since he persisted in staying away, and 
there appeared no chance of his ever doing otherwise, she did, 
as in that case we should all do, we at least that are young and 
kind, and took the handsome Prasildo for second spouse.* 

* " Tisbina," says Panizzi, in a note on this passage. " very wisely acted like 
Emilia (in Chaucer), who, when she saw she could not marry Arcita, because 
he was killed, thought of marrying Palemone, rather than 'be amayden all hire 
Ivf.' It is to be observed, that although she regretted very much what had hap- 
pened, and even fainted away, she did not, however, stand on ceremonies, as the 
poet says in the next stanza, but yielded immediately, and married Prasildo. 
This, at first, I thought to be somewhat inconsistent; but on consideration I 
found I was wrong. Tisbina was wrong ; because, having lost Iroldo, she did 
not know what Prasildo would do; but so soon as the latter offered to fill up the 
place, she nobly and magnanimously resigned herself to her fate." — Ut sup., 
vol. iii. p. 336. 




It might be thought inconsistent in Tisbina, notwithstanding Mr. Panizzi's 
pleasantry, to be so wilhng to take another husband, after having poisoned her- 
self for the first ; but she seems intended by the poet to exhibit a character of 
impulse in contradistinction to permanency of sentiment. She cannot help 
shewing pity for Prasildo ; she cannot help poisoning herself for her husband ; 
and she cannot help taking his friend, when she has lost him. Nor must it be 
forgotten that the husband was the first to break the tie. We respect him more 
than we do her, because he was capable of greater self-denial ; but if he him- 
self preferred his friend to his love, we can hardly blame her (custom apart) for 
following the example. 





The conclusion of this part of the history of Iroldo and Pra- 
jildo was scarcely out of the lady's mouth, when a tremendous 
i^oice was heard among the trees, and Rinaldo found himself con- 
fronting a giant of a frightful aspect, who with a griffin on each 
ide of him was guarding a cavern that contained the enchanted 
horse which had belonged to the brother of Angelica. A combat 
ensued ; and after winning the horse, and subsequently losing 
the company of the lady, the Paladin, in the course of his adven- 
ures, came upon a knight who lay lamenting in a green place by 
a fountain. The knight heeding nothing but his grief, did not 
perceive the new comer, who for some time remained looking at 
him in silence, till, desirous to know the cause of his sorrow, he 
dismounted from his horse, and courteously begged to be informed 
of it. The stranger in his turn looked a little while in silence at 
Rinaldo, and then told him he had resolved to die, in order to be 
rid of a life of misery. And yet, he added, it was not his own 
lot which grieved him, so much as that of a noble friend who 
would die at the same time, and who had nobody to help him. 

The knight, who was no other than Tisbina's husband Iroldo, 
then briefly related the events which the reader has heard, and 
proceeded to state how he had traversed the world ever since for 
two years, when it was his misfortune to arrive in the territories 
of the enchantress Falerina, whose custom it was to detain for- 
eigners in prison, and daily give a couple of them (a lady and a 
cavalier) for food to a serpent which kept the entrance of her 
enchanted garden. To this serpent he himself was destined to 



be sacrificed, when Prasildo, the possessor of his wife Tisbina, 
hearing of his peril, set out instantly from Babylon, and rode 
night and day till he came to the abode of the enchantress, deter- 
mined that nothing should hinder him from doing his utmost to 
save the life of a friend so generous. Save it he did, and that by 
a generosity no less devoted ; for having attempted in vain to 
bribe the keeper of the prison, he succeeded in prevailing on the 
man to let him substitute himself for his friend ; and he was that 
very day, perhaps that very moment, preparing for the dreadful • 
death to which he would speedily be brought. 

" I will not survive such a friend," concluded Iroldo. " I 
know I shall contend with his warders to no purpose ; but let the 
wretches come, if they will, by thousands ; I shall fight them to 
the last gasp. One comfort in death, one joy I shall at all events 
experience. I shall be with Prasildo in the other world. And 
yet when I think what sort of death he must endure, even the 
release from my own miseries afflicts me, since it will not pre- 
vent him from undergoing that horror." 

The Paladin shed tears to hear of a case so piteous and affec- 
tionate, and in a tone of encouragement offered his services 
towards the rescue of his friend. Iroldo looked at him in aston-i 
ishment, but sighed and said, " Ah, sir, I thank you with all my 
heart, and you are doubtless a most noble cavalier, to be so fear- 
less and good-hearted ; but what right have I to bring you to 
destruction for no reason and to no purpose ? There is not a man 
on earth but Orlando himself, or his cousin Rinaldo, who could 
possibly do us any good ; and so I beg you to accept my thanks 
and depart in safety, and may God reward you." 

" It is true," replied the Paladin, " I am not Orlando ; and yet, 
for all that, I doubt not to be able to effect what I propose. Nor 
do I offer my assistance out of desire of glory, or of thanks, or 
return of any kind ; except indeed, that if two such unparalleled 
friends could admit me to be a third, I should hold myself a happy 
man. What ! you have given up the woman of your heart, and 
deprived yourself of all joy and comfort ; and your friend, on 
the other hand, has become a prisoner and devoted to death, for 
your sake ; and can I be expected to leave two such friends in a 


jeopardy so monstrous, and not do all in my power to save them ? 
I would rather die first myself, and on your own principle ; I 
mean, in order to go with you into a better world." 

While they were talking in this manner, a great ill-looking 
rabble, upwards of a thousand strong, made their appearance, 
carrying a banner, and bringing forth two prisoners to die. The 
wretches were armed after their disorderly fashion ; and the 
prisoners each tied upon a horse. One of these hapless persons 
too surely was Prasildo ; and the other turned out to be the dam- 
sel N\ ho had told Rinaldo the story of the friends. Having been 
deprived of the Paladin's assistance, her subsequent misadven- 
tures had brought her to this terrible pass. The moment Rinaldo 
beheld her, he leaped on his horse, and dashed among the villains. 
The sight of such an onset was enough for their cowardly hearts. 
The whole posse fled before him with precipitation, all except the 
leader, who was a villain of gigantic strength ; and him the Pala- 
din, at one blow, clove through the middle. Iroldo could not 
speak for joy, as he hastened to release Prasildo. He was forced 
to give him tears instead of words. But when speech at length 
became possible, the two friends, fervently and with a religious 
awe, declared that their deliverer must have been divine and not 
human, so tremendous was the death-blow he had given the ruf- 
fian, and such winged and contemptuous slaughter he had dealt 
among the fugitives. By the time he returned from the pursuit, 
their astonishment had risen to such a pitch, that they fell on 
their knees and worshipped him for the Prophet of the Saracens, 
not believing such prowess possible to humanity, and devoutly 
thanking him for the mercy he had shewn them in coming thus 
visibly from heaven. Rinaldo for the moment was not a little 
disturbed at this sally of enthusiasm ; but the singular good faith 
and simplicity of it restored him to himself; and with a smile be- 
tween lovingness and humility he begged them to lay aside all 
such fancies, and know him for a man like themselves. He 
then disclosed himself for the Rinaldo of whom they had spoken, 
and made such an impression on them with his piety, and his at- 
tributing what had appeared a superhuman valour to nothing but 
his belief in the Christian religion, that the transported friends 


became converts on the spot, and accompanied him thenceforth 
as the most faithful of his knights. 

The story tells us nothing fiirther of Tisbina, though there can be no doubt 
that Boiardo meant to give us the conclusion of her share in it ; for the two 
knights take an active part in the adventures of their new friend Rinaldo. 
Perhaps, however, the discontinuance of the poem itself was lucky for the au- 
thor, as far as this episode was concerned ; for it is difficult to conceive in what 
maimer he would have wound it up to the satisfaction of the reader. 



A lady has two suitors, a young and an old one, the latter of whom wins her 
against her inclinations by practising the artifice of Hippomanes in his race with 
Atalanta. Being very jealous, he locks her up in a tower; and the youth, who 
continued to be her lover, makes a subterraneous passage to it ; and pretending 
to have married her sister, invites the old man to his house, and introduces his 
own wife to him as the bride. The husband, deceived, but still jealous, facili- 
tates their departure out of the country, and returns to his tower to find liimself 

This story, like that of the Saracen Friends, is told by a damsel to a knight 
while riding in his company ; with this difference, that she is the heroine of it 
herself She is a damsel of a nature still lighter than the former; and the 
reader's sympathy with the trouble she brings on herself^ and the way she gets 
out of it, will be modified accordingly. On the other hand, nobody can respect 
the foolish old man with his unwarrantable marriage ; and the moral of Boiardo's 
story is still useful for these " enlightened times," though conveyed with an air 
of levity. 

In addition to the classics, the poet has been to the Norman fablers for his 
story. The subterranean passage has been more than once repeated in ro- 
mance ; and the closing incident, the assistance given by the husband to his 
^vife's elopement, has been imitated in the farce of Lionel and Clarissa. 


My father (said the damsel) is King of the Distant Islands, 
where the treasure of the earth is collected. Never was greater 
wealth known, and I was heiress of it all. 

But it is impossible to foresee what is most to be desired for us 
in this world. I was a king's daughter, I was rich, I was hand- 
some, I was lively ; and yet to all those advantages I owed my 
ill- fortune. 

Among other suitors for my hand there came two on the same 
day, one of whom was a youth named Ordauro, handsome from 
head to foot ; the other an old man of seventy, whose name was 
Folderico. Both were rich and of noble birth ; but the greybeard 
was counted extremely wise, and of a foresight more than human. 
As I did not feel in want of his foresight, the youth was far more 
to my taste ; and accordingly I listened to him with perfect good- 
will, and gave the wise man no sort of encouragement. 

I was not at liberty, however, to determine the matter ; my 
father had a voice in it ; so, fearing what he would advise, I 
thought to secure a good result by cunning and management. It 
is an old observation, that the craft of a woman exceeds all other 
craft. Indeed, it is Solomon's own saying. But now-a-days peo- 
ple laugh at it ; and I found to my cost that the laugh is just. I 
requested my father to proclaim, first, that nobody should have 
me in marriage who did not surpass me in swiftness (for I was a 
damsel of a mighty agility) ; and secondly, that he who did sur- 
pass me should be my husband. He consented, and I thought 
my happiness secure. You must know, I have run down a bird, 
and caught it with my own hand. 

Well, both my suitors came to the race ; the youth on a large 


war-horse, trapped with gold, which curvetted in a prodigious 
manner, and seemed impatient for a gallop ; the old man on a 
mule, carrying a great bag at his side, and looking already tired 
out.. They dismounted on the place chosen for the trial, which 
was a meadow. It was encircled by a world of spectators ; and 
the greybeard and myself (for his age gave him the first chance) 
only waited for the sound of the trumpet to set off. 

I held my competitor in such contempt, that I let him get the 
start of me, on purpose to make him ridiculous ; but I was not 
prepared for his pulling a golden apple out of his bag, and throw- 
ing it as far as he could in a direction different from that of the 
goal. The sight of a curiosity so tempting was too much for my 
prudence ; and it rolled away so roundly, and to such a distance, 
that I lost more time in reaching it than I looked for. Before I 
overtook the old gentleman, he threw another apple, and this again 
led me a chase after it. In short, I blush to say, that, resolved as 
I was to be tempted no further, seeing that the end of our course 
was now at hand, and my marriage with an old man instead of a 
young man was out of the question, he seduced me to give chase 
to a third apple, and fairly reached the goal before me. I wept 
for rage and disgust, and meditated every species of unconjugal 
treatment of the old fox. What right had he to marry such a 
child as I was ? I asked myself the question at the time ; I asked 
it a thousand times afterwards ; and I must confess, that the more 
I have tormented him, the more the retaliation delights me. 

However, it was of no use at the moment. The old wretch 
bore me off to his domains with an ostentatious triumph ; and 
then, his jealousy misgiving him, he shut me up in a castle on a 
rock, where he endeavoured from that day forth to keep me from 
the sight of living being. You may judge what sort of castle it 
was by its name — Altamura (lofty wall). It overlooked a desert I 
on three sides, and the sea on the fourth ; and a man might as 
well have flown as endeavoured to scale it. There was but one 
path up to the entrance, very steep and difficult ; and when you 
were there, you must have pierced outwork afler outwork, and 
picked the lock of gate after gate. So there sat I in this delicious 
retreat, hopeless, and bursting with rage. I called upon death 
day and night, as my only refuge. I had no comfort but in see- 


ing my keeper mad with jealousy, even in that desolate spot. I 
think he was jealous of the very flies. 

JMy handsome youth, Ordauro, however, had not forgotten me; 
no, nor even given me up. Luckily he was not only very clever, 
but rich besides ; without which, to be sure^ his brains would not 
have availed him a pin. What does he do, therefore, but take a 
house in the neighbourhood on the sea-shore ; and while my tor- 
mentor, in alarm and horror, watches every movement, and thinks 
him coming if he sees a cloud or a bird, Ordauro sets people se- 
cretly to work night and day, and makes a subterraneous passage 
up to the very tower ! 

Guess what I felt when I saw him enter ! Assuredly I did not 
shew him the face which I shewed Folderico. I die with joy 
this moment to think of my delight. As soon as we could dis- 
course of any thing but our meeting, Ordauro concerted measures 
for my escape ; and the greatest difficulty being surmounted by 
the subterraneous passage, they at last succeeded. But our ene- 
my gave us a frightful degree of trouble. 

There was no end of the old man's pryings, peepings, and pre- 
cautions. He left me as little as possible by myself; and he had 
all the coast thereabouts at his command, together with the few 
boats that ever touched it. 

Ordauro, however^ did a thing at once the most bold and the 
most ingenious. He gave out that he was married ; and inviting 
my husband to dinner, who had heard the news with transport, 
presented me, to his astonished eyes, for the bride. The old man 
looked as if he would have died for rage and misery. 

" Horrible villain !" cried he, " what is this ?" 

Ordauro professed astonishment in his turn. 

" What !" asked he ; " do you not know that the princess, 
your lady's sister, is wonderfully like her, and that she has done 
me the honour of becoming my wife ? I invited you in order to 
do honour to yourself, and so bring the good families together." 

'' Detestable falsehood !" cried Folderico. " Do you think I'm 
blind, or a born idiot ? But I'll see to this business directly ; 
and terrible shall be my revenge." 

So saying, he flung out, and hastened, as fast as age would let 
him, to the room in the tower, where he expected to find me not. 


But there he did find me : — there was I, sitting as if nothing had 
happened, with my hand on my cheek, and full of my old mel- 

" God preserve me !" exclaimed he ; " this is astonishing in- 
deed ! Never could I have dreamt that one sister could be so 
like another ! But is it so, or is it not ? I have terrible sus- 
picions. It is impossible to believe it. Tell me truly," he con- 
tinued ; " answer me on the faith of a daring woman, and you 
shall get no hurt by it. Has any one opened the portals for you 
to-day ? Who was it ? How did you get out ? Tell me the 
truth, and you shall not suffer for it ; but deceive me, and there 
is no punishment that you may not look for." 

It is needless to say how I vowed and protested that I had 
never stirred ; that it was quite impossible ; that I could not have 
done it if I would, &c. I took all the saints to witness to my 
veracity, and swore I had never seen the outside of his tremen- 
dous castle. 

The monster had nothing to say to this ; but I saw what he 
meant to do — I saw that he would return instantly to the house 
of Ordauro, and ascertain if the bride was there. Accordingly, 
the moment he turned the key on me, I flew down the subterra- 
neous passage, tossed on my new clothes like lightning, and sat 
in my lover's house as before, waiting the arrival of the panting 
old gentleman. 

" Well," exclaimed he, as soon as he set eyes upon me, 
" never in all my life — no — I must allow it to be impossible — 
never can my wife at home be the lady sitting here." 

From that day forth the old man, whenever he saw me in Or- 
dauro's house, treated me as if I were indeed his sister-in-law, 
though he never had the heart to bring the two wives together, for 
fear of old recollections. Nevertheless, this state of things was 
still very perilous ; and my new husband and myself lost no time 
in considering how we should put an end to it by leaving the 
country. Ordauro resorted, as before, to a bold expedient. He 
told Folderico that the air of the sea-coast disagreed with him ; 
and the old man, whose delight at getting rid of his neighbour 
helped to blind him to the deceit, not only expedited the move- 
ment, but offered to see him part of the way on his journey ! 


The ofTer was accepted. Six miles he rode forth with us the 
stupid old man ; and then, takinor his leave, to return home', we 
pushed our horses like lightning, and so left him to tear his hair 
and his old beard with cries and curses, as soon as he opened the 
door of his tower. 


CfTritical Notice of l)is £ife anh <3cnim. 




The congenial spirits of Piilci and Boiardo may be said to 
have attained to their height in the person of Ariosto, upon the 
principle of a transmigration of souls, or after the fashion of that 
hero in romance, who was heir to the bodily strengths of all wliom 
he conquered. 

Lodovico Giovanni Ariosto was born on the 8th of September, 
1474, in the fortress at Reggio, in Lombardy, and was the son of 
Niccolo Ariosto, captain of that citadel (as Boiardo had been), 
and Daria Maleguzzi, whose family still exists. The race was 
transplanted from Bologna in the century previous, when Obizzo 
the Third of Este, Marquess of Ferrara, married a lady belong- 
ing to it, whose Christian name was Lippa. Niccolo Ariosto, 
besides holding the same office as Boiardo had done, at Modena 
as well as at Reggio, was master of the household to his two suc- 
cessive patrons, the Dukes Borso and Ercole. He was also em- 

* The materials for this notice have been chiefly collected from the poet's own 
writings (rich in autobiographical intimation) and from his latest editor Panizzi. 
I was unable to see this writer's principal authority, Baruflaldi, till I corrected 
the proofs and the press was waiting ; otherwise I might have added two or 
three more particulars, not, however, of any great consequence. Panizzi is, as 
usual, copious and to the purpose ; and has, for the first time I believe, critically 
proved the regularity and connectedness of Ariosto's plots, as well as the hol- 
lowness of the pretensions of the house of Este to be considered patrons of 
literature. It is only a pity that his Life of Ariosto is not better arranged. I 
have, of course, drawn my own conclusions respecting particulars, and some- 
times have thought I had reason to differ with those who have preceded me ; but 
not, I hope, with a presumption unbecoming a foreigner. 


ployed, like him, in diplomacy ; and was made a count by the 
Emperor Frederick the Third, though not, it seems, with re- 
mainder to his heirs. 

Lodovico was the eldest of ten children, five sons and five 
daughters. During his boyhood, theatrical entertainments were 
in great vogue at court, as we have seen in the life of Boiardo ; 
and at the age of twelve, a year after the decease of that poet 
(who must have been well known to him, and probably encour- 
aged his attempts), his successor is understood to have dramatised, 
after his infant fashion, the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, and to 
have got his brothers and sisters to perform it. Panizzi doubts 
the possibility of these precocious private theatricals ; but con- 
sidering what is called " writing" on the part of children, and 
that only one other performer was required in the piece, or at 
best a third for the lion (which some little brother might have 
" roared like any sucking-dove"), I cannot see good reason for 
disbelieving the story. Pope was not twelve years old when he 
turned the siege of Troy into a play, and got his school- fellows to 
perform it, the part of Ajax being given to the gardener. Man is 
a theatrical animal [^wov fiijxriTiK6v^, and the instinct is developed at 
a very early period, as almost every family can witness that has 
taken its children to the " playhouse." 

At fifteen the young poet, like so many others of his class, was 
consigned to the study of the law, and took a great dislike to it. 
The extreme mobility of his nature, and the wish to please his 
father, appear to have made him enter on it willingly enough 
in the first instance ;* but as soon as he betrayed symptoms of 
disgust, Niccolo, whose affairs were in a bad way, drove him 
back to it with a vehemence which must have made bad worse, f 
At the expiration of five years he was allowed to give it up. 

* See in his Latin poems the lines beginning, 

" Hffic me verbosas suasit perdiscere leges." 

De Diversis Amoribus. 
t " Mio padre mi caccib con spiedi e lancie," &c. 

Satira vi. 

There is some appearance of contradiction in this passage and the one referred 
to in the preceding note ; but I tliink the conclusion in the text the probable 
one, and that he was not compelled to study the law in the first instance. He 


There is reason to believe tliat Ariosto was " theatricalising" 
during no little portion of this time ; for, in his nineteenth year, 
he is understood to have been taken by Duke Ercole to Pavia 
and to Milan, either as a writer or performer of comedies, proba- 
bly both, since the courtiers and ducal family themselves occa- 
sionally appeared on the stage ; and one of the poet's brothers 
mentions his having frequently seen him dressed in character.* 

On being delivered from the study of the law, the young poet 
appears to have led a cheerful and unrestrained life for the next 
four or five years. He wrote, or began to write, the comedy of 
the Cassaria ; probably meditated some poem in the style of 
Boiardo^ then in the height of his fame ; and he cultivated the 
Latin language, and intended to learn Greek, but delayed, and 
unfortunately missed it in consequence of losing his tutor. Some 
of his happiest days were passed at a villa, still possessed by the 
Maleguzzi family, called La Mauriziana, two miles from Reggio. 
Twenty-five years afterwards he called to mind, with sighs, the 
pleasant spots there which used to invite him to write verses ; 
the garden, the little river, the mill, the trees by the water-side, 
and all the other shady places in which he enjoyed himself during 
that sweet season of his life " betwixt April and May."f To 
complete his happiness, he had a friend and cousin, Pandolfo 
Ariosto, who loved every thing that he loved, and for whom he 
augured a brilliant reputation. 

But a dismal cloud was approaching. In his twenty-first year 
he lost his father, and found a large family left on his hands in 
narrow circumstances. The charge was at first so heavy, espe- 
cially when aggravated by the death of Pandolfo, that he tells us 
he wished to die. He took to it manfully, however, in spite of 
these fits of gloom ; and he lived to see his admirable efforts 
rewarded ; his brotliers enabled to seek their fortunes, and his 
sisters properly taken care of. Two of them, it seems, had be- 
come nuns. A third married ; and a fourth remained long in his 
house. It is not known what became of the fifth. 


sjieaks more than once of his father's memory with great tenderness, particularly 
in the lines on his death, entitled Dt Nkolao Areosto. 

* His brother Gabriel expressly mentions it in his prologue to the Scholastica. 

t " G\k mi fur dolci inviti," &c. — Satira v. 

TART 11. 6 


In these family-matters the anxious son and brother was occu- 
pied for three or four years, not, however, without jecreating 
himself with his verses, Latin and Italian, and recording his 
admiration of a number of goddesses of his youth. He men- 
tions, in particular, one of the name of Lydia, who kept him 
often from " his dear mother and household," and who is proba- 
bly represented by the princess of the same name in the Orlando, 
punished in the smoke of Tartarus for being a jilt and coquette.* 
His friend Bembo, afterwards the celebrated cardinal, recommend- 
ed him to be blind to such little immaterial points as ladies' infi- 
delities. But he is shocked at the advice. He was far more of 
Othello's opinion than Congreve's in such matters ; and declared, 
that he would not have shared his mistress's good-will with Jupi- 
ter himself.f 

Towards the year 1504, the poet entered the service of the 
unworthy prince. Cardinal Ippolito of Este, brother of the new 
Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso the First. His eminence, who had 
been made a prince of the church at thirteen years of age by the 
infamous Alexander the Sixth (Borgia), was at this period little 
more than one-and -twenty ; but he took an active part in the 
duke's affairs, both civil and military, and is said to have made 
himself conspicuous in his father's lifetime for his vices and bru- 
tality. He is charged with having ordered a papal messenger to 
be severely beaten for bringing him some unpleasant despatches : 
which so exasperated his unfortunate parent, that he was exiled 
to Mantua ; and the marquess of that city, his brother-in-law, was 
obliged to come to Ferrara to obtain his pardon. But this was a 
trifle compared with what he is accused of having done to one of 
his brothers. A female of their acquaintance, in answer to a 
speech made her by the reverend gallant, had been so unlucky 
as to say that she preferred his brother Giulio's eyes to his emi- 
nence's whole body : upon which the monstrous villain hired two 

* See, in the present volume, the beginning of Astolfo's Journey to the Moon. 
t " Me potius fugiat, nullis molHta querelis, 

Dum simulet reliquos Lydia dura procos. 
Parte carere omni malo, quam admittere qucraquam 
In partem. Cupiat Juppiter ipse, negem." 

Ad Petrum Bembum. 


ruffians to put out his brother's eyes ; some say, was present at 
the attempt. Attempt only it fortunately turned out to be, at 
least in part ; the opinion being, that the sight of one of the eyes 
was preserved.* 

Party-spirit- l^^s so much to do with stories of princes, and 
princes are so little inr a condition to notice them, that, on the 
principle of not condemning a man till he has been heard in his 
defence, an honest biographer would be loath to credit these hor- 
rors of Cardinal Ippolito, did not the violent nature of the times, 
and the general character of the man, even with his defenders, 
incline him to do so. His being a soldier rather than a church- 
man was a fault of the age, perhaps a credit to the man, for he 
appears to have had abilities for war, and it was no crime of his 
if he was put into the church when a boy. But his conduct to 
Ariosto shewed him coarse and selfish ; and those who say all 
they can for him admit that he was proud and revengeful, and 
that nobody regretted him when he died. He is said to have had 
a taste for mathematics, as his brother had for mechanics. The 
truth seems to be, that he and the duke, who lived in troubled 
times, and had to exert all their strength to hinder Ferrara from 
becoming a prey to the court of Rome, were clever, harsh men, 
of no grace or elevation of character, and with no taste but for 
war ; and if it had not been for their connexion with Ariosto, no- 
body would have heard of them, except while perusing the annals 
of the time. Ippolito might have been, and probably was, the 
ruffian which the anecdote of his brother Giulio represents him ; 
but the world would have heard little of the villany, had he not 
treated a poet with contempt. 

The admirers of our author may wonder how he could become 
the servant of such a man, much more how he could praise him 
as he did in the great work which he was soon to begin writing. 

* Panizzi, on the authority of Guicciardini and others, Giulio and another 
brother (Fcrrante) afterwards conspired against Alfonso and Ippolito, and, on 
the failure of their enterprise, were sentenced to be imprisoned for life. Fer- 
rante died in confinement at the expiration of thirty-four years; GiuHo, at the 
end of fifty-three, was pardoned. He came out of prison on horseback, dressed 
according to the fashion of the time when he was arrested, and "greatly excited 
the curiosity of the people." — Idem, vol. i. p. xii. 


But Ariosto was the son of a man who had passed his life in the 
service of the family ; he had probably been taught a loyal blind- 
ness to its defects ; gratuitous panegyrics of princes had been the 
fashion of men of letters since the time of Augustus ; and the poet 
wanted help for his relatives, and was of a nature to take the 
least show of favour for a virtue, till he had learnt, as he unfor- 
tunately did, to be disappointed in the substance. It is not known 
what his appointment was under the cardinal. Probably he was 
a kind of gentleman of all work ; an officer in his guards, a com- 
panion to amuse, and a confidential agent for the transaction of 
business. The employment in which he is chiefly seen is that of 
an envoy, but he is said also to have been in the field of battle ; 
and he intimates in his Satires, that household attentions were 
expected of him which he was not quick to ofier, such as pulling 
off his eminence's boots, and putting on his spurs.* It is certain 
that he was employed in very delicate negotiations, sometimes to 
the risk of his life from the perils of roads and torrents. Ippo- 
lito, who was a man of no delicacy, probably made use of him on 
every occasion that required address, the smallest as well as 
greatest, — an interview with 9, pope one day, and a despatch to a 
dog-fancier the next. 

His great poem, however, proceeded. It was probably begun 
before he entered the cardinal's service ; certainly was in progress 
during the early part of his engagement. This appears from a 
letter written to Ippolito by his sister the Marchioness of Mantua, 
to whom he had sent Ariosto at the beginning of the year 1509 to 
congratulate her on the birth of a child. She gives her brother 
special thanks for sending his message to her by " Messer Ludo- 
vico Ariosto," who had made her, she says, pass two delightful 
days, with giving her an account of the poem he was writing.^ 

* " Che debbo fare io qm '\ 

Agli usatti, agli spron (perch' io son grande) 
Non mi posso adattar, per pome o trarne." 

Satira ii. 
t " Per la lettera de la S. V. Reverendiss. et a bocha da Ms. Ludovico Ariosto 
ho inteso quanta leticia ha conceputa del felice parto mio : il che mi 6 stato 
summamente grato, cussi Io ringrazio de la visitazione, et particolarmente di 
havermi mandato 11 dicto Ms. Ludovico, per che ultra che mi sia stato acetto, re- 
presentando la persona de la S. V. Reverendiss. lui anche per conto suo mi ha 


Isabella was the name of this princess ; and the grateful poet did 
not forget to embalm it in his verse.* 

Ariosto's latest biographer, Panizzi, thinks he never served un- 
der any other leader than the cardinal ; but I cannot help being 
of opinion with a former one, wliom he quotes, that he once took 
arms under a captain of the name of Pio, probably a kinsman of 
his friend Alberto Pio, to whom he addresses a Latin poem. It 
was probably on occasion of some early disgust with the cardinal ; 
but I am at a loss to discover at what period of time. Perhaps, 
indeed, he had the cardinal's permission, both to quit his service, 
and return to it. Possibly he was not to quit it at all, except ac- 
cording to events ; but merely had leave given him to join a party 
in arms, who were furthering Ippolito's own objects. Italy was 
full of captains in arms and conflicting interests. The poet might 
even, at some period of his life, have headed a troop under another 
cardinal, his friend Giovanni de' Medici, afterwards Leo the 
Tenth. He had certainly been with him in various parts of 
Italy ; and might have taken part in some of his bloodless, if not 
his most military, equitations. 

Be this as it may, it is understood that Ariosto was present at 
the repulse given to the Venetians by Ippolito, when they came 
up the river Po against Ferrara towards the close of the year 
1509 ; though he was away from the scene of action at his sub- 
sequent capture of their flotilla, the poet having been despatched 
between the two events to Pope Julius the Second on the delicate 
business of at once appeasing his anger with the duke for resist- 
ing his allies, and requesting his help to a feudatary of the church. 
Julius was in one of his towering passions at first, but gave way 
before the address of the envoy, and did what he desired. But 
Ariosto's success in this mission was nearly being the death of 
him in another ; for Alfonso having accompanied the French the 
year following in their attack on Vicenza, where they committed 
cruelties of the same horrible kind as have shocked Europe with- 

addutta gran satisfazionc, havcndomi cum la narratione dc 1' opera che compone 
iacto passar questi due giorni non solum senza fastidio, ma cum placer gran- 
dissimo." — Tiraboschi, Storia ddla Poesia Jtaliana, Matthias' edition, vol. iii. 
p. 197. 

♦ Orlando JTurioso, canto xxix. st. 29. 


in a few months past,* the poet's tongue, it was thought, might be 
equally efficacious a second time ; but Julius, worn out of pa- 
tience with his too independent vassal, who maintained an alli- 
ance with the French when the pope had ceased to desire it, was 
to be appeased no longer. He excommunicated Alfonso, and 
threatened to pitch his envoy into the Tiber ; so that the poet 
was fain to run for it, as the duke himself was afterwards, when 
he visited Rome to be absolved. Would Julius have thus treated 
Ariosto, could he have foreseen his renown ? Probably he would. 
The greater the opposition to the will, the greater the will itself. 
To chuck an accomplished envoy into the river would have been 
much ; but to chuck the immortal poet there, laurels and all, in 
the teeth of the amazement of posterity, would have been a temp- 
tation irresistible. 

It was on this occasion that Ariosto, probably from inability to 
choose his times or modes of returning home, contracted a cough, 
which is understood to have shortened his existence ; so that Ju- 
lius may have killed him after all. But the pope had a worse 
enemy in his own hosom — his violence — which killed himself in 
a much shorter period. He died in little more than two years 
afterwards ; and the poet's prospects were all now of a very dif- 
ferent sort — at least he thought so; for in March, 1513, his friend 
Giovanni de' Medici succeeded to the papacy, under the title of 
Leo the Tenth. 

Ariosto hastened to Rome, among a shoal of visitants, to con- 
gratulate the new pope, perhaps not without a commission from 
Alfonso to see what he could do for his native country, on which 
the rival Medici family never ceased to have designs. The poet 
was full of hope, for he had known Leo under various fortunes ; 
had been styled by him not only a friend, but a brother ; and 
promised all sorts of participations of his prosperity. Not one of 
them came. The visitor was cordially received. Leo stooped 
from his throne, squeezed his hand, and kissed him on both his 
cheeks ; but " at night," says Ariosto, " I went all the way to 
the Sheep to get my supper, wet through." All that Leo gave 
him was a " bull," probably the one securing to him the profits 

* See the horrible account of the suffocated Vicentine Grottoes, in Sismondi, 
Histoire des Republiques Italiennes, &c. vol. iv. p. 48. 


of his Orlando ; and the poet's friend Bil)biena — wit, cardinal, 
and kinsman of Berni — facilitated the bull, but the receiver dis- 
charged the fees. He did not get one penny by promise, pope, 
or friend.* He complains a little, but all in good humour ; and 
good-naturedly asks what he was to expect, when so many hun- 
gry kinsmen and partisans were to be served first. Well and 
wisely asked too, and with a superiority to his fortunes which 
Leo and Bibbiena might have envied. 

It is thought probable, however, that if the poet had been less 
a friend to the house of Este, Leo would have kept his word with 
him, for their intimacy had undoubtedly been of the most cordial 
description. But it is supposed that Leo was afraid he should 
have a Ferrarese envoy constantly about him, had he detained 
Ariosto in Rome. The poet, however, it is admitted, was not a 
good hunter of preferment. He could not play the assenter, and 
bow and importune : and sovereigns, however friendly they may 
have been before their elevation, go the way of most princely 
flesh when they have attained it. They like to take out a man's 
gratitude beforehand, perhaps because they feel little security in 
it afterwards. 

The elevation to the papacy of the cheerful and indulgent son 
of Lorenzo de' Medici, after the troublous reign of Julius, was 
hailed with delight by all Christendom, and nowhere more so than 
in the pope's native place, Florence. Ariosto went there to see 
the spectacles ; and there, in the midst of them, he found himself 
robbed of his heart by the lady whom he afterwards married. 
Her name was Alessandra Benucci. She was the widow of one 
of the Strozzi family, whom he had known in Ferrara, and he had 
long admired her. The poet, who, like Petrarch and Boccaccio, 

♦ " Piegossi a me dalla beata sede ; 
La mano e poi le gote anibe mi prese, 
E 11 santo bacio in amendue mi diede. 

Di mezza quclla bolla anco cortese 
Mi fu, della quale ora il mio Bibbiena 
Espedito ra' ha il resto alle mic spese. 

Indi col seno e con la falda piena 
Di spome, ma di pioggia molle e brutto, 
La notte andai sin al Montone a cena." Sat. iv. 

3j^^^^ ARIOSTO. 

has recorded the day on which he fell in love, which was that of 
St. John the Baptist (the showy saint-days of the south offer spe- 
cial temptations to that effect), dwells with minute fondness on 
the particulars of the lady's appearance. Her dress was black 
silk, embroidered with two grape-bearing vines intertwisted ; and 
" between her serene forehead and the path that went dividing in 
two her rich and golden tresses," was a sprig of laurel in bud. 
Her observer, probably her welcome if not yet accepted lover, 
beheld something very significant in this attire ; and a mysterious 
poem, in which he records a device of a black pen feathered with 
gold, which he wore embroidered on a gown of his own, has been 
supposed to allude to it. As every body is tempted to make his 
guess on such occasions, I take the pen to have been the black- 
haired poet himself, and the golden feather the tresses of the lady. 
Beautiful as he describes her, with a face full of sweetness, and 
manners noble and engaging, he speaks most of the charms of her 
golden locks. The black gown could hardly have implied her 
widowhood : the allusion would not have been delicate. The 
vine belongs to dramatic poets, among whom the lover was at that 
time to be classed, the Orlando not having appeared. Its duplifi- 
cation intimated another self; and the crowning laurel was the 
success that awaited the heroic poet and the conqueror of the 
lady's heart.* 

The marriage was never acknowledged. The husband was in 
the receipt of profits arising from church-offices, which putlhim 
into the condition of the fellow of a college with us, who cannot 
marry so long as he retains his fellowship : but it is proved to 
have taken place, though the date of it is uncertain. Ariosto, in 
a satire written three or four years after his falling in love, says 
/ he never intends either to marry or to take orders ; because, if 
he takes orders, he cannot marry ; and if he marries, he cannot 
take orders — that is to say, must give up his semi-priestly emol- 
uments. This is one of the falsehoods which the Roman Catholic 
religion thinks itself warranted in tempting honest men to fall 
into ; thus perplexing their faith as to the very roots of all faith, 
and tending to maintain a sensual hypocrisy, which can do 

* See canzone the first, " Non so s' io potrb," &c. ; and the capitoh beginning 
" Delia mia negra penna in fregio d' oro." 


no good to tlie strongest minds, and must terribly injure the 

Ariosto's love for this lady I take to have been one of the 
causes of dissatisfaction between him and the cardinal. " For- 
tunately for the poet," as Panizzi observes, Ippolito was not al- 
ways in Ferrara. He travelled in Italy, and he had an arch- 
bishopric in Hungary, the tenure of which compelled occasional 
residence. His company was not desired in Rome, so that he 
was seldom there. Ariosto, however, was an amusing compan- 
ion ; and the cardinal seems not to have liked to go anywhere 
without him. In the year 1515 he was attended by the poet part 
of the way on a journey to Rome and Urbino ; but Ariosto fell 
ill, and had leave to return. He confesses that his illness W£is 
owing to an anxiety of love ; and he even makes an appeal to the 
cardinal's experience of such feelings ; so that it might seem he 
was not afraid of Ippolito's displeasure in that direction. But the 
weakness which seltish people excuse in themselves becomes a 
" very different thing" (as they phrase it) in another. The ap- 
peal to the cardinal's experience might only have exasperated 
him, in its assumption of the identity of the case. However, the 
poet was, at all events, left this time to the indulgence of his love 
and his poetry ; and in the course of the ensuing year, a copy of 
the first edition of the Orlando Furioso, in forty cantos, was put 
into the hands of the illustrious person to whom it was dedicated. 

The words in which the cardinal was pleased to express him- 
self on this occasion have become memorable. " Where the 
devil. Master Lodovick," said the reverend personage, " have 
you picked up such a parcel of trumpery ?" The original term 
is much stronger, aggravating the insult with indecency. There 
is no equivalent for it in English ; and I shall not repeat it in 
Italian. " It is as low and indecent," says Panizzi, " as, any in 
the language." Suffice it to say that, although the age was not 
scrupulous in such matters, it was one of the last words befitting 
the lips of the reverend Catholic ; and that, when Ippolito of 
Este (as Ginguene observes) made that speech to the great poet, 
" he uttered — prince, cardinal, and mathematician as he was — 
an impertinence."* 

* Hiatoire LUtiraire, t&c. vol. iv. p. 335. 



Was the cardinal put out of temper by a device which ap- 
peared in this book ? On the leaf succeeding the title-page was 
the privilege for its publication, granted by Leo in terms of the 
most flattering personal recognition.* So far so good; unless 
the unpoetical Este patron was not pleased to see such interest 
taken in the book by the tasteful Medici patron. But on the back 
of this leaf was a device of a hive, with the bees burnt out of it 
for their honey, and the motto " Evil for good" [Pro dono malum). 
Most biographers are of opinion that this device was aimed at the 
cardinal's ill return for all the sweet words lavished on him and 
his house. If so, and supposing Ariosto to have presented the 
dedication-copy in person, it would have been curious to see the 
faces of the two men while his Eminence was looking at it. 
Some will think that the goodnatured poet could hardly have 
taken such an occasion of displaying his resentment. But the 
device did not express at whom it was aimed : the cardinal need 
not have applied it to himself if he did not choose, especially as 
the book was full of his praises ; and goodnatured people will not 
always miss an opportunity of covertly inflicting a sting. The 
device, at all events, shewed that the honey-maker had got worse 
than nothing by his honey ; and the house of Este could not say 
they had done any thing to contradict it. 

I think it probable that neither the poet's device nor the car- 
dinal's speech were forgotten, when, in the course of the next year, 
the parties came to a rupture in consequence of the servant's re- 

* " Singularis tua et pervetus erga nos familiamque nostrum observantia, 
egregiaque bonarum artium et litterarum doctrina, atque in studiis mitioribus, 
prjEsertimque poetices elegans et praeclarum ingenium, jure prope suo a nobis 
exposcere videntur, ut quae tibi usui futurse sint, justa praesertim et honesta 
petenti, ea tibi liberaliter et gratiose concedamus. Quamobrem," &c. "On the 
same page," says Panizzi, " are mentioned the privileges granted by the king of 
France, by the repubUc of Venice, and other potentates;" so that authors, in 
those days, appear to have been thought worthy of profiting by their labours, 
wherever they contributed to the enjoyment of mankind. 

Leo's privilege is the one that so long underwent the singular obloquy of 
being a bull of excommunication against all who objected to the poem ! a mis- 
conception on the part of some ignorant man, or misrepresentation by some 
malignant one, which affords a remarkable warning against taking things on 
trust from one writer after another. Even Bayle (see the article " Leo X." in 
his Dictionary) suffered his inclinations to bUnd his vigilance. 


fusing to attend his master into Hungary. Ariosto excused him- 
self on account of the state of his health and of his family. He 
said that a cold climate did not agree with him ; that his chest 
was atfected, and could not bear even the stoves of Hungary ; and 
that he could not, in common decency and humanity, leave his 
mother in her old age, especially as all the rest of the family were 
away but his youngest sister, whose interests he had also to take 
care of. But Ippolito was not to be appeased. The public have 
seen, in a late female biography, a deplorable instance of the un- 
feelingness with which even a princess with a reputation for re- 
ligion could treat the declining health and unwilling retirement 
of a poor slave in her service, fifty times her superior in every 
thing but servility. Greater delicacy was not to be expected of 
the military priest. The nobler the servant, the greater the de- 
sire to trample upon him and keep him at a disadvantage. It is 
a grudge which rank owes to genius, and which it can only wave 
when its possessor is himself" one of God Almighty's gentlemen." 
I do not mean in point of genius, which is by no means the high- 
est thing in the world, whatever its owners may think of it ; but 
in point of the highest of all things, which is nobleness of heart. 
I confess I think Ariosto was wrong in expecting what he did of 
a man he must have known so well, and in complaining so much 
of courts, however good-humouredly. A prince occupies the sta- 
tion he does, to avert the perils of disputed successions, and not 
to be what his birth cannot make him — if nature has not supplied 
the materials. Besides, the cardinal, in his quality of a mechan- 
ical-minded man with no taste, might with reason have complain, 
ed of his servant's attending to poetry when it was " not in his 
bond ;" when it diverted from the only attentions which his em- 
ployer understood or desired. Ippolito candidly confessed, as 
Ariosto himself tells us, that he not only did not care for poetry, 
but never gave his attendant one stiver in patronage of it, or for 
any thing whatsoever but going his journeys and doing as he was 
bidden.* On the other hand, the cardinal's payments were sorry 

,♦ " Apollo, tua mcrc6, tua mcrce, santo 
CoUcgio delle Muse, io non mi trovo 
Tanto per voi, ch' io possa farmi un nianto : 


ones ; and the poet might with justice have thought, that he was 
not bound to consider them an equivalent for the time he was ex- 
pected to give up. The only thing to have been desired in this 
case was, that he should have said so ; and, in truth, at the close 
of the explanation which he gave on the subject to his friends at 
court, he did — boldly desiring them, as became him, to tell the 
cardinal, that if his eminence expected him to be a " serf" for 
what he received, he should decline the bargain ; and that he 
preferred the humblest freedom and his studies to a slavery so 

The truth is, the poet should have attached himself wholly to 
the Medici. Had he not adhered to the duller house, he might 
have led as happy a life with the pope as Pulci did with the pope's 
father ; perhaps have been made a cardinal, like his friends Bem- 
bo and Sadolet. But then we might have lost the Orlando. 

The only sinecure which the poet is now supposed to have re- 
tained, was a grant of twenty-five crowns every four months on 
the episcopal chancery of Milan : so, to help out his petty income, 
he proceeded to enter into the service of Alfonso, which shews 
that both the brothers were not angry with him. He tells us, 
that he would gladly have had no new master, could he have 
helped it ; but that, if he must needs serve, he would rather serve 
the master of every body else than a subordinate one. At this 
juncture he had a brief prospect of being as free as he wished ; 

E se '1 signor m' ha dato onde far novo 
Ogni anno mi potrei piti d' un mantello, 
Che mi abbia per vol dato, non approvo. 

Egli r ha detto." Satira ii. 

* " Se avermi dato onde ogni quattro mesi 
Ho venticinque scudi, nb si fermi, 
Che molte volte non mi sien contesi, 

Mi debbe incatenar, schiavo tenermi, 
Obbligarmi ch' io sudi e tremi senza 
Rispetto alcun, ch' io muoja o ch' io m' infermi, 

Non gli lasciate aver questa credenza : • 

Ditegli, che pit tosto ch' esser servo, 
TorrC) la povertade in pazienza," 

Satira ii. 


tor an uncle died Jeaving a large landed property still known as 
the Ariosto lands (Lc Ariostc) ; but a conyent demanded it on the 
part of one of their brotherhood, who was a natural son of this 
gentleman ; and a more formidable and ultimately successful claim 
was advanced in a court of law by the Chamber of tlie Duchy of 
Ferrara, the first judge in the cause being the duke's own stew- 
ard and a personal enemy of the poet's, Ariosto, therefore, while 
the suit was going on, was obliged to content himself with his fees 
from Milan and a monthly allowance which he received from the 
duke of " about thirty-eight shillings," together with provisions 
for three servants and two horses. He entered the duke's service 
in the spring of 1518, and remained in it for the rest of his life. 
But it was not so burdensome as that of the cardinal ; and the 
consequence of the poet's greater leisure was a second edition of 
the Fun'oso, in the year 1521, with additions and corrections ; 
still, however, in forty cantos only. It appears, by a deed of 
agreement,* that the work was printed at the author's expense ; 
that he was to sell the bookseller one hundred copies for sixty 
livres (about 51. I2s.) on condition of the book's not being sold at 
the rate of more than sixteen sous {Is. 8d.) ; that the author was 
not to give, sell, or allow to be sold, any copy of the book at 
Ferrara, except by the bookseller ; that the bookseller, after dis- 
posing of the hundred copies, was to have as many more as he 
chose on the same terms ; and that, on his failing to require a 
further supply, Ariosto was to be at liberty to sell his volumes to 
whom he pleased. " With such profits," observes Panizzi, " it 
was not likely that the poet would soon become independent :" 
and it may be added, that he certainly got nothing by the first edi- 
tion, whatever he may have done by the second. He expressly 
tells us, in the satire which he wrote on declining to go abroad 
with Ippolito, that all his poetry had not procured him money 
enough to purchase a cloak. f Twenty years afterwards, when 
he was dead, the poem was in such request, that, between 1542 
and 1551, Panizzi calculates there must have been a sale of it in 
Europe to the amount of a hundred thousand copies.:}: 

♦ Panizzi, vol. i. p. 29. The atrrcemcnt itself is in Baruffaldi. 
t See the lines before quoted, beginning " Apollo, tua mercfe." 
t Bibliographical Xoiiccs of Editions of Ariosto, prefixed to his first vol. p. 51. 


! The second edition of the Furioso did not extricate the author 
from very serious difficulties ; for the next year he was compelled 
to apply to Alfonso, either to relieve him from his necessities, or 
permit him to look for some employment more profitable than the 
ducal service. The answer of this prince, who was now rich, 
but had always been penurious, and who never laid out a farthing, 
if he could help it, except in defence of his capital, was an ap- 
pointment of Ariosto to the government of a district in a state of 
taiarchy, called Garfagnana, which had nominally returned to his 
rule in consequence of the death of Leo, who had wrested it from 
him. It was a wild spot in the Apennines, on the borders of the 
Ferrarese and papal territories. Ariosto was there three years, 
and is said to have reduced it to order : but, according to his own 
account, he had very doubtful work of it. The place was over- 
run with banditti, including the troops commissioned to suppress 
them. It required a severer governor than he was inclined to be ; 
and Alfonso did not attend to his requisitions for supplies. The 
candid and goodnatured poet intimates that the duke might have 
given him the appointment rather for the governor's sake than the 
people's ; and the cold, the loneliness and barrenness of the place, 
and, above all, his absence from the object of his affections, op- 
pressed him. He did not write a verse for twelve months ; he 
says he felt like a bird moulting.* The best thing got out of it 
was an anecdote for posterity. The poet was riding out one day 
with a few attendants — some say walking out in a fit of absence 
of mind — when he found himself in the midst of a band of out- 
laws, who, in a suspicious manner, barely suffered him to pass. 
A reader of Mrs. Radclilfe might suppose them a band of condoU 
tieri, under the command of some profligate desperado ; and such 
perhaps they were. The governor had scarcely gone by, when 

* " La novitk del loco e stata tanta, 

C ho fatto come augel che muta gabbia, 
Che molti giorni resta che non canta." 

For the rest of the above particulars see the fifth satire, beginning " II \'igesi- 
mo giorno di Febbraio." I quote the exordium, because these compositions are 
differently numbered in different editions. The one I generally use is that 
of Molini — Poesie Varie di Lodovico Ariosto, con Annotazioni. Firenze, l2mo. 


the leader of the hand, discovcrinsr \vl,o he was, ciime ridin"- back 
witli iinich earnestness, and making his obeisance to the poet, said, 
that he never sliould have allowed him to pass in that manner had 
he known him to be the Signor Ludovico Ariosto, author of the 
Orlando Furioso ; that his own name was Filippo Pacchione (a 
celebrated personage of his order) ; and that his men and himself, 
so far from doing the signor displeasure, would have the honour 
of conducting him back- to his castle. " And so they did," says 
Baretti, " entertaining him all along the way with the various ex- 
cellences they had discerned in his poem, and bestowing upon it 
the most rapturous praises/"* 

On his return from Garfagnana, Ariosto is understood to have 
made several journeys in Italy, either with or without the duke 
his master; some of them to Mantua, where it has been said that 
he was crowned with laurel by the Emperor Charles the Fifth. 
But the truth seems to be, that he only received a laureate diplo- 
ma : it does not appear that Charles made him any other gift. 
His majesty, and the whole house of Este, and the pope, and all 
the other Italian princes, left that to be done by the imperial gen- 
eral, the celebrated Alfonso Davallos, Marquess of Vasto, to whom 
he was sent on some mission by the Duke of Ferrara, and who 
settled on him an annuity of a hundred golden ducats ; " the only 
reward," says Panizzi, " which we find to have been conferred 
on Ariosto expressly as a poet."'}' Davallos was one of the con- 

* Italian Library, p. 52. I quote Baretti, because he speaks with a corres- 
ponding enthusiasm. He calls the incident " a very rare proof of the irresisti- 
ble powers of poetry, and a noble comment on the fables of Orpheus and 
Ainphion," &c. The words "noble comment" might lead us to fancy that 
Johnson had made some such remark to him while relating the story in Bolt 
Court. Nor is the former part of the sentence unlike him: "A very rare proof, 
sir, of the irresistible powers of poetry, and a noble comment," &c. Johnson, 
notwithstanding his classical predilections, was likely to take much interest in 
Ariosto on account of his universality and the heartiness of his passions. Ho 
had a secret regard for '■ wildness" of all sorts, provided it came within any pale 
of the sympathetic. He was also fond of romances of chivalry. On one occa- 
sion he selected the history of Felixmarte of Hyrcania as his course of reading 
during a visit. 

t The deed of gift sets forth the interest which it becomes princes and com- 
manders to take in men of letters, particularly poets, as heralds of their fame, 
and consequently the special fitness of the illustrious and superexccUcnt poet 


querors of Francis the First, young and handsome, and himself a 
writer of verses. The grateful poet accordingly availed himself 
of his benefactor's accomplishments to make him, in turn, a pres- 
ent of every virtue under the sun. Cassar vi^as not so liberal, 
Nestor so wise, Achilles so potent, Nireus so beautiful, nor even 
Ladas, Alexander's messenger, so swift.* Ariosto was now verg- 
ing towards the grave ; and he probably saw in the hundred 
ducats a golden sunset of his cares. 

Meantime, however, the poet had built a house, which, although 
small, was raised with his own money ; so that the second edition 
of the Orlando may have realized some profits at last. He re- 
corded the pleasant fact in an inscription over the door, which has 
become celebrated : 

* Parva, sed apta mihi ; sed nulli obnoxia ; sed non 
Sordida ; parta meo sed tamen sere domus." 

Small, yet it suits me ; is of no offence ; 
Was built, not meanly, at my own expense. 

What a pity (to compare great things with small) that he had 
not as long a life before him to enjoy it, as Gil Bias had with his 
own comfortable quotation over his retreat at Lirias !f 

The house still remains ; but the inscription unfortunately be- 
came effaced ; though the following one remains, which was ad- 
ded by his son Virginio : 

"Sic domus hsec Areostea 
Propitios habeat decs, olim ut Pindarica." 

Dear to the gods, whatever come to pass, 
Be Ariosto's house, as Pindar's was. 

This was an anticipation — perhaps the origin — of Milton's son- 

Lodovico Ariosto for receiving from Alfonso Davallos, Marquess of Vasto, the 
irrevocable sum of, &c. &c. Panizzi has copied the substance of it from Ba- 
ruffaldi, vol. i. p. 67. 

♦ Orlando Furioso, canto xxxiii. st. 28. 

t "Inveni portum: spes et fortuna, valete; 
Sat me lusistis ; ludite nunc alios." 

My port is found: adieu, ye freaks of chance j 
The dance ye led me, now let others dance. 


net about his own house, addressed to " Captains and Collonels," 
during the civil war.* 

Davallos made the poet his generous present in the October of 
the year 1531 ; and in the same month of the year followino- the 
Orlando was publislied as it now stands, with various insertions 
throughout, chiefly stories, and six additional cantos. Cardinal 
Ippolito had been dead some time ; and the device of the beehive 
was exchanged for one of two vipers, with a hand and pair of 
shears cutting out their tongues, and the motto, " Thou hast pre- 
ferred ill-will to good" (Dilexisti maliiiam super henignitatem). 
The allusion is understood to have been to certain critics whose 
names have all perished, unless Sperone (of whom we shall hear 
more by and by) was one of them. The appearance of this edi- 
tion was eagerly looked for ; but the trouble of correcting the 
press, and the destruction of a theatre by fire which had been 
built under the poet's direction, did his health no good in its rapid- 
ly declining condition ; and after suffering greatly from an ob- 
struction, he died, much attenuated, on the sixth day of June, 
1533. His decease, his fond biographers have told us, took place 
"about three in the afternoon;" and he was " aged fifty-eight 
years, eight months, and twenty-eight days." His body, accord- 
ing to his direction, was taken to the church of the Benedictines 
during the night by four men, with only two tapers, and in the 
most private and simple manner. The monks followed it to the 
grave out of respect, contrary to their usual custom. 

So lived, and so died, and so desired humbly to be buried, one 
of the delights of the world. 

His son Yirginio had erected a chapel in the garden of the 
house built by his father, and he wished to have his body removed 
thither ; but the monks would not allow it. The tomb, at first a 
very humble one, was subsequently altered and enriched several 
times ; but remains, I believe, as rebuilt at the beginning of the 
century before last by his grand-nephew, Ludovico Ariosto, with 
a bust of the poet, and two statues representing Poetry and 


* " The great Eniathian conqueror bade spare 

The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower 
Went to the ground," &c. 


Ariosto was tall and stout, with a dark complexion, bright black 
eyes, black and curling hair, aquiline nose, and shoulders broad 
but a little stooping. His aspect was thoughtful, and his gestures 
deliberate. Titian, besides painting his portrait, designed that 
which appeared in the woodcut of the author's own third edition of 
his poem, which has been copied into Mr. Panizzi's. It has all 
the look of truth of that great artist's vital hand ; but, though 
there is an expression of the genial character of the mouth, not- 
withstanding; the exuberance of beard, it does not suo-gest the 
sweetness observable in one of the medals of Ariosto, a wax im- 
pression of which is now before me ; nor has the nose so much 
delicacy and grace.* 

The poet's temperament inclined him to melancholy, but his in- 
tercourse was always cheerful. One biographer says he was 
strong and healthy — another, that he was neither. In all proba- 
bility he was naturally strong, but weakened by a life full of 
emotion. He talks of growing old at forty-four, and of having 
been bald for some time.f He had a cough for many years be. 
fore he died. His son says he cured it by drinking good old wine. 
Ariosto says that " vin fumoso" did not agree with him ; but that 
might only mean wine of a heady sort. The chances, under such 
circumstances, were probably against wine of any kind ; and 
Panizzi thinks the cough was never subdued. His physicians 
forbade him all sorts of stimulants with his food.ij: 

* This medal is inscribed "Ludovicus Ariost. Poet." and has the bee-hive on 
the reverse, with the motto " Pro bono malum." Ariosto was so fond of this 
device, that in his fragment called the Five Cantos (c. v. st. 2G), the Paladin 
Rinaldo wears it embroidered on his mantle. 

t " lo son de' dieci il primo, e vecchio fatto 
Di quaranta quattro anni, e U. capo calvo 
Da un tempo in qua sotto il cuffiotto appiatto." 

Satira ii. 
X "II vin fumoso, a me vie piii interdetto 
Che '1 tosco, costi a inviti si tracanna,. 
E sacrilegio h non ber molto, e schietto. 

(He is speaking of the wines of Hungary, and of the hard drinking expected 
of strangers in that country.) 

Tutti Ii cibi son con pepe e canna, 
Di amomo e d' altri aromati, che tutti 
Come nocivi il medico mi danna." 

Satira ii. 


His temper and liabits were those of a man wliolly given up to 
love and poetry. In his youth he was volatile, and at no time 
without what is called some " aflliir of the heart.'' Every wo- 
man attracted him who had modesty and agreeablcness ; and as, 
at the same time, he was very jealous, one migiit imafrinc that 
his wife, who had a right to be equally so, would have led no easy 
lite. But it is evident he could practise very generous self- 
denial ; and probably the married portion of his existence, sup- 
posing Alcssandra's sweet countenance not to have belied her, 
was happy on both sides. He was beloved by his family, which 
is never the case with the unamiable. Amonij his friends were 
most of the great names of the age, including a world of ladies, 
and the whole graceful court of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, duke 
of Urbino, for wiiich Catiglione wrote his book of the GeniJeman 
(Tl Cortegtano). Raphael addressed him a sonnet, and Titian 
painted his likeness. He knew Vittoria Colonna, and Veronica 
da Gambora, and Giulia Gonzaga (whom the Turks would have 
run away with), and Ippolita Sforza, the beautiful blue-stocking, 
who set Bandello on writing his novels, and Bembo, and Flami- 
nio, and Berni, and Molza, and Sannazzaro, and the Medici fam- 
ily, and Vida, and Macchiavelli ; and nobody doubts that he 
might have shone at the court of Leo the brightest of the bright. 
But he thought it " better to enjoy a little in peace, than seek 
after much with trouble."* He cared for none of the pleasures 
of the great, except building, and that he was content to satisfy in 
Cowley's fashion, with " a small house in a large garden." He 
was plain in his diet, disliked ceremony, and was frequently ab- 
sorbed in thought. His indignation was roused by mean and 
brutal vices ; but he took a large and liberal view of human na- 
ture in general ; and, if he was somewhat free in his life, must 
be pardoned for the custom of the times, for his charity to others, 
and for the genial disposition which made him an enchanting poet. 
Above all, he was an affectionate son ; lived like a friend with 
his children ; and, in spite of his tendency to pleasure, supplied 
the place of an anxious and careful father to his brothers and sis- 
ters, who idolized him. 

* Pigna, I Romanzi, p. 119. 


" Ornabat pietas et grata modeslia vatem," 
wrote his brother Gabriel, 

" Sancta fides, dictique memor, munitaque recto 
Justitia, et nullo patientia victa labore, 
Et constans virtus animi, et dementia mitis, 
Ambitione procul pulsa fasttisquc tumore ; 
Credere uti posses natum felicibus horis, 
Felici fulgente astro Jovis atque Diones."* 

Devoted tenderness adorn'd the bard, 

And grateful modesty and grave regard 

To his least word, and justice arm'd with right, 

And patience counting every labour light, 

And constancy of soul, and meekness too, 

That neither pride nor worldly wishes knew. 

You might have thought him born when there concur 

The sweet star and the strong, Venus and Jupiter. 

His son Virginio, and others, have left a variety of anecdotes 
corroborating points in his character. I shall give them all, for 
they put us into his company. 

It is recorded, as an instance of his reputation for honesty, 
that an old kinsman, a clergyman, who was afraid of being poi- 
soned for his possessions, would trust himself in no other hands ; 
but the clergyman was his own grand-uncle and namesake, prob- 
ably godfather ; so that the compliment is not so very great. 

In his youth he underwent a long rebuke one day from his fa- 
ther without saying a word, though a satisfactory answer was in 
his power ; on which his brother Gabriel expressing his surprise, 
he said that he was thinking all the time of a scene in a comedy 
he was writing, for which the paternal lecture afforded an excel- 
lent study. 

He loved gardening better than he understood it ; was always 
shifting his plants, and destroying the seeds, out of impatience to 
see them germinate. He was rejoicing once on the coming up 
of some " capers," which he had been visiting every day to see 
how they got on, when it turned out that his capers were elder- 
trees ! 

* Epicedium on his brother's death. It is reprinted (perhaps for the first 
time since 1582) in Mr. Panizzi's Appendix to the Life, in his first volume, 
1*. clxi. 


He was perpetually altering his verses. Ilis manuscripts are 
full of corrections. He wrote the exordium of the Orlando over 
and over again ; and at last could only be satisfied with it in pro- 
portion as it was not his own ; that is to say, in proportion as it 
came nearer to the beautiful passage in Dante from which his 
ear and his feelings had caught it.* 

He, however, discovered that correction was not always im- 
provement. He used to say, it was with verses as with trees. A 
plant naturally well growing might be made perfect by a little 
delicate treatment ; but over-cultivation destroyed its native 
grace. In like manner, you might perfect a happily-inspired 
verse by taking away any little fault of expression ; but too great 
a polish deprived it of the charm of the first conception. It was 
like over-training a naturally graceful child. If it be wondered 
how he who corrected so much should succeed so well, even to 
an appearance of happy negligence, it is to be considered that 
the most impulsive writers often put down their thoughts too 
hastily, then correct, and re-correct them in the same impatient 
manner ; and so have to bring them round, by as many steps, to 
the feeling which they really had at first, though they were too 
hasty to do it justice. 

Ariosto would have altered his house as often as his verses, but 
did not find it so convenient. Somebody wondering that he con- 
tented himself with so small an abode, when he built such mag- 
nificent mansions in his poetry, he said it was easier to put words 
together than blocks of stone. "j" 

* "Le donnc, i cavalier, 1' arme, gli amori, 
Le cortcsic, le audaci imprese, io canto," 

is Anosto's commencement ; 

Ladies, and cavaliers, and loves, and arms, 
And courtesies, and daring deeds, I sing. 

In Dante's Purgatory (canto xiv.), a noble Romagnese, lamenting the degene- 
racy of his country, calls to mind with graceful and touchii.j regret, 

•' Le donne, i cavalier, gli afTanni e gli agi, 
Che inspiravano amore e cortesia." 

The ladies and the knights, the cares and leisures, 
Breathing around them love and courtesy. 

t The original is much pithier, but I cannot find equivalents for the allitcra- 


He liked Virgil ; commended the style of TibuUus ; did not 
care for Propertius ; but expressed high approbation of Catullus 
and Horace. I suspect his favourite to have been Ovid. His son 
says he did not study much, nor look after books ; but this may 
have been in his decline, or when Virginio first took to observing 
him. A different conclusion as to study is to be drawn from the 
corrected state of his manuscripts, and the variety of his knowl- 
edge ; and with regard to books, he not only mentions the libra- 
ry of the Vatican as one of his greatest temptations to visit 
Rome, but describes himself, with all the gusto of a book-worm, 
as enjoying them in his chimney-corner.* 

To intimate his secrecy in love-matters, he had an inkstand 
with a Cupid on it, holding a finger on his lips. I believe it is 
still in existence. ■]■ He did not disclose his mistresses' names, as 
Dante did, for the purpose of treating them with contempt ; nor, 
on the other hand, does he appear to have been so indiscriminate- 
ly gallant as to be fond of goitres. :j: The only mistress of whom 
he complained he concealed in a Latin appellation ; and of her 
he did not complain with scorn. He had loved, besides Alessan- 
dra Benucci, a lady of the name of Ginevra ; the mother of one 
of his children is recorded as a certain Orsolina ; and that of the 

tion. He said, " Porvi le pietre e porvi le parole non 6 il medesimo." — Pigna, 
p. 119. According to his son, however, his remark was, that " palaces could be 
made in poems without money." He probably expressed the same thing in dif- 
ferent ways to different people. 

* Vide Sat. iii. " ]Mi sia un tempo," &c. ; and the passage in Sat. vii. begin- 
ning " Di libri antiqui." 

t The inkstand which Shelley saw at Ferrara (Essays and Letters, p. 149) 
could not have been this ; probably his eye was caught by a wrong one. Doubts 
also, after what we know of the tricks practised upon visitors of Stratford-upon- 
Avon, may unfortunately be entertained of the "plain old wooden piece of fur- 
niture," the arm-chair. Shelley describes the handwriting of Ariosto as "a 
small, firm, and pointed character, expressing, as he should say, a strong and 
keen, but circumscpoed energy of mind." Every one of Shelley's words is 
always worth consideration ; but handwritings are surely equivocal testimonies 
of character; they depend so much on education, on times and seasons and 
moods, conscious and unconscious wills, &c. What would be said by an auto- 
graphist to the strange old, ungraceful, slovenly handwriting of Shakspeare 1 

t See vol. i. of the present work, pp. 16, 118, and 126. 


Other was named Maria, and is understood to liave been a gov- 
erness in his fatlicr's family.* 

He ate fast, and of whatever was next liim, often beginning 
with the bread on tlie table before the dishes came ; and he would 
fmish his dinner with another bit of bread. " Appctiva le rape," 
says his good son ; videlicet, he was fond of turnips. In his fourth 
Satire, he mentions as a favourite dish, turnips seasoned with vin- 
egar and boiled ?uusl (sapa), which seems, not unjustifiably, to 
startle Mr. Panizzi.f He cared so little for good eating, that he 
said of himself, he should have done very well in the days when 
people lived on acorns. A stranger coming in one day at the 
dinner-hour, he ate up what was provided for both ; saying after- 
wards, when told of it, that the gentleman should have taken care 
of himself. This does not look very polite ; but of course it was 
said in jest. His son attributed this carelessness at table to ab- 
sorption in his studies. 

He carried this absence of mind so far, and was at the same 
time so good a pedestrian, that Virginio tells us he once walked 
all the way from Carpi to Ferrara in his slippers, owing to his 
havincr strolled out of doors in that direction. 

The same biographers who describe him as a brave soldier, 
add, that he was a timid horseman and seaman ; and indeed he 
appears to have eschewed every kind of unnecessary danger. It 
was a maxim of his to be the last in going out of a boat. I know 
not what Orlando would have said to this ; but there is no doubt 
that the good son and brother avoided no pain in pursuit of his 
duty. He more than once risked his life in the service of govern- 
ment from the perils of travelling among war-makers and ban- 
ditti. Imagination finds something worthy of itself on great oc- 
casions, but is apt to discover the absurdity of staking existence 
on small ones. Ariosto did not care to travel out of Italy. He 
preferred, he says, going round the earth in a map ; visiting coun- 

♦ Baruflaldi, 1807; p. 105. 

t " In casa mia mi sa meglio una rapa 
Ch' io cuoca, e cotta s' un stccco m' inforco, 
E mondo, e spargo poi di aceto e sapa, 

Che air altrui mensa tordo, starno, o porco 



tries without having to pay innkeepers, and ploughing harmless 
seas without thunder and lightning.* 

His outward religion, like the one he ascribed to his friend 
Cardinal Bembo, was " that of other people." He did not think 
it of use to disturb their belief: yet excused rather than blamed 
Luther, attributing his heresy to the necessary consequences of 
mooting points too subtle for human apprehension. f He found it 
impossible, however, to restrain his contempt of bigotry ; and 
like most great writers in Catholic countries, was a derider of the 
pretensions of devotees, and the discords and hypocrisies of the 
convent. He evidently laughed at Dante's figments about the 
other world ; not at the poetry of them, for that he admired, and 
sometimes imitated, but at the superstition and presumption. He 
turned the Florentine's moon into a depository of nonsense ; and 
found no hell so bad as the hearts of tyrants. The only other 
people he put into the infernal regions are ladies who were cruel 
to their lovers ! He had a noble confidence in the intentions of 
his Creator ; and died in the expectation of meeting his friends 
asrain in a higher state of existence. 

Of Ariosto's four brothers, one became a courtier at Naples, 
another a clergyman, another an envoy to the Emperor Charles 
the Fifth ; and the fourth, who was a cripple and a scholar, lived 
with Lodovico, and celebrated his memory. His two sons, whose 

* " Chi \'Uole andare," &:c. Satira iv. 
t " Se Nicoletto o Fra Martin fan segno 

D' infedele o d' eretico, ne accuse 

II saper troppo, e men con lor mi sdegno: 

Perchfe salendo lo intelletto in suso 
Per veder Dio, non de' parerci strano 
Se talor cade giu cieco e confuso." 

Salira vi. 

This satire was addressed to Bembo. The cardinal is said to have asked a visitor 
from Germany whether Brother Martin really believed what he preached ; and 
to have expressed the greatest astonishment when told that he did. Cardinals 
were then what augurs were in the time of Cicero — wondering that they did 
not burst out a-laughing in one another's faces. This was bad ; but inquisitors 
are a million times worse. By the Nicoletto here mentioned by Ariosto in com- 
pany with Luther, we are to understand (according to the conjecture of IMolini) 
a Paduan professor of the name of Niccol6 Vernia, who was accused of hold- 
ing the Pantheistic opinions of Averroes. 


names were Virginio and Gianbattista, and who were illcgitimato 
(the reader is always to bear in mind the more indulgent customs 
of Italy in matters of this nature, especially in the poet's time), 
became, the first a canon in the cathedral of Ferrara, and the 
other an officer in the army. It does not appear that he had any 
other children. 

Ariosto's renown is wholly founded on the Orlando FunosOy 
though he wrote satires, comedies, and a good deal of miscellane- 
ous poetry, all occasionally exhibiting a master-hand. The com- 
edies, however, were unfortunately modelled on those of the an- 
cients ; and the constant termination of the verse with trisyl- 
lables contributes to render them tedious. What comedies might 
he not have written, had he given himself up to existing times 
and manners !* 

The satires are rather good-natured epistles to his friends, 
written with a charming ease and straightforwardness, and con- 
taining much exquisite sense and interesting autobiography. 

On his lyrical poetry he set little value ; and his Latin verse 
is not of the best order. Critics have expressed their surprise at 
its inferiority to that of contemporaries inferior to him in genius ; 
but the reason lay in the very circumstance. I mean, that his 
large and liberal inspiration could only find its proper vent in his 
own language ; he could not be content with potting up little del- 
icacies in old-fashioned vessels. 

The Orlando Furioso is, literally, a continuation of the Orfctn- 
do Innamorato ; so much so, that the story is not thoroughly intelli- 
gible without it. This was probably the reason of a circumstance 
that would be otherwise unaccountable, and that was ridiculously 

* Take a specimen of this leap-frog versification from the prologue to the 
Cassaria : — 

" Q,uesta commedia, ch' oggi rscitdtavi 
Sari, se nol sapete, fe la Cassaria, 
Ch' un altra volta, gia. vent' anni pdssano, 
Veder si fece sopra qucsti piilpiti 
Ed allora assai piacque a tutto il pdpolo, 
Ma non ne ripost6 giJi. degno premio, 
Che data in preda a gl' importuni ed dvidi 
Stampator fu," &c. 

This through five comedies in five acts ! 
1 PART n. 7 


charged against him as a proof of despairing envy by the despair, 
ing envy of Sperone ; namely, his never having once mentioned the 
name of his predecessor. If Ariosto had despaired of equalling 
Boiardo, he must have been hopeless of reaching posterity, in which 
case his silence must have been useless ; and, in any case, it is 
clear that he looked on himself as the continuator of another's nar- 
ration. But Boiardo was so popular when he wrote, that the very 
silence shews he must have thought the mention of his name super- 
fluous. Still it is curious that he never should have alluded to it in 
the course of the poem. It could not have been from any dislike to 
the name itself, or the family ; for in his Latin poems he has eu- 
logised the hospitality of the house of Boiardo.* 

The Furioso continued not only what Boiardo did, but what he 
intended to do ; for as its subject is Orlando's love, and knight- 
errantry in general, so its object was to extol the house of Este, 
and deduce it from its fabulous ancestor Ru^ijiero. Orlando is 
the open, Ruggiero the covert hero ; and almost all the incidents 
of this supposed irregular poem, which, as Panizzi has shewn, is 
one of the most regular in the world, go to crown with triumph 
and wedlock the originator of that unworthy race. This is done 
on the old groundwork of Charlemagne and his Paladins, of the 
treacheries of the house of Gan of Maganza, and of the wars of 
the Saracens against Christendom. Bradamante, the Amazonian 
intended of Ruggiero, is of the same race as Orlando, and a great 
overthrower of infidels. Ruggiero begins with being an infidel 
himself, and is kept from the wars, like a second Achilles, by 
the devices of an anxious guardian, but ultimately fights, is con- 
verted, and marries ; and Orlando all the while slays his thou- 
sands, as of old, loves, goes mad for jealousy, is the foolishest 
and wisest of mankind (somewhat like the poet himself) ; and 
crowns the glory of Ruggiero, not only by being present at his 
marriage, but putting on his spurs with his own hand when he 
goes forth to conclude the war by the death of the king of 

The great charm, however, of the Orlando Furioso is not in 
its knight-errantry, or its main plot, or the cunning interweave- 
ment of its minor ones, but in its endless variety, truth, force, 

♦ In the verses entitled Bacchi Statua. 


and animal spirits ; in its fidelity to actual nature while it keeps 
within the hounds of the probahle, and its no less enchanting ver- 
isimilitude during its wildest sallies of imagination. At one mo- 
ment we are in the midst of flesh and blood like ourselves ; a4 the 
next with fairies and goblins ; at the next in a tremendous battle or 
tempest ; then in one of the loveliest of solitudes ; then liearino- a 
tragedy, then a comedy ; then mystified in some enchanted pal- 
ace ; then riding, dancing, dining, looking at pictures ; then 
again descending to the depths of the earth, or soaring to the 
moon, or seeing lovers in a ijlade, or witnessing the extravajrances 
of the great jealous hero Orlando ; and the music of an enchant- 
ing style perpetually attends us, and the sweet face of Angelica 
glances here and there like a bud : and there are gallantries of 
all kinds, and stories endless, and honest tears, and joyous bursts 
of laughter, and bsardings for all base opinions, and no bigotry, 
and reverence for whatsoever is venerable, and candour exqui- 
site, and the happy interwoven names of " Angelica and Medoro," 
young for ever. 

But so great a work is not to be dismissed with a mere rhap- 
sody of panegyric. Ariosto is inferior, in some remarkable 
respects, to his predecessors Pulci and Boiardo. His characters, 
for the most part, do not interest us as much as theirs by their 
variety and good fellowship ; he invented none as Boiardo did, 
with the exception, indeed, of Orlando's, as modified by jealousy; 
and he has no passage, I think, equal in pathos to that of the 
struggle at Roncesvalles ; for though Orlando's jealousy is pa- 
thetic, as well as appalling, the effects of it are confined to one 
person, and disputed by his excessive strength. Ariosto has 
taken all tenderness out of Angelica, except that of a kind of 
boarding-school first love (which, however, as hereafter intimated, 
may have simplified and improved her general effect), and he has 
omitted all that was amusing in the character of Astolfo. Knight- 
errantry has fallen off a little in his hands from its first youthful 
and trusting freshness ; more sophisticate times are opening upon 
us ; and satire more frequently and bitterly interferes. The 
licentious passages (though never gross in words, like those of his 
contemporaries,) are not redeemed by sentiment as in Boiardo ; 
and it seems to me, that Ariosto hardly improved so much as he 


might have done upon his predecessor's imitations of* the classics. 
I cannot help thinking that, upon the whole, he had better have 
left them alone, and depended entirely on himself. Shelley says, 
he has too much fighting and " revenge,"* — which is true ; but 
the revenge was only among his knights. He was himself (like 
my admirable friend) one of the most forgiving of men ; and the 
fighting was the taste of the age, in which chivalry was still 
flourishing in the shape of such men as Bayard, and ferocity in 
men like Gaston de Foix. Ariosto certainly did not anticipate, 
any more than Shakspeare did, that spirit of human amelioration 
which has ennobled the present age. He thought only of reflect- 
ing nature as he found it. He is sometimes even as uninteresting 
as he found other people ; but the tiresome passages, thank God, 
all belong to the house of Este ! His panegyrics of Ippolito 
and his ancestors recoiled on the poet with a retributive dulness. 
^ But in all the rest there is a wonderful invigoration and en- 
largement. The genius of romance has increased to an extraor- 
dinary degree in power, if not in simplicity. Its shoulders have 
grown broader, its voice louder and more sustained ; and if it has 
lost a little on the sentimental side, it has gained prodigiously, not 
only in animal vigour, but, above all, in knowledge of human na- 
ture, and a brave and joyous candour in shewing it. The poet 
takes a universal, an acute, and, upon the whole, a cheerful 
view, like the sun itself, of all which the sun looks on ; and 
readers are charmed to see a knowledge at once so keen and so 
happy. Herein lies the secret of Ariosto's greatness ; which is 
great, not because it has the intensity of Dante, or the incessant 
thought and passion of Shakspeare, or the dignified imagination 
of Milton, to all of whom he is far inferior in sustained excellence, 
but because he is like very Nature herself. Whether great, 
small, serious, pleasurable, or even indiflerent, he still has the 
life, ease, and beauty of the operations of the daily planet. Even 
where he seems dull and commonplace, his brightness and orig- 
inality at other times make it look like a good-natured conde- 
scension to our own common habits of thought and discourse ; as 
though he did it but on purpose to leave nothing unsaid that 

* Essays and Letters, ut sup. vol. ii. p. 125, 


could bring him witliin the category of ourselves. His charm- 
ing manner intimates that, instead of taking thought, he chooses 
to take pleasure with us, and compare old notes ; and we arc de- 
lighted that he does us so much honour, and makes, as it were, 
Ariostos of us all. He is Shakspearian in going all lengths 
with Nature as he found her, not blinking the fact of evil, yet 
finding a " soul of goodness" in it, and, at the same time, never 
compromising the worth of noble and generous qualities. His 
young and handsome Medoro is a pitiless slayer of his enemies ; 
but they were his master's enemies, and he would have lost his 
life, even to preserve his dead body. His Orlando, for all his 
wisdom and greatness, runs mad for love of a coquette, who 
triumphs over warriors and kings, only to fall in love herself 
with an obscure lad. His kings laugh with all their hearts, 
like common people; his mourners weep like such unaffected 
children of sorrow, that they must needs '• swallow some of their 
tears."* His heroes, on the arrival of intelligence that excites 
them, leap out of bed and write letters before they dress, from 
natural impatience, thinking nothing of their " dignity." When 
Astolfo blows the magic horn which drives every body out of the 
castle of Atlantes, '• not a mouse" stays behind ; — not, as Hoole 
and such critics think, because the poet is here writing ludicrous- 
ly, but because he uses the same image seriously, to give an idea 
of desolation, as Shakspeare in Hamlet does to give that of si- 
lence, when "not a mouse is stirring." Instead of being mere 
comic writing, such incidents are in the highest epic taste of 
the meeting of extremes, — of the impartial eye with which Na- 
ture regards high and low. So, give Ariosto his hippogriff, and 
other marvels with which he has enriched the stock of romance, 
and Nature takes as much care of the verisimilitude of their ac- 
tions, as if she had made them herself. His hippogriff returns, 
like a common horse, to the stable to which he has been accus- 

♦ " Le lacrime scendcan tra gigli e r6se, 

L&. dove avvien ch' alcunc s6 n' inghiozzi." 

Canto xii. st. 94. 
Wliich has been well translated by Mr. Rose : 

" And between rose and lily, from her eyes 
Tears fall so fast, she needs must swallow some." 


tomed. His enchanter, who is gifted with the power of surviving 
decapitation and pursuing the decapitator so long as a fated hair 
remains on his head, turns deadly palo in the face when it is 
scalped, and falls lifeless from his horse. His truth, indeed, is so 
genuine, and at the same time his style is so unaffected, sometimes 
so familiar in its grace, and sets us so much at ease in his company, 
that the familiarity is in danger of bringing him into contempt 
with the inexperienced, and the truth of being considered old and 
obvious, because the mode of its introduction makes it seem an 
old acquaintance. When Voltaire was a young man, and (to 
Anglicise a favourite Gallic phrase) fancied he had profounded 
every thing deep and knowing, he thought nothing of Ariosto. 
Some years afterwards he took him for the first of grotesque 
writers, but nothing more. At last he pronounced him equally 
"entertaining and sublime, and humbly apologised for his error." 
Foscolo quotes this passage from the Dictionnaire PhUosophique ; 
and adds another from Sir Joshua Reynolds, in which the painter 
speaks of a similar inability on his own part, when young, to en- 
joy the perfect nature of Raphael, and the admiration and aston- 
ishment which, in his riper years, he grew to feel for it."*" 

The excessive " wildness" attributed to Ariosto is not wilder 
than many things in Homer, or even than some things in Virgil 
(such as the transformation of ships into sea-nymphs). The reason 
why it has been thought so is, that he rendered them more pop- 
ular by mixing them with satire, and thus brought them more 
universally into notice. One main secret of the delight they 
give us is their being poetical comments, as it were, on fancies 
and metaphors of our own. Thus, we say of a suspicious man, 
that he is suspicion itself; Ariosto turns him accordingly into an 
actual being of that name. We speak of the flights of the poets ; 
Ariosto makes them literally flights — flights on a hippogriff, and 
to the moon. The moon, it has been said, makes lunatics ; he 
accordingly puts a man's wits into that planet. Vice deforms 
beauty ; therefore his beautiful enchantress turns out to be an 
old hag. Ancient defeated empires are sounds and emptiness ; 

* Essay on the Nai-raiive and Romantic Poems of the Italians, in the Quar- 
terly Review, vol. xxi. 


therefore the Assyrian and Persian monarchies hccome, in his 
limbo of vanities, a heap of positive bladders. Youth is head- 
strong, and kissing goes by favour ; so Angelica, queen of Catliay, 
and beauty of tiie world, jilts warriors and kings, and marries a 
common soldier. 

And what a creature is this Angelica ! what effect has she not 
had upon the world in spite of all her faults, nay, probably by 
very reason of them ! I know not whether it has been remarked 
before, but it appears to me, that the charm which every body 
has felt in the story of Angelica consists mainly in that very fact 
of her being nothing but a beauty and a woman, dashed even 
with coquetry, which renders her so inferior in character to most 
heroines of romance. Her interest is founded on nothinij exclu- 
sive or prejudiced. It is not addressed to any special class. 
She might or might not have been liked by this person or that ; 
but the world in general will adore her, because nature has made 
them to adore beauty and the sex, apart from prejudices right or 
wrong. Youth will attribute virtues to her, whether she has 
them or not ; middle-age be unable to help gazing on her; old- 
age dote on her. She is womankind itself in form and substance; 
and that is a stronger thing, for the most part, than all our fig- 
ments about it. Two musical names, " Angelica and Medoro,"' 
have become identified in the minds of poetical readers with the 
honeymoon of youthful passion. 

The only false and insipid fiction I can call to mind in the Or- 
lando Furioso is that of the " swans" who rescue " medals" from 
the river of oblivion (canto xxxv.). It betrays a singular forget- 
fulness of the poet's wonted verisimilitude ; for what metaphor 
can reconcile us to swans taking an interest in medals ? Pop- 
ular belief had made them singers; but it was not a wise step to 
convert them into antiquaries. 

Ariosto's animal spirits^ and the brilliant hurry and abundance 
of his incidents, blind a careless reader to his endless particular 
beauties, which, though he may too often " describe instead of 
paint" (on account, as Foscolo says, of his writing to the many), 
shew that no man could paint better when he chose. The bo- 
soms of his females " come and go, like the waves on the sea- 


coast in summer airs."* His witches draw the fish out of the 

" With simple words and a pure warbled spell. "t 

He borrows the word " painting" itself, like a true Italian and 
friend of Raphael and Titian, to express the commiseration in 
the faces of the blest for the sufferings of mortality : 

" Dipinte di pietade il viso pio."t 
Their pious looks painted with tenderness. 

Jesus is very finely called, in the same passage, " il sempiterno 
Amante," the eternal Lover. The female sex are the 

" Scliiera gentil che pur adorna il mondo."§ 
The gentle bevy that adorns the world. 

He paints cabinet pictures like Spenser, in isolated stanzas, with 
a pencil at once solid and light ; as in the instance of the charm- 
ing one that tells the story of Mercury and his net ; how he 
watched the Goddess of Flowers as she issued forth at dawn with 
her lap full of roses and violets, and so threw the net over her 
"one day," and " took her ;" 

" im di lo prcsse."Il 

But he does not confine himself to these gentle pictures. He 
has many as strong as Michael Angelo, some as intense as Dante. 
He paints the conquest of America in five words : 

" Vecjgio da dicce cacciar mille."ir 

I see thousands 
Hunted by tens. 

He compares the noise of a tremendous battle heard in the neigh- 
bourhood to the sound of the cataracts of the Nile : 

* " Vengono e van, come onda al primo margo 
Quando piacevole aura il mar combatte." 

Canto vii. st. 14. 

t " Con semplici parole e puri incanti." 

Canto vi. st. 38. 
+ Canto xiv. st. 79. § Canto xxviii. st. 98. 

II Canto XV. St. 57. U Id. st. 23, 


" un alto suon ch' a quel s' accorda 
Con chc i vicin' cadendo il Nil assorda."* 

He " scourges" ships at sea with tempests — say rather the " mis- 
erable seamen ;" while night-time grows blacker and blacker on 
the "exasperated waters. "f 

When Ilodomont has plunged into the thick of Paris, and is 
carrying every thing before him (" like a serpent that has newly 
cast his skin, and goes shaking his three tongues under his eyes 
of fire"), he makes this tremendous hero break the middle of the 
palace-gate into a huge " window," and look through it with a 
countenance which is suddenly beheld by a crowd of faces as pale 
as death : 

"E dciitro fatto 1' ha tanta fincstra, 
Chc ben vederc c vcduto esscr puote 
Dai visi iinpressi di color di morte t 

The whole description of Orlando's jealousy and growing mad. 
ness is Shaksperian for passion and circumstance, as the reader 
may see even in the prose abstract of it in this volume ; and his 
sublimation of a suspicious king into suspicion itself (which it also 
contains) is as grandly and felicitously audacious as any thing 
ever invented by poet. Spenser thought so ; and has imitated 
and emulated it in one of his own finest passages. Ariosto has 
not the spleen and gall of Dante, and therefore his satire is not so 
tremendous ; yet it is very exquisite, as all the world have ac- 
knowledged in the instances of the lost things found in the moon, 
and the angel who finds Discord in a convent. He does not take 
things so much to heart as Chaucer. He has nothing so pro- 
foundly pathetic as our great poet's Griselda. Yet many a gen- 
tle eye has moistened at the conclusion of the story of Isabella ; 
and to recur once more to Orlando's jealousy, all who have ex- 
perienced that passion will feel it shake them. I have read some- 
where of a visit paid to Voltaire by an Italian gentleman, who re- 
cited it to him, and who (being moved perhaps by the recollection 
of some passage in his own history) had the tears all the while 
pouring down his cheeks. 

♦ Canto xvi. st. 5C. t Canto xviii. st. 142. 

J Canto xvii. st. 12. 


Such is the poem which the gracious and good Cardinal Ippo- 
lito designated as a " parcel of trumpery." It had, indeed, to 
contend with more slights than his. Like all originals, it was obli- 
ged to wait for the death of the envious and the self-loving, before 
it acquired a popularity which surpassed all precedent. Foscolo 
says, that Macchiavelli and Ariosto, " the two writers of that age 
who really possessed most excellence, were the least praised du- 
ring their lives. Bembo was approached in a posture of adora- 
tion and fear ; the infamous Aretino extorted a fulsome letter of 
praises from the great and the learned.''* He might have added, 
that the writer most in request " in the circles" was a gentleman 
of the name of Bernardo Accolti, then called the Unique, now 
never heard of. Ariosto himself eulogised him among a shoal of 
writers, half of whose names have perished ; and who most like- 
ly included in that half the men who thought he did not praise 
them enough. For such was the fact ! I allude to the charming 
invention in his last canto, in which he supposes himself welcomed 
home after a long voyage. Gay imitated it very pleasantly in 
an address to Pope on the conclusion of his Homer. Some of 
the persons thus honoured by Ariosto were vexed, it is said, at 
not being praised highly enough ', others at seeing so many praised 
in their company ; some at being left out of the list ; and some 
others at being mentioned at all ! These silly people thought it 
taking too great a liberty ! The poor flies of a day did not know 
that a god had taken them in hand to give them wings for eter- 
nity. Happily for them the names of most of these mighty per- 
sonages are not known. One or two, however, took care to make 
posterity laugh. Trissino, a very great man in his day, and the 
would-be restorer of the ancient epic, had the face, in return for 
the poet's too honourable mention of him, to speak, in his own 
absurd verses, of " Ariosto, with that Furioso of his, which pleases 
the vulgar :" 

" L' Ariosto 
Con quel Furioso suo che place al volgo." 

^^ His poem," adds Panizzi, " has the merit of not having pleased 
any body."-]- A sullen critic, Sperone (the same that afterwards 

* Essay, as above, p. 534. t Boiardo and Ariosto, vol. iv, p. 318. 


plagued Tasso), was so disappointcil at being left out, that he be- 
came the poet's bitter enemy. He talked of Ariosto taking him- 
self for a swan and " dying like a goose" (the allusion was to 
the fragment he left called the Five Cantos). What has become 
of the swan Sperone ? Bernardo Tasso, Torquato's father, mad?, 
a more reasonable (but which turned out to be an unfounded) 
coiiiplaint, that Ariosto had established a precedent which poets 
would find inconvenient. And Macchiavelli, like the true genius 
he was, expressed a goodnatured and flattering regret that his 
iriend Ariosto liad left him out of his list of congratulators, in a 
work which was " fine throughout," and in some places wonder- 

The great Galileo knew Ariosto nearly by heart. f 
He is a poet whom it may require a certain amount of animal 
spirits to relish thoroughly. The air of his verse must agree 
with you before you can perceive all its freshness and vitality. 
But if read with any thing like Italian sympathy, with allowance 
for times and manners, and with a sense as well as admittance of 
the different kinds of the beautiful in poetry (two very diflierent 
things), you will be almost as much charmed with the " divine 
Ariosto" as his countrymen have been for ages. 

♦ jLi/e, in Panizzi, p. ix. 

t Opere di Galileo, Padova, 1744, vol. i. p. Ixxii. . 



Part I. — Angelica flies frcm the camp of Charlemagne into a wood, where 
she meets with a number of her suitors. Description of a beautiful natural 
bower. She claims the protection of Sacripant, who is overthrown, in passing, 
by an unknown warrior that turns out to be a damsel. Rinaldo comes up, and 
AngeUca flies from both. She meets a pretended hermit, who takes her to some 
rocks in the sea, and casts her asleep by magic. They are seized and carried 
off by some mariners from the isle of Ebuda, where she is exposed to be de- 
voured by an ore, but is rescued by a knight on a winged horse. He descends 
with her into a beautiful spot on the coast of Brittany, but suddenly misses both 
horse and lady. He is lured, with the other knights, into an enchanted palace, 
whither Angelica comes too. She quits it, and again eludes her suitors. 

Part II. — Cloridan and Medoro, two Moorish youths, after a battle with the 
Christians, resolve to find the dead body of their master, King Dardinel, and 
bury it. They kill many sleepers as they pass through the enemy's camp, and 
then discover the body ; but are surprised, and left for dead themselves. Me- 
doro, however, survives his friend, and is cured of his wounds by Angelica, 
who happens to come up. She falls in love with and marries him. Account 
of their honeymoon in the woods. They quit them to set out for Cathay, and 
see a madman on the road. 

Part III. — When the lovers had quitted their abode in the wood, Orlando, by 
chance, arrived there, and saw every where, all round him, in-doors and out-of- 
doors, inscriptions of '• Angelica and Medoro." He tries in vain to disbelieve 
his eyes ; finally, learns the whole story from the owner of the cottage, and 
loses his senses. What he did in that state, both in the neighbourhood and afar 
off, where he runs naked through the country. His arrival among his brother 
Paladins ; and the result. 


(continued by ariosto from boiardo.*) 


Angelica, not at all approving her consignment to the care of 
Namo by Charlemagne, for the purpose of being made the prize 
of the conqueror, resolved to escape before the battle with the 
Pagans. She accordingly mounted her palfrey at once, and fled 
with all her might till she found herself in a wood. 

Scarcely had she congratulated herself on being in a place of 
refuge, when she met a warrior full armed, whom with terror she 
recognised to be the once-loved but now detested Rinaldo. He 
had lost his horse, and was looking for it. Angelica turned her 
palfrey aside instantly, and galloped whithersoever it chose to 
carry her, till she came to a river-side, where she found another of 
her suitors, Ferragus. She called loudly upon him for help. 
Rinaldo had recognised her in turn ; and though he was on foot, 
she knew he would be coming after her. 

Come after her he did. A tight between the rivals ensued ; 
and the beauty, taking advantage of it, again fled away — fled 
like the fawn, that, having seen its mother's throat seized by a 
wild beast, scours through the woods, and fancies herself every 
instant in the jaws of the monster. Every sweep of the wind in 
the trees — every shadow across her path — drove her with sudden 

* Sec p. 'A2 of the present volume. 


starts into the wildest cross-roads ; for it made her feel as if Ri- 
naldo was at her shoulders.* 

Slackening her speed by degrees, she wandered afterwards she 
knew not whither, till she came, next day, to a pleasant wood that 
was gently stirring with the breeze. There were two streams in 
it, which kept the grass always green ; and when you listened, 
you heard them softly running among the pebbles with a broken 

Thinking herself secure at last, and indeed feeling as if she 
were now a thousand miles off from Rinaldo — tired also with her 
long journey, and with the heat of the summer sun — she here 
determined to rest herself. She dismounted ; and having re- 
lieved her horse of his bridle, and let him wander away in the 
fresh pasture, she cast her eyes upon a lovely natural bower, 
formed of wild roses, which made a sort of little room by the 
water's side. The bower beheld itself in the water ; trees en- 
closed it overhead, on the three other sides ; and in the middle 
was room enough to lie down on the sward ; while the whole was 
so thickly trellised with the leaves and branches, that the sun- 
beams themselves could not enter, much less any prying sight. 
The place invited her to rest ; and accordingly the beautiful 
creature laid herself down, and so gathering herself, as it were, 
together, went fast asleep. "j* 

* " Fugge tra selve spaventose e scure, 
Per lochi inabitati, ernii e selvaggi. 
II mover de le frondi e di verzure 

Che di cerri sentia, d' olmi e di faggi, 
Fatto le avea con subite paure 

Trovar di quh e di \h strani viaggi ; 
Ch' ad ogni ombra veduta o in monte o in valle 
Temea Rinaldo aver sempre alle spalle." 

Canto i. st. 33. 

t " Ecco non lungi un bel cespuglio vede 

Di spin iioriti e di vermiglie rose, 
Che de le liquide onde al specchio siede, 

Cliiuso dal Sol fra 1' alte quercie ombrose; 
Cosi vote nel mezo, che concede 

Fresca stanza fra 1' ombre piu nascose : 
E la foglie coi rami in modo e mista, 
Che '1 Sol non v' entra, non che minor vista. 


She had not slept long when she was awakened by the tramp- 
ling of a horse ; and getting up, and looking cautiously through 
the trees, she perceived a cavalier, who dismounted from his 
steed, and sat himself down by the water in a mclanciioly pos- 
ture. It was Sacripant, king of Circassia, one of her lovers, 
wretched at the thought of having missed her in the camp of 
King Charles. Angelica loved Sacripant no more than the rest ; 
but, considering him a man of great conscientiousness, she thought 
he would make her a good protector while on her journey home. 
She therefore suddenly appeared before him out of the bower, 
like a goddess of the woods, or Venus herself, and claimed his 

Never did a mother bathe the eyes of her son with tears 
of such exquisite joy, when he came home after news of his 
death in battle, as the Saracen king beheld this sudden appari- 
tion with its divine face and beautiful manners.* He could not 
help clasping her in his arms ; and very different intentions were 
coming into his head than those for which she had given him 
credit, when the noise of a second warrior thundering through 
the woods made him remount his horse and prepare for an en- 
counter. The stranger speedily made his appearance, a person- 
age of a gallant and fiery bearing, clad in a surcoat white as 
snow, with a white streamer for a crest. He seemed more bent 
on havinjj the wav cleared before him than anxious about the 
manner of it ; so couching his lance as he came, while Sacri- 
pant did the like with his, he dashed upon the Circassian with 
such violence as to cast him on the ground \ and though his own 
horse slipped at the same time, he had it up again in an instant 

Dentro letto vi fan tener' erbette, 

Ch' invitano a posar chi s' appresenta. 
La bella donna in mezo a quel si mette ; 

Ivi si scorca, et ivi s' addormenta." St. 37. 

An exquisite picture ! 
♦ And how lovely is this ! 

" E fuor di quel cespuglio oscuro e cieco 
Fa di se bella et improvvisa mostra, 
Come di selva o fuor d' ombroso speco 

Diana in scena, o Citerea si mostra," &c. St. 52. 


with his spurs ; and so, continuing his way, was a mile off be- 
fore the Saracen recovered from his astonishment. 

As the stunned and stupid ploughman, who has been stretched 
by a thunderbolt beside his slain oxen, raises himself from the 
ground after the lofty crash, and looks with astonishment at the 
old pine-tree near him which has been stripped from head to foot, 
with just such amazement the Circassian got up from his down- 
fall, and stood in the presence of Angelica, who had witnessed it. 
Never in his life had he blushed so red as at that moment. 

Angelica comforted him in sorry fashion, attributing the dis- 
aster to his tired and ill-fed horse, and observing that his enemy 
had chosen to risk no second encounter ; but, while she was talk- 
ing, a messenger, with an appearance of great fatigue and anx- 
iety, came riding up, who asked Sacripant if he had seen a 
knight in a white surcoat and crest. 

" He has this instant,'' answered the king, " overthrown me, 
and galloped away. Who is he ?" 

" It is no Ae," replied the messenger. '■ The rider who has 
overthrown you, and thus taken possession of whatever glory you 
may have acquired, is a damsel ; and she is still more beautiful 
than brave. Bradamante is her illustrious name." 

And Vv^ith these words the horseman set spurs to his horse, and 
left the Saracen more miserable than before. He mounted An- 
gelica's horse without a word, his own having been disabled ; and 
so, taking her up behind him, proceeded on the road in continued 

They had just gone a couple of miles, when they again heard 
a noise, as of some powerful body in haste ; and in a little while, 
a horse without a rider came rushing towards them, in golden 
trappings. It was Rinaldo's horse, Bayardo.f The Circassian, 

* How admirable is the suddenness, brevity, and force of this scene ! And it 
is as artful and dramatic as off-hand ; for this Amazon, Bradamante, is the fu- 
ture heroine of the warlike part of the poem, and the beauty from whose mar- 
riage with Ruggiero is to spring the house of Este. Nor Avithout her appear- 
ance at this moment, as Panizzi has shewn (vol. i. p. cvi.), could a variety of 
subsequent events have taken place necessary to the greatest interests of the 
story. All the previous passages in romance about Amazons are nothing com- 
pared wdth this flash of a thunderbolt. 

t From bayard, old French ; bay-colour. 


dismounting, thougiit to seize it, but was welcomed with a curvet, 
which made him beware how he hazarded somethinir worse. The 
horse then went straight to Angelica in a way as caressing as a 
dog ; for he remembered how she fed him in Albracca at the 
time when she was in love with his ungracious master : and the 
beauty recollected Bayardo with equal pleasure, for she had need 
of him. Sacripant, however, watched his opportunity, and 
mounted the horse ; so that now the two companions had each a 
separate steed. They were about to proceed more at their ease, 
when again a great noise was heard, and Rinaldo himself was 
seen coming after them on foot, threatening the Saracen with 
furious gestures, for he saw that he had got his horse ; and he 
recognised, above all, in a rage of jealousy, the lovely face beside 
him. Angelica in vain implored the Circassian to fly with her. 
He asked if she had forgotten the wars of Albracca, and all 
which he had done to serve her, that thus she supposed him afraid 
of another battle. 

Sacripant endeavoured to push Bayardo against Rinaldo ; but 
the horse refusing to fight his master, he dismounted, and the two 
rivals encountered each other with their swords. At first they 
went through the whole sword-exercise to no effect ; but Rinaldo, 
tired of the delay, raised the terrible Fusberta,* and at one blow 
cut through the other's twofold buckler of bone and steel, and 
benumbed his arm. Angelica turned as pale as a criminal going 
to execution ; and, without farther waiting, galloped off through 
the forest, looking round every instant to see if Rinaldo was upon 

She had not gone far when she met an old man who seemed to 
be a hermit, but was in reality a magician, coming along upon 
an ass. He was of venerable aspect, and seemed worn out with 
age and mortifications ; yet, when he beheld the exquisite face 
before him, and heard the lady explain how it was she needed his 
assistance, even he, old as he really was, began to fancy himself 
a lover, and determined to use his art for the purpose of keeping 
his two rivals at a distance. Taking out a book, and reading a 
little in it, there issued from the air a spirit in likeness of a ser- 

* His famous sword, vide p. 27. 


vant, whom he sent to the two combatants with directions to give 
them a false account of Orlando's having gone otF to France 
with Angelica. The spirit disappeared ; and the magician jour- 
neying with his companion to the sea-coast, raised another, who 
entered Angelica's horse, and carried her, to her astonishment 
and terror, out to sea, and so round to some lonely rocks. There, 
to her great comfort at first, the old man rejoined her ; but his 
proceedings becoming very mysterious, and exciting her indigna- 
tion, he cast her into a deep sleep. 

It happened, at this moment, that a ship was passing by the 
rocks, bound upon a tragical commission from the island of 
Ebuda. It was the custom of that place to consign a female 
daily to the jaws of a sea-monster, for the purpose of averting the 
wrath of one of their gods ; and as it was thought that the god 
would be appeased if they brought him one of singular beauty, 
the mariners of the ship seized with avidity on the sleeping An- 
gelica, and carried her off, together with the old man. The 
people of Ebuda, out of love and pity, kept her, unexposed to the 
sea-monster, for some days ; but at length she was bound to the 
rock where it was accustomed to seek its food ; and thus, in tears 
and horror, with not a friend to look to, the delight of the world 
expected her fate. East and west she looked in vain ; to the 
heavens she looked in vain ; every where she looked in vain. 
That beauty which had made King Agrican come from the Cas- 
pian gates, with half Scythia, to find his death from the hands of 
Orlando ; that beauty which had made King Sacripant foi-get both 
his country and his honour ; that beauty which had tarnished the 
renown and the wisdom of the great Orlando himself, and turned 
the whole East upside down, and laid it at the feet of loveliness, 
has now not a soul near it to give it the comfort of a word. 

Leaving our heroine a while in this condition, I must now tell 
you that Ruggiero, the greatest of all the infidel warriors, had 
been presented by his guardian, the magician Atlantes, with two 
wonderful gifts ; the one a shield of dazzling metal, which blinded 
and overthrew every one that looked at it ; and the other an ani- 
mal which combined the bird with the quadruped, and was called 
the Hippogriff, or grifiin-horse. It had the plumage, the wings, 
head, beak, and front-legs of a griffin, and the rest like a horse. 


It was not made by enchantment, but was a creature of a natural 
kind found but very rarely in the Ripha?an mountains, far on the 
other side of the Frozen Sea.* 

With these gifts, liigh mounted in the air, the you no- ward of 
Atlantes was now making the grandest of grand tours. He had 
for some time been confined by the magician in a castle, in order 
to save him from the dangers threatened in his horoscope. From 
this he had been set free by the lady with whom he was destined 
to fall in love ; he had then been inveigled by a wicked fairy into 
her tower, and set free by a good one ; and now he was on his 
travels through the world, to seek his mistress and pursue knight- 
ly adventures. 

Casting his eyes on the coast of Ebuda, the rider of the hippo- 
griff beheld the amazing spectacle of the lady tied to the rock ; 
and struck with a beautv whicii reminded him of her whom he 
loved, he resolved to deliver her from a peril which soon became 
too manifest. 

A noise was heard in the sea ; and the huge monster, the Ore, 
appeared half in the water, and half out of it, like a ship which 
drags its way into port aftef a long and tempestuous voyage. f It 
seemed a huge mass without form except the head, which had 

* To richness and rarity, how much is added by remoteness ! It adds distance 
to the other difficulties of procuring it. 

t " Ecco apparir lo smisurato mostro 
Mezo ascoso ne 1' onda, e mezo sorto. 
Come sospinto suol da Borea o d' Ostro 
Venir lungo navilio a pigliar porto." 

Canto X. St. 100. 

Improved from Ovid, Metamorph. Hb. iv. 706 : 

X " Ecce velut navis prsefixo concita rostro 

Sulcat aquas, juvenuni sudantibus acta lacertis ; 
Sic fera," &c. 

As when a galley with sharji beak comes fierce, 
Ploughing the waves with many a sweating oar. 

Ovid is brisker and more obviously to the purpose ; but Ariosto gives the pon- 
derousness and dreary triumph of the monster. The comparison of the fly and 
the mastiff is in the same higher and more epic taste. The classical reader need 
not be told that the whole ensuing passage, as far as the combat is concerned, is 
imitated from Ovid's story of Perseus and Andromeda. 


eyes sticking out, and bristles like a boar. Ruggiero, who had 
dashed down to the side of Angelica, and attempted to encourage 
her in vain, noAV rose in the air ; and the monster, whose atten- 
tion was diverted by a shadow on the water of a couple of great 
wings dashing round and above him, presently felt a spear on his 
neck ; but only to irritate him, for it could not pierce the skin. 
In vain Ruggiero tried to do so a hundred times. The combat 
was of no more effect than that of the fly with the mastiff, when 
it dashes against his eyes and mouth, and at last comes once too 
often within the gape of his snapping teeth. The ore raised such 
a foam and tempest in the waters with the flapping of his tail, 
that the knight of the hippogriff hardly knew whether he was in 
air or sea. He beijan to fear that the monster would disable the 
creature's wings ; and where would its rider be then ? He there- 
fore had recourse to a weapon which he never used but at the last 
moment, when skill and courage became of no service : he un- 
veiled the magic shield. But first he flew to Angelica, and put 
on her finger the ring; which neutralized its elTect. The shield 
blazed on the water like another sun. The ore, beholding it, felt 
it smite its eyes like lightning ; and rolling over its unwieldy 
body in the foam which it had raised, lay turned up, like a dead 
fish, insensible. But it was not dead ; and Ruggiero was so long 
in making ineffectual efforts to pierce it, that Angelica cried out 
to him for God's sake to lelease her while he had the opportunity, 
lest the monster should revive. " Take me v/ith you," she said ; 
"drown me ; any thing, rather than let me be food for this horror." 

The knight released her instantly. He set her behind him on 
the winged horse, and in a few minutes was in the air, transport- 
ed with having deprived the brute of his delicate supper. Then, 
turning as he went, he imprinted on her a thousand kisses. He 
had intended to make a tour of Spain, which was not far off; but 
he now altered his mind, and descended with his prize into a love- 
ly spot on the coast of Brittany, encircled with oaks full of night- 
ingales, with here and there a solitary mountain. 

It was a little green meadow with a brook.* Ruggiero look- 
ed about him with transport, and was preparing to disencumbei 

* " Sul lito un bosco era di querce ombrose, 
Dove ogn' or par che Filomena piagna ; 


himself of his hot armour, when tlie blushing beauty, casting her 
eyes downwards, belield on lier fmwr the identical lUiKnc r'mcr 
wliicli her futlier had given her wlicn she first entered Christen- 
dom, and which had delivered her out of so many dangers. If 
put on the finger only, it neutralized all enchantment ; but put 
into the mouth, it rendered the wearer invisible. It had been 
stolen from her, and came into the hands of a good fairy, wlio 
gave it to Ruggiero, in order to deliver him from the wiles of a 
bad one. Falsehood to the good fairy's friend, his own mistress 
Bradamante, now rendered him unworthy of its possession ; and 
at the moment when he thought Angelica his own beyond re- 
demption, she vanished out of his sight. In vain he knew the 
secret of the ring, and the possibility of her being still present — 
the certainty, at all events, of her not being very far off. He ran 
hither and thither like a madman, hoping to clasp her in his arms, 
and embracinfT nothinsr but the air. In a little while she was dis- 
tant far enough ; and Ruggiero, stamping about to no purpose in 
a rage of disappointment, and at length resolving to take horse, 
perceived he had been deprived, in the mean time, of his hippogriff. 
It had loosened itself from the tree to which he had tied it, and 
taken its own course over the mountains. Thus he had lost horse, 
ring, and lady, all at once.* 

Pursuing his way, with contending emotions, through a valley 
between lofty woods, he heard a great noise in the thick of them. 
He rushed to see what it was ; and found a giant combating with 

Ch' in mezo avea un pratel con una fonte, 
E quinci e quLndi un solitario monte. 

Quivi il bramoso cavalier ritenne 

L' audace corso, e ncl pratel disease." 

St. 113. 

What a landscape ! and what a charni beyond painting he has put into it with 
his nifrhtinfales ! £ind then what fiomrcs besides ! A knitrht on a winged steed 
descending with a naked beauty into a meadow in the thick of woods, with 
"here and there a soUtary mountain." Tlie mountains make no formal circle; 
they keep their separate distances, with their various intervals of hght and shade. 
And what a heart of solitude is given to the meadow by the loneliness of these 
its waiters aloof! 

* Nothing can be more perfectly wrought up than this sudden change of cir- 
cumstances . 


a young knight. The giant got the better of the knight ; and 
having cast him on the ground, unloosed his hehxiet for the pur- 
pose of slaying him, when Ruggiero, to his horror, beheld in the 
youth's face that of his unworthily-treated mistress Bradamante. 
He rushed to assault her enemy ; but the giant, seizing her in 
his arms, took to his heels ; and the penitent lover followed him 
with all his might, but in vain. The wretch was hidden from 
his eyes by the trees. At length Ruggiero, incessantly pursuing 
him, issued forth into a great meadow, containing a noble man- 
sion ; and here he beheld the giant in the act of dashing through 
the gate of it with his prize. 

The mansion was an enchanted one, raised by the anxious old 
guardian of Ruggiero for the purpose of enticing into it both the 
youth himself, and all from whom he could experience danger in 
the course of his adventures. Orlando had just been brought 
there by a similar device, that of the apparition of a knight car- 
rying off Angelica ; for the supposed Bradamante was equally a 
deception, and the giant no other than the magician himself. 
There also were the knights Ferragus, and Brandimart, and 
Grandonio, and King Sacripant, all searching for something they 
had missed. They wandered about the house to no purpose ; 
and sometimes Rugijiero heard Bradamante callingr him ; and 
sometimes Orlando beheld Angelica's face at a window.* 

At length the beauty arrived in her own veritable person. She 
was again on horseback, and once more on the look-out for a 
knight who should conduct her safely home — whether Orlando or 
Sacripant she had not determined. The same road which had 
brought Ruggiero to the enchanted house having done as much 
for her, she now entered it invisibly by means of the ring. 

Finding both the knights in the place, and feeling under the 
necessity of coming to a determination respecting one or the other, 

* To feel the complete force of this picture, a reader should have been in the 
South, and beheld the like sudden apparitions, at open windows, of ladies looking 
forth in dresses of beautiful colours, and with faces the most interestincr. I re- 
member a vision of this sort at Carrara, on a bright but not too hot day (I fancied 
that the marble mountains there cooled it). It resembled one of Titian's wo- 
men, with its broad shoulders, and boddice and sleeves differently coloured 
from the petticoat ; and seemed literally framed in the unsashed window. But 
I am digressing. 


Angelica made up her mind in favour of King Sacripant, whom 
she reckoned to be more at her disposal. Contriving therefore to 
meet him bv himself, she took the rini^ out of her mouth, and 
suddenly appeared before him. He had hardly recovered from 
his amazement, when Ferragus and Orlando himself came up ; 
and as Angelica now was visible to all, she took occasion to de- 
liver them from the enchanted house by hastening before them 
into a wood. They all followed of course, in a frenzy of anx- 
iety and delight ; but the lady being perplexed with the presence 
of the whole three, and recollecting that she had again obtained 
possession of her ring, resolved to trust her safe conduct to invis- 
ibility alone ; so, in the old fashion, she left them to new quarrels 
by suddenly vanishing from their eyes. She stopped, neverthe- 
less, a while to laugh at them, as they all turned their stupified 
faces hither and thither ; then suffered them to pass her in a 
blind thunder of pursuit ; and so, gently following at her leisure 
on the same road, took her way towards the East. 

It was a long journey, and she saw many places and people, 
and was now hidden and now seen, like the moon, till she came 
one day into a forest near the walls of Paris, where she beheld a 
youth lying wounded on the grass, between two companions that 
were dead. 

PART n. 





Now, in order to understand who the youth was that Angelica 
found lying on the grass between the two dead companions, and 
how he came to be so lying, you must know that a great battle 
had been fought there between Charlemagne and the Saracens, in 
which the latter were defeated, and that these three people be- 
longed to the Saracens. The two that were slain were Dardinel, 
king of Zumara, and Cloridan, one of his followers ; and the 
wounded survivor was another, whose name was Medoro. Clo- 
ridan and Medoro had been loving and grateful servants of Dar- 
dinel, and very fast friends of one another ; such friends, indeed, 
that on their own account, as well as in honour of what they 
did for their master, their history deserves a particular mention. 

They were of a lowly stock on the coast of Syria, and in all 
the various fortunes of their lord had shewn him a special at- 
tachment. Cloridan had been bred a huntsman, and was the 
robuster person of the two. Medoro was in the first bloom of 
youth, with a complexion rosy and fair, and a most pleasant as 
well as beautiful countenance. He had black eyes, and hair 
that ran into curls of gold ; in short, looked like a very angel 
from heaven. 

These two were keeping anxious watch upon the trenches of 
the defeated army, when Medoro, unable to cease thinking of the 
master who had been left dead on the field, told his friend that he 
could no longer delay to go and look for his dead body, and bury 
it. " You," said he, " will remain, and so be able to do justice 
to my memory, in case I fail." 

Cloridan, though he delighted in this proof of his triend's 
noble-heartedness, did all he could to dissuade him from so peril- 


ous an enterprise ; but Medoro, in the fervour of his gratitude for 
benefits conferred on him by liis lord, was immovable in his deter- 
mination to die or to succeed ; and Cloridan, seeing tiiis, deter- 
mined to go with him. 

They took their way accordingly out of the Saracen camp, 
and in a short time found themselves in that of the enemv. The 
Christians had been drinking over-night for joy at their victory, 
and were buried in wine and sleep. Cloridan halted a moment, 
and said in a whisper to his friend, " Do you see this ? Ought 1 
to lose such an opportunity of revenging our beloved master ? 
Keep watch, and I will do it. Look about you, and listen on 
every side, while I make a passage for us among these sleepers 
with my sword." 

Without waiting an answer, the vigorous huntsman pushed 
into the first tent before him. It contained, among other occu- 
pants, a certain Alpheus, a physician and caster of nativities, 
who had prophesied to himself a long life, and a death in the 
bosom of his family. Cloridan cautiously put the sword's point 
in his throat, and there was an end of his dreams. Four other 
sleepers were despatched in like manner, without time given 
them to utter a syllable. After them went another, who had en- 
trenched himself between two horses ; then the luckless Grill, 
who had made himself a pillow of a barrel which he had emp- 
tied. He was dreaming of opening a second barrel, but, alas, 
was tapped himself. A Greek and a German followed, who had 
been playing late at dice ; fortunate, if they had continued to do 
so a little longer ; but they never counted a throw like this 
among their chances. 

By this time the Saracen had grown ferocious with his bloody 
work, and went slaughtering along like a wild beast among sheep. 
Nor could Medoro keep his own sword unemployed ; but he dis- 
dained to strike indiscriminately — he was choice in his victims. 
Among these was a certain Duke La Brett, who had his lady fast 
asleep in his arms. Shall I pity them ? That will I not. Sweet 
was their fated hour, most happy their departure ; for, embraced 
as the sword found them, even so, I believe, it dismissed them into 
the other world, loving and enfolded. 

Two brothers were slain next, sons of the Count of Flanders, 


and newly-made valorous knights. Charlemagne had seen them 
turn red with slaughter in the field, and had augmented their 
coat of arms with his lilies, and promised them lands beside in 
Friesland. And he would have bestowed the lands, only Medoro 
forbade it. 

The friends now discovered that they had approached the 
quarter in which the Paladins kept guard about their sovereign. 
They were afraid, therefore, to continue the slaughter any fur- 
ther ; so they put up their swords, and picked their way cau- 
tiously through the rest of the camp into the field where the battle 
had taken place. There they experienced so much difficulty in 
the search for their master's body, in consequence of the horrible 
mixture of the corpses, that they might have searched till the 
perilous return of daylight, had not the moon, at the close of a 
prayer of Medoro's, sent forth its beams right on the spot where 
the king was lying. Medoro knew him by his cognizance, argent 
and gules. The poor youth burst into tears at the sight, weeping 
plentifully as he approached him, only he was obliged to let his 
tears flow without noise. Not that he cared for death — at that 
moment he would gladly have embraced it, so deep was his af- 
fection for his lord ; but he was anxious not to be hindered in his 
pious office of consigning him to the earth. 

The two friends took up the dead king on their shoulders, and 
were hasting away with the beloved burthen, when the white- 
ness of dawn began to appear, and with it, unfortunately, a troop 
of horsemen in the distance, right in their path. 

It was Zerbino, prince of Scotland, with a party of horse. He 
was a warrior of extreme vigilance and activity, and was return- 
ing to the camp after having been occupied all night in pursuing 
such of the enemy as had not succeeded in getting into their en- 

* Ariosto elsewhere represents him as the handsomest man in the world ; say- 
ing of him, in a line that has become famous, 

"Natura il fece, e poi roppe la stampa." 

Canto X. St. 84. 

— Nature made him, and then broke the mould. 
(The word is generally printed ruppe; but I use the primitive text of Mr. Pan- 



My friend," exclaimed the huntsman, " we must e'en take to 
our heels. Two living people must not be sacrificed to one who 
is dead." 

With these words he let go his share of the burden, taking for 
granted that the friend, whose life as well as his own he was 
thinking to secure, would do as he himself did. But attached as 
Cloridan had been to his master, Medoro was far more so. He 
accordingly received the whole burden on his shoulders. Clori- 
dan meantime scoured away, as fast as feet could carry him, 
thinking his companion was at his side : otherwise he would soon- 
er have died a hundred times over than have left him. 

In the interim, the party of the Scottish prince had dispersed 
themselves about the plain, for the purpose of intercepting the two 
fugitives, whichever way they went ; for they saw plainly they 
were enemies, by the alarm they shewed. 

There was an old forest at hand in those days, which, besides 
being thick and dark, was full of the most intricate cross-paths, 
and inhabited only by game. Into this Cloridan had plunged. 
Medoro, as well as he could, hastened after him ; but hampered 
as he was with his burden, the more he sought the darkest and 
most intricate paths, the less advanced he found himself, especial- 
ly as he had no acquaintance with the place. 

On a sudden, Cloridan having arrived at a spot so quiet that he 
became aware of the silence, missed his beloved friend. " Great 
God !" he exclaimed, " what have I done ? Left him I know not 
where, or how !" The swift runner instantly turned about, and, 
retracing his steps, came voluntarily back on the road to his own 
death. As he approached the scene where it was to take place, 
he began to hear the noise of men and horses ; then he discern- 
ed voices threatening ; then the voice of his unhappy friend ; 
and at length he saw him, still bearing his load, in the midst of 
the whole troop of horsemen. The prince was commanding them 
to seize him. The poor youth, however, burdened as he was, 
rendered it no such easy matter ; for he turned himself about like 
a wheel, and entrenched himself, now behind this tree, and now 

nizzi's edition.) Boiardo's handsomest man, Astolfo, was an Englishman; Ari- 
osto's is a Scotciiman. See, in the present volume, the note on the character 
of Astolfo, p. 23. 


behind that. Finding this would not do, he laid his beloved bur- 
den on the ground, and then strode hither and thither, over and 
round about it, parrying the horsemen's endeavours to take him 
prisoner. Never did poor hunted bear feel more conflicting emo- 
tions, when, surprised in her den, she stands over her offspring 
with uncertain heart, groaning with a mingled sound of tenderness 
and rage. Wrath bids her rush forward, and bury her nails in 
the flesh of their enemy ; love melts her, and holds her back in 
the middle of her fury, to look upon those whom she bore.* 

Cloridan was in an agony of perplexity what to do. He longed 
to rnsh forth and die with his friend ; he longed also still to do 
what he could, and not to let him die unavenged. He therefore 
halted a while before he issued from the trees, and, putting an 
arrov/ to his bow, sent it well-aimed among the horsemen. A 
Scotsman fell dead from his saddle. The troop all turned to see 

* " Come orsa, che 1' alpestre cacciatore 

Ne la pietrosa tana assalita abbia, 
Sta sopra i figli con incerto core, 

E freme in suono di piet&, e di rabbia : 
Ira la 'nvita e natural furore 

A spiegar 1' ugne, e a insanguinar le labbia ; 
Amor la 'ntenerisce, e la ritira 
A riguardare a i figli in mezo 1' ira." 

Like as a bear, whom men in mountains start 
In her old stony den, and dare, and goad, 

Stands o'er her children with uncertain heart, 
And roars for rage and sorrow in one mood : 

Anger impels her, and her natural part, 
To use her nails, and bathe her lips in blood ; 

Love melts her, and, for all her angry roar. 

Holds back her eyes to look on those she bore. 

This stanza in Ariosto has become famous as a beautifiil transcript of a beautiful 
passage in Statius, which, indeed, it surpasses in style, but not in feeling, es- 
pecially when we consider with whom the comparison originates : 

" Ut lea, quam saevo foetam pressere cubili 
Venantes Numidae, natos erecta superstat 
Mente sub incerta, torvum ac miserabile frendens : 
Ilia quidem turbare globos, et frangere morsu 
Tela queat ; sed prolis amor crudelia vincit 
Pectora, et in media catulos circumspicit ira." 

Thebais, x. 414. 


whence the arrow came ; and as they were raging and crying 
out, a second stuck in the throat of tlie loudest. 

" This is not to be borne," cried the prince, pushing his horse 
towards Medoro ; " you shall sutler for this." And so speaking, 
he thrust his hand into the golden locks of the youth, and dragged 
him violently backwards, intending to kill him ; but when he 
looked on his beautiful face, he couldn't do it. 

Tiie youth betook himself to entreaty. " For God's sake, sir 
knight !" cried he, " be not so cruel as to deny me leave to bury 
my lord and master. He was a king. I ask nothing for myself 
— not even my life. I do not care for my life. I care for noth- 
ing but to bury my lord and master." 

These words were spoken in a manner so earnest, that the 
good prince could feel nothing but pity ; but a ruffian among the 
troop, losing sight even of respect for his lord, thrust his lance 
into the poor youth's bosom right over the prince's hand. Zer- 
bino turned with indignation to smite him, but the villain, seeing 
what was coming, galloped off; and meanwhile Cloridan, think- 
ing that his friend was slain, came leaping full of rage out of the 
wood, and laid about him with his sword in mortal desperation. 
Twenty swords were upon him in a moment ; and perceiving 
life flowing out of him, he let himself fall down by the side of 
his friend.* .__— — 

* This adventure of Cloridan and Medoro is imitated from the Nisus and 
Eurvalus of Virgil, An Italian critic, quoted by Panizzi, says, that the way 
in wliich Cloridan exposes himself to the enemy is inferior to the Latiji poet's 

" Me, me (adsum qui feci), in me convertite ferrum." 

Me, me ('tis I who did the deed), slay me. 

And the reader will agree with Panizzi, that he is right. The circumstance, 
also, of Eurjalus's bequeathing his aged mother to the care of his prince, in 
case he fliils in his enterprise, is very touching ; and the main honour, both of 
the invention of the whole episode and its particulars, remains with Virgil. 
On the other hand, the enterprise of the friends in the Italian poet, which is 
that of burying their dead master, and not merely of communicating with an 
absent general, is more atTecting, though it may be less patriotic ; the inability 
of Zerbino to kill him, when he looked on his face, is extremely so ; and, as 
Panizzi has shewn, the adventure is made of importance to the whole story of 
the poem, and is not simply an episode, like that in the iEneid. It serves, too, 
in a very particular manner to introduce INIedoro worthily to the aflection of 


The Scotsmen, supposing both the friends to be dead, now took 
their departure ; and Medoro indeed would have been dead before 
long, he bled so profusely. But assistance of a very unusual 
sort was at hand. 

A lady on a palfrey happened to be coming by, who 'observed 
signs of life in him, and was struck with his youth and beauty. 
She was attired with great simplicity, but her air was that of a 
person of high rank, and her beauty inexpressible. In short, it 
was the proud daughter of the lorjj of Cathay, Angelica herself. 
Finding that she could travel in safety and independence by 
means of the magic ring, her self-estimation had risen to such a 
height, that she disdained to stoop to the companionship of the 
greatest man living. She could not even call to mind that such 
lovers as the County Orlando or King Sacripant existed : and it 
mortified her beyond measure to think of the affection she had 
entertained for Rinaldo. 

" Such arrogance," thought Love, " is not to be endured." 
The little archer with the wings put an arrow to his bow, and 
stood waiting for her by the spot where Medoro lay. 

Now, when the beauty beheld the youth lying half dead with 
his wounds, and yet, on accosting him, found that he lamented 
less for himself than for the unburied body of the king his mas- 
ter, she felt a tenderness unknown before creep into every par- 
ticle of her being ; and as the greatest ladies of India were ac- 
customed to dress the wounds of their knights, she bethought her 
of a balsam whicli she had observed in coming along; and so, 
looking about for it, brought it back with her to the spot, together 
with a herdsman whom she had met on horseback in search of 
one of his stray cattle. The blood was ebbing so fast, that the 
poor youth was on the point of expiring ; but Angelica bruised 
the plant between stones, and g^athered the juice into her delicate 
hands, and restored his strength with infusing it into the wounds ; 
so that, in a little while, he was able to get on the horse belong- 
ing to the herdsman, and be carried away to the man's cottage. 
He would not quit his lord's body, however, nor that of his 

Angelica ; for, mere female though she be, we should hardly have gone along 
with her passion as we do, in a poem of any seriousness, had it been founded 
merely on his beauty. 


friend, till he had seen them laid in the ground. He then went 
with the lady, and she took up her abode with him in the cottage, 
and attended him till he recovered, loving him more and more 
day by day ; so that at length she fairly told him as much, and 
he loved her in turn ; and the king's daughter married the lowly- 
born soldier. 

O County Orlando ! O King Sacripant ! That renowned val- 
our of yours, say, what has it availed you ? That lofty honour, 
tell us, at what price is it rated ? What is the reward ye have 
obtained for all your services ? Shew us a single courtesy which 
the lady ever vouchsafed, late or early, for all that you ever suf- 
fered in her behalf. 

O King Agrican ! if you could return to life, how hard would 
you think it to call to mind all the repulses she gave you — all the * 
pride and aversion and contempt with which she received your 
advances ! 

O Ferragus ! O thousands of others too numerous to speak of, 
who performed thousands of exploits for this ungrateful one, 
what would you all think at beholding her in the arms of the 
courted boy ! 

Yes, Medoro had the first gathering of the kiss off the lips of 
Angelica — those lips never touched before — that garden of roses 
on the threshold of which nobody ever yet dared to venture. 
The love was headlong and irresistible ; but the priest was called 
in to sanctify it ; and the brideswoman of the daughter of Cathay 
was the wife of the cottager. 

■ ' The lovers remained upwards of a month in the cottage. An- 
gelica could not bear her young husband out of her sight. She 
was for ever gazing on him, and hanging on his neck. In-doors 
and out-of-doors, day as well as night, she had him at her side. 
In the morning or evening they wandered forth along the banks 
of some stream, or by the hedge- rows of some verdant meadow. 
In the middle of the day they took refuge from the heat in a 
grotto that seemed made for lovers ; and wherever, in their wan- 
derings, they found a tree fit to carve and write on, by the side 
of fount or river, or even a slab of rock soft enough for the pur. 
pose, there they were sure to leave their names on the bark or 
marble ; so that, what with the inscriptions in-doors and out-of- 



doors (for the walls of the cottage displayed them also), a visitor 
of the place could not have turned his eye in any direction with- 
out seeing the words 



written in as many different ways as true-lovers' knots could 

Having thus awhile enjoyed themselves in the rustic solitude, 
the Queen of Cathay (for in the course of her adventures in 
Christendom she had succeeded to her father's crown) thought it 
time to return to her beautiful empire, and complete the triumph 
of love by crowning Medoro king of it. 
^ She took leave of the cottagers with a princely gift. The 
islanders of Ebuda had deprived her of every thing valuable 
but a rich bracelet, which, for some strange, perhaps supersti- 
tious, reason, they left on her arm. This she took off, and made 
a present of it to the good couple for their hospitality ; and so 
bade them farewell. 

The bracelet was of inimitable workmanship, adorned with 
gems, and had been given by the enchantress Morgana to a 
favourite youth, who was xescued from her wiles by Orlando. 
The .youth, in gratitude, bestowed it on his preserver ; and the 
hero had humbly presented it to Angelica, who vouchsafed to 
accept it, not because of the giver, but for the rarity of the gift. 

The happy bride and bridegroom, bidding farewell to France, 
proceeded by easy journeys, and crossed the mountains into 
Spain, where it was their intention to take ship for the Levant. 
Descending the Pyrenees, they discerned the ocean in the dis- 

* Canto xix. st. 34, &c. All the world have felt this to be a true picture of 
first love. The inscription may be said to be that of every other pair of lovers 
that ever existed, who knew how to write their names. 

How musical, too, are the words " Angelica and Medoro!" Boiardo invented 
the one ; Ariosto fotmd the match for it. One has no end to the pleasure of 
repeating them. All hail to the moment when I first became aware of their 
existence, more than fifty years ago, in the house of the gentle artist Benjamin 
West ! (Let the reader indulge me with tliis recollection.) I sighed vidth plea- 
sure to look on them at that time ; I sigh now, with far more pleasure than 
pain, to look back on them, for they never come across me but with delight ; j 
and poetry is a world in which nothing beautifbl ever thoroughly forsakes us, ' 


tance, and had now reached the coast, and were proceeding by the 
water-side along the higli road to Barcelona, when they beheld a 
miserable-looking creature, a madman, all over mud and dirt, 
lying naked in the sands. He had buried himself half inside 
them for shelter from the sun ; but having observed the lovers as 
they came along, he leaped out of his hole like a dog, and came 
raff in o; against them. 

But, before I proceed to relate who this madman was, I must 
return to the cottage which the two lovers had occupied, and 
recount what passed in it during the interval between their bid- 
ding it adieu and their arrival in this place. 




During the course of his search for Angelica, the County 
Orlando had just restored two lovers to one another, and was pur- 
suing a Pagan enemy to no purpose through a wild and tangled 
wood, when he came into a beautiful spot by a river's side, which 
tempted him to rest himself from the heat. It was a small 
meadow, full of daisies and butter-cups, and surrounded with 
trees. There was an air abroad, notwithstanding the heat, which 
made the shepherds glad to sit without their jerkins, and receive 
the coolness on their naked bodies : even the hard-skinned cattle 
were glad of it ; and Orlando, who was armed cap-a-pie, was 
delighted to take off his helmet, and lay aside his buckler, and 
repose awhile in the midst of a scene so refreshing. Alas ! it 
was the unhappiest moment of his life. 

Casting his eyes around him, while about to get off his horse, 
he observed a handwriting on many of the trees which he thought 
he knew. Riding up to the trees, and looking more closely, he 
was sure he knew it ; and in truth it was no other than that of 
his adored mistress Angelica, and the inscription one of those 
numerous inscriptions of which I have spoken. The spot was 
one of the haunts of the lovers while they abode in the shep- 
herd's cottage. Wherever the County turned his eyes, he be- 
held, tied together in true-lovers' knots, nothing but the words 



All the trees had them — his eyes could see nothing else ; and 
every letter was a dagger that pierced his heart. 

The unhappy lover tried in vain to disbelieve what he saw. 


He endeavoured to compel himself to think that it was some other 
Angelica who iiad written the words ; but he knew the hand- 
writing too well. Too often had he dwelt upon it, and made 
himself familiar with every turn of the letters. He then strove 
to fancy that " Mcdoro" was a feigned name, intended for him- 
self; but he felt that he was trying to delude himself, and that 
the more he tried, the bitterer was his conviction of the truth. 
He was like a bird fixing itself only the more deeply in the lime 
in which it is cauirht, bv strucrrrlinjr and beatino- its winiis. 

Orlando turned his horse away in his anguish, and paced it 
towards a grotto covered with vine and ivy, which he looked into. 
The grotto, both outside and in, was full of the like inscriptions. 
It was the retreat the lovers were so fond of at noon. Their 
names were written on all sides of it, some in chalk and coal,* 
others carved with a knife. 

The wretched beholder got off his horse and entered the grotto. 
The first thing that met his eyes was a larger inscription in the 
Saracen lover's own handwriting and tongue — a language whicli 
the slayer of the infidels was too well acquainted with. The 
words were in verse, and expressed the gratitude of the " poor 
Medoro," the writer, for having had in his arms, in that grotto, 
the beautiful Angelica, daughter of King Galafron, whom so 
many had loved in vain. The writer invoked a blessing on every 
part of it, its shades, its waters, its flowers, its creeping plants ; 
and entreated every person, high and low, who should chance to 
visit it, particularly lovers, that they would bless the place like- 
wise, and take care that it was never polluted by foot of herd. 

Thrice, and four times, did the unhappy Orlando read these 
words, trying always, but in vain, to disbelieve what he saw. 
Every time he read, they appeared plainer and plainer ; and 
every time did a cold hand seem to be wringing the heart in his 
bosom. At length he remained with his eyes fixed on the stone, 
seeinir nothing more, not even the stone itself. He felt as if his 
wits were leaving him, so abandoned did he seem of all comfort. 

♦ " Scritti, qual con carbonc e qual con gesso." 

Canto xxiii. st. 106. 

Ariosto did not mind soiling the beautiful fingers of Angelica with coal and 
chalk. He knew that Love did not nund it. 


Let those imagine what he felt who have experienced the same 
emotions — who know, by their own sufferings, that this is the 
grief which surpasses all other griefs. His head had fallen on 
his bosom ; his look was deprived of all confidence ; he could not 
even speak or shed a tear. His impetuous grief remained within 
him by reason of his impetuosity — like water which attempts to 
rush out of the narrow-necked bottle, but which is so compressed 
as it comes, that it scarcely issues drop by drop. 

Again he endeavoured to disbelieve his eyes — to conclude that 
somebody had wished to calumniate his mistress, and drive her 
lover mad, and so had done his best to imitate her handwriting. 
With these sorry attempts at consolation, he again took horse, 
the sun having now given way to the moon, and so rode a little 
onward, till he beheld smoke rising out of the tops of the trees, 
and heard the barking of dogs and the lowing of cattle. By 
these signs he knew that he was approaching a village. He en- 
tered it, and going into the first house he came to, gave his horse 
to the care of a youth, and was disarmed, and had his spurs of 
gold taken off, and so went into a room that was shewn him with- 
out demanding either meat or drink, so entirely was he filled 
with his sorrow. 

Now it happened that this was the very cottage into which 
Medoro had been carried out of the wood by the loving Angelica. 
There he had been cured of his wounds — there he had been 
loved and made happy — and there, wherever the County Orlando 
turned his eyes, he beheld the detested writing on the walls, the 
windows, the doors. He made no inquiries about it of the people 
of the house : he still dreaded to render the certainty clearer than 
he would fain suppose it. 

But the cowardice availed him nothing ; for the host seeing 
him unhappy, and thinking to cheer him, came in as he was get- 
ting into bed, and opened on the subject of his own accord. It 
was a story he told to every body who came, and he was accus- 
tomed to have it admired ; so with littl-^^eface he related all the 
particulars to his new guest — how th^^outh had been left for 
dead on the field, and how the lady had found him, and had him 
brought to the cottage- — and how she fell in love with4iim as he 
grew well — and how she could be content with nothing but mar- 


rying him, though she was daughter of the greatest king of the 
East, and a queen herself. At tlie conclusion of his narrative, 
the good man produced the bracelet which had been given him 
by Angelica, as evidence of the truth gf all that he had been 

This was the final stroke, the last fatal blow, given to the poor 
hopes of Orlando by the executioner, Love. He tried to conceal 
his misery, but it was no longer to be repressed ; so finding the 
tears rush into his eves, he desired to be alone. As soon as the 
man had retired, he let them flow in passion and agony. In vain 
he attempted to rest, much less to sleep. Every part of the bed 
appeared to be made of stones and thorns. 

At length it occurred to him, that most likely they had slept 
in that very bed. He rose instantly, as if he had been lying on 
a serpent. The bed, the house, the herdsman, every thing about 
the place, gave him such horror and detestation, that, without 
waiting for dawn, or the liglit of moon, he dressed himself, and 
went forth and took his horse from the stable, and galloped on- 
wards into the middle of the woods. There, as soon as he found 
himself in the solitude, he opened all the flood-gates of his grief, 
and gave way to cries and outcries. 

But he still rode on. Day and night did Orlando ride on, 
weeping and lamenting. He avoided towns and cities, and made 
his bed on the hard earth, and wondered at himself that he could 
weep so long. 

" These," thought he, " are no tears that are thus poured forth. 
They are life itself, the fountains of vitality ; and I am weeping 
and dying both. These are no sighs that I thus eternally exhale. 
Nature could not supply them. They are Love himself storming 
in my heart, and at once consuming me and keeping me alive 
"with his miraculous fires. No more — no more am I the man I 
seem. He that was Orlando is dead and buried. His uno;rate- 
ful mistress has slain him. I am but the soul divided from his 
body — doomed to wander j[[^fe in this misery, an example to those 
that put their trust in love." 

For the wits of the County Orlando were going ; and he wan- 
dered all night round and round in the wood, till he came back to 
the grotto where Medoro had written his triumphant verses. Mad- 


ness then indeed fell upon him. Every particle of his being 
seemed torn up with rage and fury ; and he drew his mighty 
sword, and hewed the grotto and the writing, till the words flew in 
pieces to the heavens. Woe to every spot in the place in which 
were written the names of " Angelica and Medoro." Woe to the 
place itself: never again did it afford refuge from the heat of day 
to sheep or shepherd ; for not a particle of it remained as it was. 
With arm and sword Orlando defaced it all, the clear and gentle 
fountain included. He hacked and hewed it inside aud out, and 
cut down the branches of the trees that hung over it, and tore away 
the ivy and the vine, and rooted up great bits of earth and stone, 
and filled the sweet water with the rubbish, so that it was never 
clear and sweet again ; and at the end of his toil, not having sat- 
isfied or being able to satisfy his soul with the excess of his vio- 
lence, he cast himself on the ground in rage and disdain, and lay 
groaning towards the heavens. 

On the ground Orlando threw himself, and on the ground he 
remained, his eyes fixed on heaven, his lips closed in dumbness ; 
and thus he continued for the space of three days and three 
nights, till his frenzy had mounted to such a pitch, that it turned 
against himself. He then arose in fury, and tore off mail and 
breastplate, and every particle of clothing from his body, till hu- 
manity was degraded in his heroical person, and he became na- 
ked as the beasts of the field. 

In this condition, and his wits quite gone, sword was forgotten 
as well as shield and helm ; and he tore up fir-tree and ash, and 
began running through the woods. The shepherds hearing the 
cries of the strong man, and the crashing of the boughs, came 
hastening from all quarters to know what it was ; but when he 
saw them he gave them chase, and smote to death those whom he 
reached, till the whole country v/as up in arms, though to no pur- 
pose ; for they wei'e seized with such terror, that while they 
threatened and closed after him, they avoided him. He entered 
cottages, and tore away the food from the tables ; and ran up the 
craggy hills and down into the valleys ; and chased beasts as 
well as men, tearing the fawn and the goat to pieces, and stuffing 
their flesh into his stomach with fierce will. 

Raging and scouring onwards in this manner, he arrived one 



day at a bridge over a torrent, on which the fierce Rodoinont had 
fixed himself for tlie purpose of throwing any one that attempted 
to pass it into the water. It was a very narrow bridge, with 
scarcely room for two horses. But Orlando took no heed of its 
narrowness. He dashed right forwards against man and steed, 
and forced the champion to wrestle with him on foot ; and, wind- 
ing himself about him with hideous strength, he leaped backwards 
with him into the torrent, where he left him, and so mounted the 
opposite bank, and again rushed over the country. A more ter- 
rible bridge than this was in his way — even a precipitous pass of 
frightful height over a valley ; but still he scoured onwards, 
throwing over it the agonised passengers that dared, in their ig- 
norance of his strength, to oppose him ; and so always rushing 
and raging, he came down the mountains by the sea-side to Bar- 
celona, where he cast his eyes on the sands, and thought, in his 
idiot mind, to make himself a house in them for coolness and re- 
pose ; and so he grubbed up the sand, and laid himself down in 
it : and this was the terrible madmau whom Ansjelica and Medo- 
ro saw looking at them as they were approaching the city. 

Neither of them knew him, nor did he know Angelica ; but, 
with an idiot laugh, he looked at her beauty, and liked her, and 
came horribly towards her to carry her away. Shrieking, she 
put spurs to her horse and fled ; and Medoro, in a fury, came af- 
ter the pursuer and smote him, but to no purpose. The great 
madman turned round and smote the other's horse to the ground, 
and so renewed his chase after Angelica, who suddenly regained 
enough of her wits to recollect the enchanted ring. Instantly she 
put it into her lips and disappeared ; but in her hurry she fell 
from her palfrey, and Orlando forgot her in the instant, and, 
mounting the poor beast, dashed off with it over the country till it 
died : and so at last, after many dreadful adventures by flood and 
field, he came running into a camp full of his brother Paladins, 
who recognised him with tears ; and, all joining their forces, suc- 
ceeded in pulling him down and binding him, though not without 
many wounds ; and by the help of these friends, and the special 
grace of the apostle St. John (as will be told in another place), 
the wits of the champion of the church were restored, and he be- 


came ashamed of that passion for an infidel beauty which the 
heavenly powers had thus resolved to punish. 

But Angelica and Medoro pursued the rest of their journey in 
peace, and took ship on the coast of Spain for India ; and there 
she crowned her bridegroom King of Cathay. 

The description of Orlando's jealousy and growing madness is reckoned om 
of the finest things in Italian poetry ; and very fine it surely is — as strong as 
the hero's strength, and sensitive as the heart of man. The circumstances art 
heightened, one after the other, with the utmost art as well as nature. There 
is a scriptural awfulness in the account of the hero's becoming naked ; and the 
violent result is tremendous. I have not followed Orlando into his feats of 
ultra-supernatural strength. The reader requires to be prepared for them bj 
the whole poem. Nor are they necessary, I think, to the production of the best 
effect ; perhaps would hurt it in an age unaccustomed to the old romances. 


The Paladin Astolfo ascends on the hippogriff to the top of one of the moun- 
tains at the source of the Nile, called the Mountains of the Moon, where he 
discovers the Terrestrial Paradise, and is welcomed by St. John the Evangelist. 
The Evangelist then conveys him to the Moon itself, where he is shewn all the 
things that have been lost on earth, among which is the Reason of Orlando, 
who had been deprived of it for loving a Pagan beauty. Astolfo is favoured 
with a singular discourse by the Apostle, and is then presented with a vial con- 
taining the Reason of his great brother Paladin, which he conveys to earth. 


When the hippogrifF loosened itself from the tree to which 
Ruggiero had tied it in the beautiful spot to which he descended 
with Angelica,* it soared away, like the faithful creature it was, 
to the house of its own master, Atlantes the magician. But not 
long did it remain there — no, nor the house itself, nor the magi- 
cian ; for the Paladin Astolfo came with a mighty horn given 
him by a greater magician, the sound of which overthrew all 
such abodes, and put to flight whoever heard it ; and so the 
house of Atlantes vanished, and the enchanter fled ; and the 
Paladin took possession of the griffin-horse, and rode away with 
it on farther adventures. 

One of these was the deliverance of Senapus, king of Ethiopia, 
from the visitation of the dreadful harpies of old, who came in- 
festing his table as they did those of ^neas and Phineus. Astol- 
fo drove them with his horse towards the sources of the river Nile, 
in the Mountains of the Moon, and pursued them with the hip- 
pogriff till they entered a great cavern, which, by tlie dreadful 
cries and lamentings that issued from the depths within it, the 
Paladin discovered to be the entrance from earth to Hell. 

The daring Englishman, whose curiosity was excited, resolved 
to penetrate to the regions of darkness. " What have I to fear ?" 
thought he ; " the horn will assist me, i[ I want it. I'll drive the 
triple-mouthed dog out of the way, and put Pluto and Satan to 

Astolfo tied the hippogriff' to a tree, and pushed forward in 
spite of a smoke that grew thicker and thicker, offending liis 
eyes and nostrils. It became, however, so exceedingly heavy 

* See p. 116. 
t Ariosto is here imitating Puici, and bearding Dante. See vol. i. p. 200. 


and noisome, that he found it would be impossible to complete his 
enterprise. Still he pushed forward as far as he could, especially 
as he began to discern in the darkness something that appeared to 
stir with an involuntary motion. It looked like a dead body 
which has hung up many days in the rain and sun, and is waved 
unsteadily by the wind. It turned out to be a condemned spirit 
in this first threshold of Hell, sentenced there, with thousands of 
others, for having been cruel and false in love. Her name was 
Lydia, and she had been princess of the country so called.* 
Anaxarete was among them, who, for her hard-heartedness, be- 
came a stone ; and Daphne, who now discovered how she had 
erred in making Apollo "run so much ;" and multitudes of other 
women ; but a far greater number of men — men being worthier 
of punishment in offences of love, because women are proner to 
believe. Theseus and Jason were among them ; and Amnon, the 
abuser of Tamar ; and he that disturbed the old kingdom of 

Astolfo would fain have gone deeper into the jaws of Hell, but 
the smoke grew so thick and palpable, it was impossible to move a 
step farther. Turning about, therefore, he regained the entrance ; 
and having refreshed himself in a fountain hard by, and re- 
mounted the hippogriff, felt an inclination to ascend as high as he 
possibly could in the air. The excessive loftiness of the moun- 
tain above the cavern made him think that its top could be at no 
great distance from the region of the Moon ; and accordingly he 
pushed his horse upwards, and rose and rose, till at length he 

* I know of no story of a cruel Lydia but the poet's own mistress of that 
jirane, whom I take to be the lady here "shadowed forth." See Life, p. 114. 

t The story of Anaxarete is in Ovid, lib. xiv. Every body knows that of 
Dtiphne, wlio made Apollo, as Ariosto says, " run so much" (correr tanto). 
Theseus and Jason are in hell, as deserters of Ariadne and Medea ; Amnon, for 
the atrocity recorded in the Bible (2 Samuel, chap, xiii.); and ^neas for inter- 
fering with Turnus and Lavinia, and taking possession of places he had no 
right to. It is delightful to see the great, generous poet going upon grounds 
of reason and justice in the teeth of the trumped-up rights of the "pious 
iEneas," that shabby deserter of Dido, and canting prototype of Augustus. 
He turns the tables, also, with brave candour, upon the tyrannical claims of the 
titronger sex to privileges which they deny the other; and says, that there are 
more faithless men in Hell than faithless women ; which, if personal infidelity 
sends people there, most undovibtcdly is the case beyond all comparison. 


found liimself on its table-land. It exhibited a region of celestial 
beauty. The ilowers were like beds of precious stones for col- 
our and brightness ; the grass, if you could have brought any to 
earth, would have been found to surpass emeralds ; and the trees, 
whose leaves were no less beautiful, were in fruit and flower at 
once. Birds of as many colours were singing in the branches ; 
the murmuring rivulets and dumb lakes were more limpid than 
crystal : a sweet air was for ever stirring, which reduced tiie 
warmth to a gentle temperature ; and every breath of it brouglit 
an odour from flowers, fruit-trees, and herbage all at once, which 
nourished the soul with sweetness.* 

In the middle of this lonely plain was a palace radiant as fire. 
Astolfo rode his horse round about it, constantly admiring all he 
saw, and fllled with increasing astonishment ; for he found that 
the dwelling was thirty miles in circuit, and composed of one 
entire carbuncle, lucid and vermilion. What became of the 
boasted wonders of the world before this ? The world itself, in 
the comparison, appeared but a lump of brute and fetid matter. j- 

As the Paladin approached the vestibule, he was met by a 
venerable old man, clad in a white gown and red mantle, whose 
beard descended on his bosom, and whose aspect announced him 
as one of the elect of Paradise. It was St. John the Evangelist, 
who lived in that mansion with Enoch and Elijah, the only three 
mortals who never tasted death ; for the place, as the saint in- 
formed him, was the Terrestrial Paradise ; and the inhabitants 
were to live there till the angelical trumpet announced the com- 
ine of Christ " on the white cloud." The Paladin, he said, had 


♦ " Che di soiiviti 1' alma notriva" is beautiful ; but the passage, as a whole, 
is not well iimtated from the Terrestrial Paradise of Dante. It is not bad in 
itself, but it is very inferior to the one that suggested it. See vol. i. p. 122, &c. 
Ariosto's Terrestrial Paradise was at home, among the friends who loved him, 
and whom he made happy. 

t This is better; and the house made of one jewel thirty miles in circuit is an 
extravagance that becomes reasonable on reflection, aflbrding a just idea of 
what might be looked for among the endless planetary wonders of Nature, 
which confound all our relative ideas of size and splendour. The "lucid ver- 
miUon" of a structure so enonnous, and under a sun so pure, presents a gor- 
geous spectacle to the imagination. Dante himself, if he could have forgiven 
the poet his animal spirits and views of the Moon so different from his own, 
might have stood in admiration before an abode at once so luscious and so vast. 


been allowed to visit it, by the favour of God, for the purpose of 
fetching away to earth the lost wits of Orlando, which the cham- 
pion of the Church had been deprived of for loving a Pagan, and 
which had been attracted out of his brains to the neighbouring 
sphere, the Moon. 

Accordingly, after the new friends had spent two days in dis- 
course, and meals had been served up, consisting of fruit so 
exquisite that the Paladin could not help thinking our first parents 
had some excuse for eating it,* the Evangelist, when the Moon 
arose, took him into the car which had borne Elijah to heaven ; 
and four horses, redder than fire, conveyed them to the lunar 

The mortal visitant was amazed to see in the Moon a world re- 
sembling his own, full of wood and water, and containing even 
cities and castles, though of a different sort from ours. It was 
strange to find a sphere so large which had seemed so petty afar 
off; and no less strange was it to look down on the world he had 
left, and be compelled to knit his brows and look sharply before 
he could well discern it, for it happened at the time to want 


But his guide did not leave him much time to look about him. 
He conducted him with due speed into a valley that contained, in 
one miraculous collection, whatsoever had been lost or wasted on 
earth. I do not speak only (says the poet) of riches and domin- 
ions, and such like gratuities of Fortune, but of things also 
which Fortune can neither grant nor resume. Much fame is 
there which Time has withdrawn — infinite prayers and vows 
which are made to God Almighty by us poor sinners. There lie 

* " De' frutti a lui del Paradise diero, 

Di tal sapor, ch' a suo giudizio, sanza 
Scusa non sono i due primi parenti, 
Se pur quel fur si poco ubbidienti." 

Canto ixxiv. st. 60. 

t Modern astronomers differ very much both with Dante's and Ariosto's 
Moon; nor do the "argent fields" of Milton appear better placed in our mys- 
terious sateUite, with its no-atmosphere and no-water, and its tremendous preci- 
pices. It is to be hoped (and believed) that knowledge will be best for us 
all in the endj for it is not always so by the way. It displaces beautiful igno- 


the tears and tlie sighs of lovers, the hours lost in pastimes, the 
leisures of the dull, and the intentions of the lazy. As to desires, 
they are so numerous that they shadow the whole place. Astolfo 
went round among the dillerent licaps, asking wliat they were. 
His eyes were first struck with a huge one of bladders which 
seemed to contain mighty sounds and the voices of multi- 
tudes. These he found were the Assyrian and Persian monarch- 
ies, together with tliose of Greece and Lydia.* One heap was 
nothing but hooks of silver and gold, which were the presents, it 
seoms, made to patrons and great men in hopes of a return. 
Another consisted of snares in the shape of garlands, the manu- 
facture of parasites. Others were verses in praise of great lords, 
all made of crickets which had burst themselves with sinfrinc. 
Chains of gold he saw there, which were pretended and unhappy 
love-matches ; and eagles' claws, which were deputed authorities ; 
and pairs of bellows, which were princes' favours ; and over- 
turned cities and treasuries, being treasons and conspiracies ; and 
serpents with female faces, that were coiners and thieves ; and all 
sorts of broken bottles, which were services rendered in misera- 
ble courts. A great heap of overturned soupf he found to be 
alms to the poor, which had been delayed till the giver's death. 
He then came to a great mount of flowers, which once had a 
sweet smell, but now a most rank one. This (with submission) 
was the present which the Emperor Constantine made to good 
Pope Sylvester.:]: Heaps of twigs he saw next, set with bird- 

* Very fine and scornful, I think, this. Mighty monarchies reduced to 
actual bladders, which, little too as they were, contamed big sounds. 

t Such, I suppose, as was given at convent-gates. 

t The pretended gift of the palace of St. John Lateran, the foundation of 
the pope's temporal sovereignty. This famous passage was quoted and trans- 
lated by Milton. 

" Di varii liori ad un gran monte passa 
Ch' ebbe gii buon odore, or putia forte. 
Questo era il dono (se per6 dir lece) 
Che Constantino al buon Silvestro fece." 

Canto xxxiv. st. 80. 

The lines were not so bold in the first edition. They stood thus : 

" Ad un monte di rose e gigli passa, 
Ch' ebbe gii buon odore, or putia forte, 


lime, which, dear ladies, are your charms. In short there was 
no end to what he saw. Thousands and thousands would not 
complete the list. Every thing was there which was to be met 
with on earth, except folly in the raw material, for that is never 

There he beheld some of his own lost time and deeds ; and yet, 
if nobody had been with him to make him aware of them, never 
would he have recognised them as his."j" 

They then arrived at something, which none of us ever prayed 
God to bestow, for we fancy we possess it in superabundance ; yet 
here it was in greater quantities than any thing else in the place 
— I mean, sense. It was a subtle fluid, apt to evaporate if not 
kept closely ; and here accordingly it was kept in vials of greater 
or less size. The greatest of them all was inscribed with the fol- 
lowing words : " The sense of Orlando." Others, in like manner, 
exhibited the names of the proper possessors ; and among them 
the frank-hearted Paladin beheld the greater portion of his own. 
But what more astonished him, was to see multitudes of the vials 

Ch' era corrotto ; e da Giovanni intese, 

Che fu un gran don ch' un gran signor mal spese." 

"He came to a mount of lilies and roses, that once had a sweet smell, but now 
stank with corruption ; and he understood fronl John that it was a great gift 
which a great lord ill expended." . 

The change of these lines to the stronger ones in the third edition, as they 
now stand, served to occasion a charge against Ariosto of having got his privi- 
lege of publication from the court of Rome for passages which never existed, 
and which he afterwards basely introduced ; but, as Panizzi observes, the third 
edition had a privilege also; so that the papacy put its hand, as it were, to 
these very lines. This is remarkable ; and doubtless it would not have oc- 
curred in some other ages. The Spanish Inquisition, for instance, erased it, 
though the holy brotherhood found no fault with the story of Giocondo. 

* " Sol la pazzia non v' 6, poca ne assai ; 
Che sta quh giu, nb se ne parte mai." 

St. 78. 

t Part of this very striking passage is well translated by Harrington : 

" He saw some of his own lost time and deeds, 
And yet he knew them not to be his own." 

I have heard these Unes more than once repeated with touching eaarnestness by 
Charles Lamb. 


almost full to the stopper, which bore the names of men whom he 
had supposed to enjoy their senses in perfection. Some had lost 
them for love, others for glory, others for riches, others for hopes 
from great men, others for stupid conjurers, for jewels, for paint- 
ings, for all sorts of whims. There was a heap belonging to 
sophists and astrologers, and a still greater to poets.* 

Astolfo, with leave of the " writer of the dark Apocalypse," 
took possession of his own. He had but to uncork it, and set it 
under his nose, and the wit shot up to its place at once. Turpin 
acknowledges that the Paladin, for a long time afterwards, led the 
life of a sage man, till, unfortunately, a mistake which he made 
lost him his brains a second time.f 

The Evangelist now presented him with the vial containing the 
wits of Orlando, and the travellers quitted the vale of Lost Trea- 
sure. Before they returned to earth, however, the good saint 
shewed his guest other curiosities, and favoured him with many a 
sage remark, particularly on the subject of poets, and the neglect 
of them by courts. He shewed him how foolish it was in princes 
and other great men not to make friends of those who can immor- 
talise them ; and observed, with singular indulgence, that crimes 
themselves might be no hindrance to a good name with posterity, 
if the poet were but feed well enough for spices to embalm the 
criminal. He instanced the cases of Homer and Virgil. 

*' You are not to take for granted," said he, " that ^Eneas was 
so pious as fame reports him, or Achilles and Hector so brave. 
Thousands and thousands of warriors have excelled them ; but 
their descendants bestowed fine houses and estates on great wri- 
ters, and it is from their honoured pages that all the glory has pro- 
ceeded. Augustus was no such religious or clement prince as the 
trumpet of Virgil has proclaimed him. It was his good taste in 
poetry that got him pardoned his iniquitous proscription. Nero 
himself might have fared as well as Augustus, had he possessed 
as much wit. Heaven and earth might have been his enemies to 

* Readers need not have the points of tliis exquisite satire pointed out to 
them. In noticing it, I only mean to enjoy it in their company — particularly 
the passage about the men accounted wisest, and the emphatic " I mean, sense" 
(lo dico, 11 senno). 
t Admirable lesson to frailty ! 


no purpose, had he known how to keep friends with good authors. 
Homer makes the Greeks victorious, the Trojans a poor set, and 
Penelope undergo a thousand wrongs rather than be unfaithful to 
her husband ; and yet, if you would have the real truth of the 
matter, the Greeks were beaten, and the Trojans the conquerors, 

and Penelope was a .* See, on the other hand, what infamy 

has become the portion of Dido. She was honest to her heart's 
core ; and yet, because Virgil was no friend of hers, she is look- 
ed upon as a baggage. 

" Be not surprised," concluded the good saint, " if I have ex- 
pressed myself with warmth on this subject. I love writers, and 
look upon their cause as my own, for I was a writer myself when 
I lived among you ; and I succeeded so well in the vocation, that 
time and death will never prevail against me. Just therefore is 
it, that I should be thankful to my beloved Master, who procured 
me so great a lot. I grieve for writers who have fallen on evil 
times — men that, with pale and hungry faces, find the doors of 
courtesy closed against all their hardships. This is the reason 
there are so few poets now, and why nobody cares to study. Why 
should he study ? The very beasts abandon places where there 
is nothing to feed them." 

At these words the eyes of the blessed old man grew so inflam- 
ed with anger, that they sparkled like two fires. But he presently 
suppressed what he felt ; and, turning with a sage and gracious 
smile to the Paladin, prepared to accompany him back to earth 
with his wonted serenity. 

He accordingly did so in the sacred car : and Astolfo, after re- 
ceiving his gentle benediction, descended on his hippogriff* from 
the mountain, and, joining the delighted Paladins with the vial, his 
wits were restored, as you have heard, to the noble Orlando. 

The figure which is here cut by St. John gives this remarkable satire a most 
remarkable close. His association of himself with the fraternity of authors was 

* I do not feel warranted in injuring the strength of the term here made use 
of by the indignant apostle, and yet am withheld from giving it in all its force 
by the delicacy, real or false, of the times. I must therefore leave it to be sup- 
plied by the reader according to the requirements of his own feelings. 


thought a Uttle " strong" by Ariosto's contemporaries. Tlie lesson read to the 
house of Este is obvious, and could hardly have been j>leasant to men reputed 
to be such "criminals" themselves. Nor can Ariosto, in this passage, be reck- 
oned a very flattering or conscientious pleader for his brother-poets. Resent- 
ment, and a good jest, seemed to have conspired to make him forget what was 
due to himself. 

The orifrinal of St. John's remarks about Augustus and the ancient poets 
must not be omitted. It is exquisite of its kind, both in matter and style. 
Voltaire has quoted it somewhere with rapture. 

" Non fu si santo n6 benigno Augusto 

Come la tuba di Virgilio suona : 
L' aver avuto in poesia buon gusto 

I^a proscrizioti iniqua gli perdona. 
Nessun sapna se Neron fosse ingiusto, 

N6 sua fama saria forse men buona, 
Avesse avuto e terra e ciel nimici, 

Se o"li scrittor sapea tcnersi amici. 

Omero Agamennon vittorioso, 

E fe' i Trojan parcr vili et inerti; 
E che Penelopea fida al suo sposo 

Da i prochi mille oltraggi avea sofferti : 
E, se tu vuoi che '1 ver non ti sia ascoso, 

Tutta al contrario 1' istoria converti : 
Che i Grcci rotti, e che Troia vittrice, 
E che Penelopea fu meretricc. 

Da r altra parte odi che fama lascia 

Elissa, ch' ebbe il cor tanto pudico; 
Che riputata viene una bagascia, 

Solo perchfe Maron non le fu amico." 

Canto XXXV. st. 26. 


PART in. 


The Duke of Albany, pretending to be in love with a damsel in the service of 
Ginevra, Princess of Scotland, but desiring to marry the princess herself, and 
not being able to compass his design by reason of her being in love with a 
gentleman from Italy named Ariodante, persuades the damsel, in his revenge, 
to personate Ginevra in a balcony at night, and so make her lover believe that 
she is false. Ariodante, deceived, disappears from court. News is brought of 
his death ; and his brother Lurcanio publicly denounces Ginevra, who, accord- 
ing to the laws of Scotland, is sentenced to death for her supposed lawless 
passion. Lurcanio then challenges the unknown paramour (for the duke's 
face had not been discerned in the balcony) ; and Ariodante, who is not dead, 
is fighting him in disguise, when the Paladin Rinaldo comes up, discloses the 
whole aff&ir, and slays the deceiver. 


CiLiiiLE^iAGNE had suflercd a great defeat at Paris, and the 
Paladin Rinaldo was sent across the Channel to ask succours of 
the King of England ; but a tempest arose ere he could reach 
the coast, and drove him northwards upon that of Scotland, where 
he found himself in the Caledonian Forest, a place famous of old 
for kniglitly adventure. Many a clash of arms had been heard 
in its shady recesses — many great things had been done there by 
knights from all quarters, particularly the Tristans and the 
Launcelots, and the Gawains, and others of the Round Table of 
Kino- Arthur. 

Rinaldo, bidding the ship await him at the town of Berwick, 
plunged into the forest with no other companion than his horse 
Bayardo, seeking the wildest paths he could fmd, in the hope of 
some strange adventure. f He put up, for the first day, at an 
abbey which was accustomed to entertain the knights and ladies 
that journeyed that way ; and after availing himself of its hospi- 
tality, he inquired of the abbot and his monks if they could direct 
him where to find what he looked for. They said that plenty of 
adventures were to be met with in the forest ; but that, for the 

* The main point of this story, the personation of Gincvra by one of her 
ladies, has been repeated by many writers — among others by Shakspeare, in 
Much Ado about Nothing. The circmnstance is said to have actually occurred 
in Ferrara, and in Ariosto's own time. Was Ariosto himself a party 1 " Ario- 
dante" almost includes his name ; and it is certain that he was once in love 
with a lady of the name of Ginevra. 

t Rinaldo is an ambassador, and one upon very urgent business; yet he 
halts by the way in search of adventures. This has been said to be in the true 
taste of knight-errantry ; and in one respect it is so. We may imagine, how- 
ever, that the ship is wind-bound, and that he meant to return to it on change 
of weather. The Caledonian Forest, it is to be observed, is close at hand. 


most part, they remained in as much obscurity as the spots in 
which they occurred. It would be more becoming his valour, 
they thought, to exert itself where it would not be hidden ; and 
they concluded with telling him of one of the noblest chances for 
renown that ever awaited a sword. The daughter of their king 
was in need of a defender against a certain baron of the name of 
Lurcanio, who sought to deprive her both of life and reputation. 
He accused her of having been found in the arms of a lover with- 
out the license of the priest ; which, by the laws of Scotland, was 
a crime only to be expiated at the stake, unless a champion could 
be found to disprove the charge before the end of a month. Un- 
fortunately the month had nearly expired, and no champion yet 
made his appearance, though the king had promised his daughter's 
hand to anybody of noble blood who should establish her inno- 
cence ; and the saddest part of the thing was, that she was ac- 
counted innocent by all the world, and a very pattern of modesty. 

While this horrible story was being told him, the Paladin fell 
into a profound state of thought. After remaining silent for a lit- 
tle while, at the close of it he looked up, and said, " A lady then, 
it seems, is condemned to death for having been too kind to one 
lover, while thousands of our sex are playing the gallant with 
whomsoever they please, and not only go unpunished for it, but 
are admired ! Perish such infamous injustice ! The man was a 
madman who made such a law, and they are little better who 
maintain it. I hope in God to be able to shew them their error." 

The good monks agreed, that their ancestors were very un- 
wise to make such a law, and kings very wrong who could, but 
would not, put an end to it. So, when the morning came, they 
speeded their guest on his noble purpose of fighting in the lady's 
behalf A guide from the abbey took him a short cut through 
the forest towards the place where the matter was to be decided ; 
but, before they arrived, they heard cries of distress in a dark 
quarter of the forest, and, turning their horses thither to see what 
it was, they observed a damsel between two vagabonds, who were 
standing over her with drawn swojds. The moment the wretches 
saw the new comer, they fled ; and Rinaldo, after re-assuring the 
damsel, and requesting to know what had brought her to a pass 
so dreadful, made his guide take her up on his horse behuid him, 


in order that they might lose no more time. The damsel, who 
was very beautiful, could not speak at first, for the horror of 
what she had expected to undergo ; but, on Rinaldo's repeating 
his request, she at length found words, and, in a voice of frreat 
humility, began to relate her story. 

But before she begins, the poet interferes with an impatient re- 
mark. — " Of all the creatures in existence," cries he, " whether 
they be tame or wild, whether they are in a state of peace or of 
war, man is the only one that lays violent hands on the female of 
his species. The bear otfers no injury to his ; the lioness is safe 
by the side of the lion ; the heifer has no fear of the horns of 
the bull. What pest of abomination, what fury from hell, has 
come to disturb, in this respect, the bosom of human kind ? Hus- 
band and wife deafen one another with injurious speeches, tear 
one another's faces, bathe the genial bed with tears, nay, some- 
times with bloodshed. In my eyes the man who can allow him- 
self to give a blow to a woman, or to hurt even a hair of her 
head, is a violater of nature, and a rebel against God ; but to 
poison her, to strangle her, to take the soul out of her body with 
a knife, — he that can do that, never will I believe him to be a 
man at all, but a fiend out of hell with a man's face."* 

Such must have been the two villains who fled at the sight of 
Rinaldo, and who had brought the woman into this dark spot to 
stifle her testimony for ever. 

But to return to what she was going to say. — 

" You are to know, sir," she began, " that I have been from 
my childhood in the service of the king's daughter, the princess 
Ginevra. I grew up with her ; I was held in lionour, and I led 

* All honour and glor}^ to the manly and loving poet ! 

'■ Lavezzuola," says Panizzi, "doubts the conjugal concord of beasts, more 
particularly of bears. ' Ho letto presso degno autore un orso aver cavato im 
occhio ad un orsa con la zampa.' (I have read in an author worthy of credit, 
that a bear once deprived a she-bear of an eye with a blow of his paw.) The 
reader may choose between Ariosto and this nameless author, which of them is 
to be believed. I, of course, am for my poet." — Vol. i. p. 84. I am afraid, 
however, that Lavezzuola is right. Even turtle-doves are said not to be always 
the models of tenderness they are supposed to be. Brutes have even devoured 
their offspring. The violence is most probably owing (at least in excessive 
cases) to some unnatural condition of circumstances. 


a happy life, till it pleased the cruel passion of love to envy me 
my condition, and make me think that there was no being on 
earth to be compared to the Duke of Albany. He pretended to 
love me so much, that, in return, I loved him with all my heart. 
Unable, by degrees, to refuse him anything, I let him into the 
palace at night, nay, into the room which of all others the prin- 
cess regarded as most exclusively her own ; for there she kept 
her jewels, and there she was accustomed to sleep during inclem- 
ent states of the weather. It communicated with the other 
sleeping-room by a covered gallery, which looked out to some 
lonely ruins ; and nobody ever passed that way, day or night. 

" Our intercourse continued for several months ; and, finding 
that I placed all my happiness in obliging him, he ventured to 
disclose to me one day a design he had upon the princess's hand ; 
nay, did not blush to ask my assistance in furthering it. Judge 
how I set his wishes above my own, when I confess that I under- 
took to do so. It is true, his rank was nearer to the princess's 
than to mine ; and he pretended that he sought the alliance mere- 
ly on that account ; protesting that he should love me more than 
ever, and that Ginevra would be little better than his wife in 
name. But, God knows, I did it wholly out of the excess of my 
desire to please him. 

"Day and night I exerted all my endeavours to recommend 
him to the princess. Heaven is my witness that I did it in real 
earnest, however wrong it was. But my labour was to no pur- 
pose, for she was in love herself. She returned in all its warmth 
the passion of a most accomplished and valiant gentleman, who 
had come into Scotland with a younger brother from Italy, and 
who had made himself such a favourite with every body, my 
lover included, that the king himself had bestowed on him titles 
and estates, and put him on a footing with the greatest lords of 
the land. 

" Unfortunately, the princess not only turned a deaf ear to all 
I said in the duke's favour, but grew to dislike him in proportion 
to my recommendation ; so that, finding there was no likelihood 
of his success, his own love was secretly turned into hate and 
rage. He studied, little as I dreamt he could be so base, how he 
could best destroy her prospect of happiness. He resorted, for 


this purpose, to a most crafty expedient, which I, poor fool, took 
for nothing but what he feigned it to be. He pretended that a 
wiiini had come into his head for seeming to prosper in his suit, 
out of a kind of revenge for his not being able to do so in reality ; 
and, in order to indulge this whim, he requested me to dress my- 
self in the identical clothes which the princess put otV when she 
went to bed that night, and then to appear in them at my usual 
post in tiie balcony, and so let down the ladder as though I were 
her very self, and receive him into my arms. 

'• I did all that he desired, mad fool that I was ; and out of the 
part which I played has come all this mischief. I have intimated 
to you that the duke and Ariodante (for such was the other's 
name) had been good friends before Ginevra preferred him to 
mv false lover. Pretendinfr therefore to be still his friend, and 
entering on the subject of a passion which he said he had long en- 
tertained for her, he expressed his wonder at finding it interfered 
with by so noble a gentleman, especially as it was returned by 
the princess with a fervour of which the other, if he pleased, 
might have ocular testimony. 

" Greatly astonished at this news was Ariodante. He had re- 
ceived all the proofs of his mistress's affection which it was pos- 
sible for chaste love to bestow, and with the greatest scorn re- 
fused to believe it ; but as the duke, with the air of a man who 
could not help the melancholy communication, quietly persisted 
in his story, the unhappy lover found himself compelled, at any 
rate, to let him afford those proofs of her infidelity which he as- 
serted to be in his power. The consequence was, that Ariodante 
came with his brother to the ruins I spoke of; and there the two 
were posted on the night when I played my unhappy part in the 
balcony. He brought Lurcanio with him (that was the brother's 
name), because he suspected that the duke had a design on his 
life, not conceiving what he alleged against Ginevra to be possible. 
Lurcanio, however, was not in the secret of his brother's engage- 
ment with the princess. It had been disclosed hitherto neither 
to him nor to any one, the lady not yet having chosen to divulge 
it to the king himself. Ariodante, therefore, requested his brother 
to take his station at a little distance, out of sight of the palace, 


and not to come to him unless he should call : ' otherwise, my 
dear brother/ concluded he, ' stir not a step, if you love me.' 

" ' Doubt me not,' said Lurcanio ; and, with these words, the 
latter entrenched himself in his post. 

" Ariodante now stood by himself, gazing at the balcony, — the 
only person visible at that moment in all the place. In a few 
minutes the Duke of Albany appeared below it, making the sig- 
nal to which I had been accustomed ; and then I, in my horrible 
folly, became visible to the eyes of both, and let down the ladder. 

'' Meantime Lurcanio, beginning to be very uneasy at the mys- 
terious situation in which he found himself, and to have the most 
alarming fears for his brother, had cautiously picked his way 
after him at a little distance ; so that he also, though still hidden 
in the shade of the lonely houses, perceived all that was going on. 

" I was dressed, as I had undertaken to be, in the identical 
clothes which the princess had put off that night ; and as I was 
not unlike her in air and figure, and wore the golden net with 
red tassels peculiar to ladies of the royal family, and the two 
brothers, besides, were at quite sufficient distance to be deceived, 
I was taken by both of them for her very self. The duke impa- 
tiently mounted the ladder ; I received him as impatiently in my 
arms ; and circumstances, though from very different feelings, 
rendered the caresses that passed between us of unusual ardour. 

" You may imagine the grief of Ariodante. It rose at once to 
despair. He did not call out ; so that, had not his brother followed 
him, still worse would have ensued than did ; for he drew his 
sword, and was proceeding in distraction to fall upon it, when 
Lurcanio rushed in and stopped him. 'Miserable brother!' ex- 
claimed he, ' are you mad ? Would you die for a woman like 
this ? You see what a wretch she is. I discern all your case 
at once, and, thank God, have preserved you to turn your sword 
where it ought to be turned, against the defender of such a pat- 
tern of infamy." 

" Ariodante put up his sword, and suffered himself to be led 
away by his brother. He even pretended, in a little while, to be 
able to review his condition calmly, but not the less had he se- 
cretly resolved to perish. Next day he disappeared, nobody 
knew whither ; and about eight days afterwards, news was se- 


cretly brought to Ginevra, by a pilgrim, tliat he had thrown liim- 
self from a headland into the sea. 

" ' I met him by chance,' said the pilgrim, ' and we happened 
to be standing on the top of the headland, conversing, when he 
cried out to me, ' Relate to the princess what you beheld on part- 
ing from me ; and add, that the cause of it was my having seen 
too much. Happy had it been for me had I been blind!' And 
with these words,' concluded the pilgrim, ' he leaped into the sea 
below, and was instantly buried beneath it.' 

" The princess turned as pale as death at this story, and for a 
while remained stupitied. But, alas ! what a scene was it my 
I fate to witness, when she found herself in her chamber at night, 
able to give way to her misery. She tore her clothes, and her 
very flesh, and her beautiful hair, and kept repeating the last 
words of her lover with amazement and despair. 

The disappearance of Ariodante, and a rumour which trans- 
pired of his having slain himself on account of some hidden an- 
guish, surprised and afllicted the whole court. But his brother 
Lurcanio evinced more and more his impatience at it, and let 
fall the most terrible words. At length he entered the court when 
the king was holding one of his fullest assemblies, and laid open, 
as he thought, the whole matter ; setting forth how his unhappy 
brother had secretly, but honourably, loved the princess ; how 
she had professed to love him in return ; and how she had grossly 
deceived him, and played him impudently false before his own 
eyes. He concluded with calling upon her unknown paramour 
to come forth, and shew reasons against him with his sword why 
she ought not to die. 

*' I need not tell you what the king suffered at hearing this 
'strange and terrible recital. He lost no time in sharply investi- 
gating the truth of the allegation ; and for this purpose, among 
other proceedings, he sent for the ladies of his daughter's cham- 
ber. You may judge, sir, — especially as, I blush to say it, I still 
loved the Duke of Albany, — that I could not await an examina- 
tion like that. I hastened to meet the duke, who was as anxious 
to get me out of the way as I was to go ; and to this end profess- 
ing the greatest zeal for my security, he commissioned two men 

to convey me secretly to a fortress he possessed in this forest. 



"Tis at no great distance from the place where Heaven sent you 
to my deliverance. You saw, sir, how little those wretches in- 
tended to take me anywhere except to my grave ; and by this 
you may judge of the agonies and shame I have endured in know- 
ing what a dupe I have been to one of the crudest of men. But 
thus it is that Love treats his most faithful servants." 

The damsel here concluded her story ; and the Paladin, re- 
joicing at having become possessed of all that was required to 
establish the falsehood of the duke, proceeded with her on his road 
to St. Andrews, where the lists had been set up for the determi- 
nation of the question. The king and his court were anxiously 
praying at that instant for the arrival of some champion to fight 
with the dreaded Lurcanio ; for the month, as I have stated, was 
nearly expired, and this terrible brother appeared to have the bu- 
siness all his own way ; so that the stake was soon to be looked 
for at which the hapless Ginevra was to die. 

Fast and eagerly the Paladin rode for St. Andrews, with his 
squire and the trembling damsel, who was now agitated for new 
reasons, though the knight gave her assurances of his protection. 
They were not far from the city when they found people talking 
of a champion who had certainly arrived, but whose name 
was unknown, and his face constantly concealed by his visor. 
Even his own squire, it seems, did not know him ; for the man had 
but lately been taken into his service. Rinaldo, as soon as he 
entered the city, left the damsel in a place of security, and then 
spurred his horse to the scene of action, when he found the accu- 
ser and the champion in the very midst of the fight. The Pala- 
din, whose horse, notwithstanding the noise of the combat, had 
been heard coming like a tempest, and whose sudden and heroical 
appearance turned all eyes towards him, rode straight to the royal 
canopy, and, begging the king to stop the combat, disclosed the 
whole state of the matter, to the enchantment of all present, ex- 
cept the Duke of Albany ; for the villain himself was on horse- 
back there in state as grand constable, and had been feasting his 
miserable soul with the hope of seeing Ginevra condemned. The 
combatants were soon changed. Instead of Lurcanio and the un- 
known champion (whom the new comer had taken care to extol 
for his generosity), it was the Paladin and the Duke that were op- 


posed, and horribly did the latter's lieart fail him. But he had 
no remedy. Fight he must. Rinaldo, desirous to make short 
work of him, took his station with fierce delight ; and at the tliird 
sound of the trumpets, the Duke was forced to couch his spear 
and meet him at full charge. Sheer went the Paladin's ashen 
start' throujTh the false bosom, sendinij the villain to the earth eiirht 
feet beyond the saddle. The conqueror dismounted instantly, and 
unlacing the man's helmet, enabled the king' to hear his dying 
confession, which he had hardly finished when life forsook him. 
Rinaldo then took off his own helmet ; and the king, who had seen 
the great Paladin before, and who felt more rejoiced at his daugh- 
ter's deliverance than if he had lost and regained his crown, lifted 
up his hands to heaven, and thanked God for having honoured her 
innocence with so illustrious a defender. 

The other champion, who, in the mean time, had been looking 
on through the eyelets of his visor, was now entreated to disclose 
his own face. He did so with peculiar emotion, and king and all 
recognised with transport the face of the loved, and, as it was 
supposed, lost Ariodante, The pilgrim, however, had told no 
falsehood. The lover had indeed thrown himself into the sea, and 
disappeared from the man's eyes ; but (as oftener happens than 
people suppose) the death which was desired when not present 
became hated when it was so ; and Ariodante, lover as he was, 
rising at a little distance, struck out lustily for the shore, and 
reached it.* He felt even a secret contempt for his attempt to 
kill himself; yet putting up at an hermitage, became interested 
in the reports concerning the princess, whose sorrow flattered, and 
whose danger, though lie could not cease to think her guilty, af- 
flicted him. He grew exasperated with the very brother he loved, 
when he found that Lurcanio pursued her thus to the death ; and 
on all these accounts he made his appearance at the place of com- 
bat to fight him, though not to slay. His purpose was to seek his 
own death. He concluded that Ginevra would then see who it 
was that had really loved her, while his brother would mourn the 
rashness which made him pursue the destruction of a woman. 

* Tills is quite in Ariosto's high and bold taste for truth under all circumstan- 
ces. A less great and unraisgiving poet would have had the lover picked up by 
a fisherman. 


" Guilty she is," thought he, " but no such guilt can deserve so 
cruel a punishment. Besides, I could not bear that she should 
die before me. She is still the woman I love, still the idol of my 
thoughts. Right or wrong, I must die in her behalf." 

With this intention he purchased a suit of black armour, and 
obtained a squire unknown in those parts, and so made his ap- 
pearance in the lists. What ensued there I need not repeat ; but 
the king was so charmed with the issue of the whole business, 
with the resuscitation of the favourite whom he thought dead, and 
the restoration of the more than life of his beloved daughter, that, 
to the joy of all Scotland, and at the special instance of the great 
Paladin, he made the two lovers happy without delay ; and the 
bride brought her husband for dowry the title and estates of the 
man who had wronged him. 



It is impossible to conceive a nobler thing in the world than a 
just prince — a thoroughly good man, who shuns no part of the 
burden of his duty, though it bend him double ; who loves and 
cares for his people as a father does for his children, and who is 
almost incessantly occupied in their welfare, very seldom for his 

Such a man puts himself in front of dangers and difficulties in 
order that he may be a shield to others ; for he is not a merce- 
nary, taking care of none but himself when he sees the wolf 
coming ; he is the right good shepherd, staking his own life in 
that of his flock, and knowing the faces of every one of them, 
just as they do his own. 

Such princes, in times of old, were Saturn, Hercules, Jupiter, 
and others — men who reigned gently, yet firmly, equal to all 
chances that came, and worthy of the divine honours that awaited 
them. For mankind could not believe that they quitted the world 

* This daring and grand apologue is not in the Purioso, but in a poem which 
Ariosto loft unlinished, and which goes under the name of the Five Cantos. 
The fragment, though bearing marks of want of correction, is in some re- 
spects a beautiful, and altogether a curious one, especially as it seems to have 
been written after the Furioso ; for it touclies in a remarkable manner on sev- 
eral points of morals and politics, and contains on extravagance wilder than 
any tiling iii Puici, — a whale inhabited by knights ! It was most hkcly for 
these reasons that his friend Bembo and others advised him to suppress it. 
Was it written in his youth 1 The apologue itself is not one of the least 
daring attacks on the Borgias and such scoundrels, who had just then afflicted 

Did Ariosto, by the way, omit jVIacchiavelli in his list of the friends who 
hailed the close of his great poem, from not knowing what to make of his book 
entitled the Prince ? It has perplexed all the world to this day, and is not un- 
likely to have made a particularly unpleasant impression on a mind at once so 
candid and humane as Ariosto's. 


in the same way as other men. They thought they must be 
taken up into heaven to be the lords of demigods. 

When the prince is good, the subjects are good, for they always 
imitate their masters ; or at least, if the subjects cannot attain to 
this height of virtue, they at least are not as bad as they would 
be otherwise ; and, at all events, public decency is observed. 
Oh, blessed kingdoms that are governed by such hearts ! and oh, 
most miserable ones that are at the mercy of a man without jus- 
tice, a fellow-creature without feelings ! 

Our Italy is full of such, who will have their reward from the 
pens of posterity. Greater wretches never appeared in the shapes 
of Neros and Caligulas, or any other such monsters, let them 
have been who they might. I enter not into particulars ; for it 
is always better to speak of the dead than the living ; but I must 
say, that Agrigentum never fared worse under Phalaris, nor 
Syracuse under Dionysius, nor Thebes in the hand of the bloody 
tyrant Eteocles, even though all those wretches were villains by 
whose orders every day, without fault, without even charge, men 
were sent by dozens to the scaffold or into hopeless exile. 

But they are not without torments of their own. At the core 
of their own hearts there stands an inflicter of no less agonies. 
There he stands every day and every moment — one who was 
born of the same mother with Wrath, and Cruelty, and Rapine, 
and who never ceased tormenting his infant brethren before they 
saw the light. His name is Suspicion.* 

Yes, Suspicion ; — the crudest visitation, the worst evil spirit 
and pest that ever haunted with its poisonous whisper the mind of 
human being. This is their tormentor by excellence. He does 
not trouble the poor and lowly. He agonises the brain in the 
proud heads of those whom fortune has put over the heads of their 
fellow-creatures. Well may the man hug himself on his free- 
dom who fears nobody because nobody hates him. Tyrants are 

♦ A tremendous fancy this last ! 

" Sta lor la pena, de la qual dicea 

Che nacque quando la brutt' Ira nacque, 

La Crudeltade, e la Rapina rea ; 
E quantunque in un ventre con lor giacque, 

Di tormentarle raai non rinianea." 


in perpetual tear. They never cease thinking of the mortal re- 
venge taken upon tormentors of their species openly or in secret. 
The fear wliich all men feel of the one single wretch, makes tiie 
single wretch afraid of every soul among them. 

Hear a story of one of these miserables, which, wliatever you 
may think of it, is true to the letter ; such letter, at all events, as 
is written upon the hearts of his race. He was one of the first 
who took to the custom of wearing beards ; for, great as he was, 
he had a fear of the race of barbers ! He built a tower in his 
palace, guarded by deep ditches and thick walls. It had but one 
drawbridge and one bay-window. There was no other opening ; 
so that the very light of day had scarcely -admittance, or the in- 
mates a place to breathe at. In this tower he slept ; and it was 
his wife's business to put a ladder down for him when he came 
in. A dog kept watch at the drawbridge ; and except the dog 
and the wife, not a soul was to be discerned about the place. 
Yet he had such little trust in her, that he always sent spies to 
look about the room before he withdrew for the night. 

Of what use was it all ? The woman herself killed him with 
his own sword, and his soul went straight to hell. 

Rhadamanthus, the judge there, thrust him under the boiling 
lake, but was astonished to find that he betrayed no symptoms of 
anguish. He did not weep and howl as the rest did, or cry out, 
" I burn, I burn !" He evinced so little suffering, that Rhada- 
manthus said, " I must put this fellow into other quarters." Ac- 
cordingly, he sent him into the lowest pit, where the torments are 
bevond all others. 

Nevertheless, even here he seemed to be under no distress. 
At length they asked him the reason. The wretch then candidly 
acknowledged, that hell itself had no torments for him, compared 
with those which suspicion had given him on earth. 

The safjcs of hell laid their heads together at this news. 
Amelioration of his lot on the part of a sinner was not to be 
thought of in a place of eternal punishment ; so they called a 
parliament together, the result of which was an unanimous con- 
clusion, that the man should be sent back to earth, and consigned 
to the torments of suspicion for ever. 

He went ; and the earthly fiend re-entered his being anew with 


a subtlety so incorporate, that their two natures were identified, 
and he became Suspicion itself. Fruits are thus engrafted on 
wild stocks. One colour thus becomes the parent of many, 
when the painter takes a portion of this and of that from his 
palette in order to imitate flesh. 

The new being took up his abode on a rock by the sea-shore, a 
thousand feet high, girt all about with mouldering crags, which 
threatened every instant to fall. It had a fortress on the top, the 
approach to which was by seven drawbridges, and seven gates, 
each locked up more strongly than the other ; and here, now this 
moment, constantly thinking Death is upon him. Suspicion lives 
in everlasting terror. He is alone. He is ever watching. He 
cries out from the battlements, to see that the guards are awake 
below, and never does he sleep day or night. He wears mail 
upon mail, and mail again, and feels the less safe the more he puts 
oh ; and is always altering and strengthening everything on gate, 
and on barricade, and on ditch, and on wall. And do whatever 
he will, he never seems to have done enough. 

Great poet, and good man, Ariosto ! your terrors are better than Dante's ; for 
they warn, as far as warning can do good, and they neither afflict humanity 
nor degrade God. 

Spenser has imitated this subUme piece of pleasantry ; for, by a curious inter- 
mixture of all which the mind can experience from such a fiction, pleasant it is 
in the midst of its sublimity, — laughable with satirical archness, as well as grand 
and terrible in the climax. The transformation in Spenser is from a jealous 
man mto Jealousy. His wife has gone to live with the Satyrs, and a villain 
has stolen his money. The husband, in order to persuade his wife to return, 
steals into the horde of the Satyrs, by mixing with their flock of goats, — as 
Norandino does in a passage imitated from Homer by Ariosto. The wife flatly 
refuses to do any such thing, and the poor wretck is obliged to steal out again. 

" So soon as he the prison-door did pass. 
He ran as fast as both his feet could bear, 
And never looked who behind him was, 
Nor scarcely who before. Like as a bear 
That creeping close among the hives, to rear 
An honeycomb, the wakeful dogs espy, 
And him assailing, sore his carcass tear, 
" That hardly he away with life does fly, 

Nor stays till safe himself he see from jeopardy. 


Nor stay'd he till he came unto the place 
Where late his treasure he entombed had ; 
Where, when he found it not (for Troinpart hase 
Had it purloined for his master bad), 
With extreme fury he became quite mad, 
And ran away — ran with himself away ; 
That who so strangely had him seen bestad, 
With upstart hair and staring eyes' dismay, 
From Limbo-lake him late escaped sure would say. 

High over hills and over dales he fled, 
As if the wind him on his wings had borne ; 
Nor bank nor bush could stay him, when he sped 
His nimble feet, as treading still on thorn ; 
Grief and Despite, and Jealousy, and Scorn, 
Did all the way him follow hard behind ; 
And he himself himself loath'd so forlorn, 
So shamefully forlorn of womankind. 
That, as a snake, still lurkfed in liis wounded mind. 

Still fled he forward, looking backward still ; 
Nor stay'd his flight nor fearful agony 
Till that he came unto a rocky hill 
Over the sea suspended dreadfully, 
That living creature it would terrify 
To look a-down, or upward to the height : 
From thence he threw himself dispiteously, 
All desperate of his fore-damnfed spright, 
That seem'd no help for him was lefl in living sight. 

But through long anoruish and self-murd'ring thought, 
He was so wasted and forpinfed quite, 
That all his substance was consumed to nought. 
And nothing left but like an airy sprite ; 
That on the rocks he fell so flit and light. 
That he thereby received no hurt at all ; 
But chancfed on a craggy clitT to light ; 
Whence he with crooked claws so long did crawl, 
That at the last he found a cave with entrance small. 

Into the same he creeps, and thenceforth there 
Resolved to build. his baleful mansion. 
In dreary darkness, and continual fear 
Of that rock's fall, which ever and anon 
Threats with huge ruin hiiu to f.dl upon, 
That he dare never sleep, but that one eye 
Still ope he keeps for that occasion j 


Nor ever rests he in tranquillity, 
The roaring billows beat his bower so boisterously. 

Nor ever is he wont on aught to feed 
But toads and frogs, his pasture poisonous, 
Which in his cold complexion do breed 
A filthy blood, or humour rancorous, 
Matter of doubt and dread suspicious, 
That doth with cureless care consume the heart, 
Corrupts the stomach with gall vicious, 
Cross-cuts the liver with internal smart, 
And doth transfix the soul with death's eternal dart. 

Yet can he never die, but dying lives, 
And doth himself with sorrow new sustain. 
That death and life at once unto him gives, 
And painful pleasure turns to pleasing pain ; 
There dwells he ever, miserable swain. 
Hateful both to himself and every wight ; 
Where he, through privy grief and horror vain, 
Is waxen so deformed, that he has quite 
Forgot he was a man, and Jealousy is hight." 

Spenser's picture is more subtly wrought and imaginative than Ariosto's; 
but it removes the man farther from ourselves, except under very special circum- 
stances. Indeed, it might be taken rather for a picture of hypochondria than 
jealousy, and under that aspect is very appalling. But nothing, under more 
obvious circumstances, comes so dreadfully home to us as Ariosto's poor wretch 
feeling himself " the less safe the more he puts on," and calling out dismally 
from his tower, a thousand feet high, to the watchers and warders below to see 
that all is secure. 



RoDOMONT, King of Algiers, was the fiercest of all the enemies 
of Christendom, not out of love for iiis own fiiith (for he had no 
piety), but out of hatred to those that opposed him. He had now 
quarrelled, however, with his friends too. He had been rejected 
by a lady, in favour of the Tartar king, Mandricardo, and mor- 
tified by the publicity of the rejection before his own lord para- 
mount, Agraniante, the leader of the infidel armies. He could 
not bear the rejection ; he could not bear tlie sanction of it by 
his liege lord ; he resolved to quit the scene of warfare and re- 
turn to Africa ; and, in the course of his journey thither, he had 
come into the south of France, where, observing a sequestered 
spot that suited his humour, he changed his mind as to going 
home, and persuaded himself he could live in it for the rest of his 
life. He accordingly took up his abode with his attendants in a 
chapel, which had been deserted by its clergy during the rage 
of war. 

This vehement personage was standing one morning at the 
door of the chapel in a state of unusual thoughtfulness, when he 
beheld coming towards him, through a path in the green meadow 
before it, a lady of a lovely aspect, accompanied by a bearded 
monk. They were followed by something covered with black, 
which they were bringing along on a great horse. 

Alas ! the lady was the widow of Zerbino, the Scottish prmce, 

* The ingenious martyrdom in lliis story, wliich has been told by other wri- 
ters of fiction, is taken from an alleged fact related in Barbaro's treatise De He 
Uxoria. It is said, indeed, to have been actually resorted to more than once ; 
and possibly may have been so, even from a knowledge of it ; for what is more 
natural with heroical minds than that the like outrages should produce the like 
virtues ? But the colouring of Ariosto's narration is peculiarly his own ; and 
his apostrophe at the close beautiful. 


who spared the life of Medoro, and who now himself lay dead 
under that pall. He had expired in her arms from wounds in- 
flicted during a combat with Mandricardo ; and she had been 
thrown by the loss into such anguish of mind that she would 
have died on his sword but for the intervention of the hermit now 
with her, who persuaded her to devote the rest of her days to 
God in a nunnery. She had now come into Provence with the 
good man for that purpose, and to bury the corpse of her husband 
in the chapel which they were approaching. 

Though the lady seemed lost in grief, and was very pale, and 
had her hair all about the ears, and though she did nothing but 
weep and lament, and looked in all respects quite borne down 
with her misery, nevertheless she was still so beautiful that love 
and grace appeared to be indestructible in her aspect. The mo- 
ment the Saracen beheld her, he dismissed from his mind all the 
determinations he had made to hate and detest 

The gentle bevy, that adorns the world. 

He was bent solely on obtaining the new angel before him. She 
seemed precisely the sort of person to make him forget the one 
that had rejected him. Advancing, therefore, to meet her with- 
out delay, he begged, in as gentle a manner as he could assume, 
to know the cause of her sorrow. 

The lady, with all the candour of wretchedness, explained 
who she was, and how precious a burden she was conveying to 
its last home, and the resolution she had taken to withdraw from 
a vain world into the service of God. The proud pagan, who 
had no belief in a God, much less any respect for restraints or 
fidelities of what kind soever, forgot his assumed gravity when 
he heard this determination, and laughed outright at the simplicity 
of such a proceeding. He pronounced it, in his peremptory way, 
to be foolish and frivolous ; compared it with the miser who, in 
burying a treasure, does good neither to himself nor any one 
else : and said that lions and serpents might indeed be shut up 
in cages, but not things lovely and innocent. 

The monk, overhearing these observations, thought it his duty 
to interfere. He calmly opposed all which the other asserted, 


and then proceeded to set forth a repast of spiritual consolation 
not at all to the Saracen's taste. The fierce warrior interrupted 
the preacher several times ; told him that he had notiiin«r to do 
"svith the lady, and that the sooner he returned to his cell the bet- 
ter ; but the hermit, nothing daunted, went on with his advice 
till his antagonist lost all .patience. He laid hands on his sacred 
person ; seized him by the beard ; tore away as much of it as he 
grasped ; and at length worked himself up into such a pitch of 
fury, that he griped the good man's throat with all the force of a 
pair of pincers, and, swinging him twice or thrice round, as one 
might a doij, flung him olf the headland into the sea. 

What became of the poor creature I cannot say. Reports arc 
various. Some tell us that he was found on the rocks, dashed all 
to pieces, so that you could not distinguish foot from head ; others, 
that he fell into the sea at the distance of three miles, and perish- 
ed in consequence of not knowing how to swim, in spite of the 
prayers and tears that he addressed to Heaven ; others again af- 
firm, that a saint came and assisted him, and drew him to shore 
before people's eyes. I must leave the reader to adopt which of 
these accounts he looks upon as the most probable. 

The Pagan, as soon as he had thus disposed of the garrulous 
hermit, turned towards Isabella (for that was the lady's name), 
and with a face somewhat less disturbed, began to talk to her in 
the common language of gallantry, protesting that she was his 
life and soul, and that he should not know what to do without 
her ; for the sweetness of her appearance mollified even him ; 
and indeed, with all his violence, he would rather have possessed 
her by fair means than by foul. He therefore flattered himself 
that, by a little hypocritical attention, he should dispose her to 
return his inclinations. 

On the other hand, the poor disconsolate creature, who, in a coun- 
try unknown to her, and a place so remote from help, felt like a 
mouse in the cat's claws, began casting in her mind by what possi- 
ble contrivance she could escape from such a wretch with honour. 
She had made up her mind to perish by her own hand, rather than 
be faithless, however unwillingly, to the dear husband that had 
died in her arms : but the question was, how she could protect her- 
self from the pagan's violence, before she had secured the means 

PART in. 3 


of so doing ; for his manner was becoming very impatient, am 
his speeches every moment less and less civil. 

At length an expedient occurred to her. She told him, that ii 
he would promise to respect her virtue, she would put him ii 
possession of a secret that would redound far more to his honou 
and glory, than any wrong which he could inflict on the innocent 
She conjured him not to throw away the satisfaction he wouh 
experience all the rest of his life from the consciousness of havinc 
done right, for the sake of injuring one unliappy creature. " Ther( 
were thousands of her sex," she observed, " with cheerful as wel 
as beautiful faces, who might rejoice in his aiFection ; whereas 
the secret she spoke of was known to scarcely a soul on eartl 
but herself." 

She then told him the secret ; which consisted in the prepara. 
tion of a certain herb boiled with ivy and rue over a fire of cypress- 
wood, and squeezed into a cup by hands that had never dont 
haian. The juice thus obtained, if applied fresh every month 
had the virtue of rendering bodies invulnerable. Isabella saic 
she had seen the herb in the neighbourhood, as she came along 
and that she would not only make the preparation forthwith, bu^ 
let its effects be proved on her own person. She only stipulated 
that the receiver of the gift should swear not to offend her puritj 
in deed or word. 

The fierce infidel took the oath immediately. It delighted hiii 
to think that he should be enabled to have his fill of war anc 
slaughter for nothing ; and the oath was the more easy to him, 
inasmuch as he had no intention of keeping it. 

The poor Isabella went into the fields to look for her miracu- 
lous herb, still, however, attended by the Saracen, who woulc 
not let her go out of his sight. She soon found it ; and thee 
going with him into his house, passed the rest of the day and the 
whole night in preparing the mixture with busy solemnity, — Ro- 
domont always remaining with her. 

The room became so hot and close with the fire of cypress- 
wood, that the Saracen, contrary to his lav/ and indeed to his habits, 
indulged himself in drinking ; and the consequence was, that, as 
soon as it was morning, Isabella lost no time in proving to him 
the success of her operations. " Now," she said, " you shall be 


convinced liow mncli in earnest I have been. You shall see all 
the virtue of this blessed preparation. I have only to bathe my- 
self thus, over the head and neck, and if you then strike nie with 
all your force, as though you intended to cut otFmy head, — which 
you must do in good earnest, — you will see tiic wonderful re- 

With a glad and rejoicing countenance the paragon of virtue 
held forth her neck to the sword ; and the bestial pagim, giving 
way to his natural violence, and heated perhaps beyond all 
thought of a suspicion with his wine, dealt it so fierce a blow, that 
the head leaped from the shoulders. 

Thrice it bounded on the ground where it fell, and a clear 
voice was heard to come out of it, calling the name of " Zerbino," 
doubtless in joy of the rare way which its owner had found of 
escaping from the Saracen. 

O blessed soul, that heldest thy virtue and thy fidelity dearer 
to thee than life and youth ! go in peace, thou soul blessed and 
beautiful. If any words of mine could have force in them suffi- 
cient to endure so long, hard would I labour to give them all the 
worthiness that art can bestow, so that the world might rejoice in 
tliy name for thousands and thousands of years. Go in peace, 
and take thy seat in the skies, and be an example to womankind 
of faith beyond all weakness. 


Critical Notice of l)is £ife anb (Scnitxs. 




The romantic poetry of Italy having risen to its highest and 
apparently its most lawless pitch in the Orlando Furioso, a re- 
action took place in the next age in the Jerusalem Delivered. It 
did not hurt, however, the popularity of Ariosto. It only in- 
creased the number of poetic readers ; and under the auspices, 

* My authorities for this notice are, Black's Life of Tasso (2 vols. 4to, 1810), 
his original, Serassi, Vita di Tarquato Tasso (do. 1790), and the works of the 
poet in the Pisan edition of Professor Rosini (33 vols. 8vo, 1832). I have been 
indebted to nothing in Black which I have not ascertained by reference to the 
Italian biographer, and quoted notliing stated by Tasso himself but from the 
works. Black's Life, which is a free version of Serassi's, modified by the 
translator's own opinions and criticism, is elegant, industrious, and interesting. 
Serassi's was the first copious biography of the poet founded on original docu- 
ments ; and it deserved to be translated by Mr. Black, though servile to the 
house of Este, and, as might be expected, far from being always ingenuous. 
Among other instances of tliis v^Titer's want of candour is the fact of his having 
been the discoverer and suppresser of the manuscript review of Tasso by Gali- 
leo. The best sxmimary account of the poet's life and writings which I have 
met with is Gingu^ne's, in the fifth volume of his Histoirc Ldtteraire, &c. It 
is written with liis usual grace, vivacity, and acuteness, and contains a good 
notice of the Tasso controversy. As to the Pisan edition of the works, it is 
the completest, I believe, in point of contents ever pubhshed, comprises all the 
controversial criticism, and is, of course, very useful ; but it contains no life 
except Manso's (now known to be very inconclusive), has got a heap of feeble 
variorum comments on the Jerusalem, no notes worth speaking of to the rest 
of the works, and notwithstanding the claim in the title-page to the merit of a 
" better order," has left the correspondence in a deplorable state of irregularity, 
as well as totally without elucidation. The learned Professor is an agreeable wri- 
ter, and, I believe, a very pleasant man, but he certainly is a provoking editor. 



or rather the control, of a Luther-fearing Church, produced, if not 
as classical a work as it claimed to be, or one, in the true sense 
of the word, as catholic as its predecessor, yet certainly a far 
more Roman Catholic, and at the same time very delightful fic- 
tion. The circle of fabulous narrative was thus completed, and 
a link formed, though in a very gentle and qualified manner, both 
with Dante's theocracy and the obvious regularity of the Mneid^ 
the oldest romance of Italy. 

The author of this epic of the Crusades was of a family so no- 
ble and so widely diifusedy that, under the patronage of the em- 
perors and the Italian princes, it flourished in a very remarkable 
manner, not only in its own country, but in Flanders, Germany^ 
and Spain. There was a Tasso once in England, ambassador of 
Philip the Second ; another, like Cervantes, distinguished himself 
at the battle of Lepanto ; and a third gave rise to the sovereign 
German house of Tour and Taxis. Taxus is the Latin of Tasso« 
The Latin word, like the Italian, means both a badger and a> 
yew-tree ; and the family in general appear to have taken it in 
the former sense. The animal is in their coat of arms. But the 
poet, or his immediate relatives, preferred being more romantical- 
ly shadowed forth by the yew-tree. The parent stock of the race 
was at Bergamo in Lombardy ; and here was born the father of 
Tasso, himself a poet of celebrity, though his fame has been 
eclipsed by that of his son. 

Bernardo Tasso, author of many elegant lyrics, of some vol- 
umes of letters, not uninteresting but too florid, and of the Ama- 
digi, an epic romance now little read, was a man of small prop- 
erty, very honest and good-hearted, but restless, ambitious, and 
with a turn for expense beyond his means. He attached himself 
to various princes, with little ultimate advantage, particularly ta 
the unfortunate Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, whom he faith- 
fully served for many years. The prince had a high sense of 
his worth, and would probably have settled him in the wealth 
and honours he was qualified to adorn, but for those Spanish op- 
pressions in the history of Naples which ended in the ruin of both 
master and servant. Bernardo, however, had one happy interval 
of prosperity ; and during this, at the age of forty-six, he married 
Porzia di Rossi, a young lady of a rich and noble family, with a 


claim to a handsome dowry. He spent some delightful years 
with her at Sorrento, a spot so charming as to have been con- 
sidered the habitation of the Sirens ; and here, in the midst of liis 
orange-trees, his verses, and the breezes of an aromatic coast, he 
had three children, the eldest of whom was a daughter named 
Cornelia, and the youngest the autliorof the Jerusalem Delivered . 
The other child died young. The house distinguished by tlie 
poet's birth was restored from a dilapidated condition by order of 
Joseph Bonaparte when King of Naples, and is now an hotel. 

Torquato Tasso was born March the 11th, 1544, nine years 
after the death of Ariosto, who was intimate with his father. He 
was very devoutly brought up ; and grew so tall, and became so 
premature a scholar, that at nine, he tells us, he miglit have been 
taken for a boy of twelve. At eleven, in consequence of the 
misfortunes of his father, who had been exiled with the Prince of 
Salerno, he was forced to part from his mother, who remained at 
home to look after a dowry which she never received. Her 
brothers deprived her of it ] and in two years' time she died, 
Bernardo thought by poison. Twenty-four years afterwards her 
illustrious son, in the midst of his own misfortunes, remembered 
with sighs the tears with which the kisses of his poor mother 
were bathed when she was forced to let him go.* 

* In the beautiful fragment beginning, O del grancV Apennino : 

" Me dal sen della madre empia fortuna 
Pargoletto divelse. Ah ! di que' baci, 
Ch' clla bagnO di lagrime dolcnti, 
Con sospir mi rimembra, e degli ardenti 
Prcghi, che sen portar 1' aure fugaci, 
Ch' io giunger non dovea piii volto a volto 
Fra quelle braccia accolto 
Con nodi cosl stretti e si tcnaci. 
Lasso ! e seguii con mal sicure piante, 
Q.ual Ascanio, o Camilla, il padre errante." 

Me from my mother's bosom my hard lot 
Took when a child. Ahis ! though all these years 
I have been used to sorrow, 
I sigh to think upon the floods of tears 
Which bathed her kisses on that doleful morrow : 
I sigh to think of all the prayers and cries 
She wasted, straining me with lifted eyes; 


412 TAS SO. 

The little Torquato following, as he says, like another Ascanius, 
the footsteps of his wandering father, joined Bernardo in Rome. 
After two years' study in that city, partly under an old priest 
who lived with them, the vicissitudes of the father's lot took away 
the son first to Bergamo, among his relations, and then to Pesaro, 
in the duchy of Urbino, where his education was associated for 
nearly two years with that of the young prince, afterwards Duke 
Francesco Maria the Second (della Rovere), who retained a re- 
gard for him through life. In 1559 the boy joined his father in 
Venice, where the latter had been appointed secretary to the 
Academy 5 but next year he was withdrawn from these pleasing va- 
rieties of scene by the parental delusion so common in the history 
of men of letters — the study of the law ; which Bernardo intended 
him to pursue henceforth in the city of Padua. He accordingly 
arrived in Padua at the age of sixteen and a half, and fulfilled his 
legal destiny by writing the poem of Rinaldo, which was publish- 
ed in the course of less than two years at Venice. The goodna- 
tured and poetic father, convinced by this specimen of jurispru- 
dence how useless it was to thwart the hereditary passion, per- 
mitted him to devote himself wholly to literature, which he there- 
fore went to study in the university of Bologna ; and there, at the 
early age of nineteen, he began his Jerusalem Delivered ; that is 
to say, he planned it, and wrote three cantos, several of the stan- 
zas of which he retained when the poem was matured. He quit- 
ted Bologna, however, in a fit of indignation at being accused of 
the authorship of a satire ; and after visiting some friends at Cas- 
telvetro and Correggio, returned to Padua on the invitation of his 
friend Scipio Gonzaga, afterwards cardinal, who wished him to 
become a member of an academy he had instituted, called the 
Eterei (Ethe reals). Here he studied his favourite philosopher, 
Plato, and composed three Discourses on Heroic Poetry, dedica- 
ted to his friend. He now paid a visit to his father in Mantua, 

For never more on one another's face 

Was it our lot to gaze and to embrace ! 

Her little stumbling boy, 

Like to the child of Troy, 

Or hke to one doomed to no haven rather. 

Followed the footsteps of his wandering father. 


whore tlie unsettled man had become secretary to the duke ; and 
here, it is said, he fell in love with a young lady of a dislint^uish- 
ed family, whose name was Laura Peperara ; hut this did not 
hinder him from returning to his Paduan studios, in whicii he 
spent nearly the whole of the following year. He was tiien in- 
formed that the Cardinal of Este, to whom he had dedicated his 
Rf/ia/do, and with whom interest had been made for the i)urposc, 
had appointed him one of his attendants, and that he was expected 
at Ferrara by the 1st of December. Returning to Mantua, in 
order to prepare for this appointment with his father, he was seiz- 
ed with a dangerous illness, which detained him there nearly a 
twelvemonth longer. On his recovery he hastened to Ferrara, 
and arrived in that city on the last day of October, 1565, the first 
of many years of glory and misery. 

The cardinal of Este was the brother of the reigning Duke of 
Ferrara, Alfonso the Second, grandson of the Alfonso of Ariosto. 
It is curious to see the two most celebrated romantic poets of Italy 
thrown into unfortunate connexion with two princes of the same 
house and the same respective ranks. Tasso's cardinal, however, 
though the poet lost his favour, and though very little is known 
about him, left no such bad reputation behind him as Ippolito. It 
was in the service of the duke that the poet experienced his suf- 

This prince, who was haughty, ostentatious, and quarrelsome, 
was, at the time of the stranger's arrival, rehearsing the shows 
and tournaments intended to welcome his bride, the sister of the 
Emperor Maximilian the Second. She was his second wife. 
The first was a daughter of the rival house of Tuscany, which he 
detested ; and the marriage had not been happy. The new con- 
sort arrived in the course of a few weeks, entering the city in great 
pomp ; and for a time all went hapi)ily with the young poet. Me 
was in a state of ecstasy with the beauty and grandeur he beheld 
around him — obtained the flivourable notice of the duke's two sis- 
ters and the duke himself — went on with his Jerusalem Delivered, 
which, in spite of the presence of Ariosto's memory, he was resolv- 
ed to load with praises of the house of Este ; and in this tumult of 
pride and expectation, he beheld the duke, like one of the heroes 
of his poem, set out to assist the emperor against the Turks at the 

414 TASSO, 

head of three hundred gentlemen, armed at all points, and mantled 
in various-coloured velvets embroidered with gold. 

To complete the young poet's happiness, or commence his dis- 
appointments, he fell in love, notwithstanding the goddess he had 
left in Mantua, with the beautiful Luerezia Bendidio, who does 
not seem, however, to have loved in return ; for she became the 
wife of a Macchiavelli. Among his rivals was Guarini, who 
afterwards emulated him in pastoral poetry, and who accused him 
on this occasion of courting two ladies at once. 

Guarini's accusation has been supposed to refer to the duke's 
sister Leonora, whose name has become so romantically mixed up 
with the poet's biography ; but the latest inquiries render it prob- 
able that the allusion was to Laura Peperara.* The young poet, 
however, who had not escaped the influence of the free manners 
of Italy, and whose senses and vanity may hitherto have been 
more interested than his heart, rhymed and flattered on all sides 
of him, not of course omitting the charms of princesses. In 
order to win the admiration of the ladies in a body, he sustained 
for three days, in public, after the fashion of the times. Fifty Am,' 
oroiis Conclusions ; that is to say, affirmations on the subject of 
love ; doubtless to the equal delight of his fair auditors and him- 
self, and the creation of a good deal of jealousy and ill-will on 
the part of such persons of his own sex as had not wit or spirits 
enough for the display of so much logic and love-making. 

In 1569, the death of his father, who had been made governor 
of Ostiglia by the Duke of Mantua, cost the loving son a fit of 
illness ; but the continuation of his Jerusalem, an Oration spoken 
at the opening of the Ferrarese academy, the marriage of Leo- 
nora's sister Luerezia with the Prince of Urbino, and the society 
of Leonora herself, who led the retired life of a person in delicate 
health, and was fond of the company of men of letters, helped to 
divert him from melancholy recollections ; and a journey to 
France, at the close of the year following, took him into scenes 
that were not only totally new, but otherwise highly interesting 
to the singer of Godfrey of Boulogne. The occasion of it was a 
visit of the cardinal, his master, to the court of his relative 

* Rosini, Saggw sugli Amori di Torquato Tasso, &c., in the Professor's edi- 
tion of his works7 vol. xxxiii. 


Charles the Ninth. It is supposed that his Hminonce went to 
confer witli the king on matters relative to the disputes which not 
long afterwards occasioned the detestable massacre of St. Bar- 

/ Before his departure, Tasso put into the hands of one of his 
/ friends a document, which, as it is very curious, and serves to 
illustrate perhaps more than one cause of his misfortunes, is here 
given entire. 

Memorial left hy Tasso on his departure to France. 

" Since life is frail, and it may please Almighty God to dispose 
of me otherwise in this my journey to France, it is requested of 
Signor Ercole Rondinelli that he will, in that case, undertake the 
manacjement of the following concerns : 

" In the first place, with regard to my compositions, it is my* 
wish that all my love-sonnets and madrigals should be collected 
and published ; but with regard to those, whether amatory or 
otherwise, tvhich I have written for any friend, my request is, that 
they should be buried with myself save only the one commencing 
" Or che V aura mia dolce altrove spira." I wish the publication 
of the Oration spoken in Ferrara at the opening of the academy, 
of the four books on Heroic Poetry, of the six last cantos of the 
Godfrey (the Jerusalem), and of those stanzas of the two first 
which shall seem least imperfect. All these compositions, how- 
ever, are to be submitted to the review and consideration of 
Signor Scipio Gonzaga, of Signor Domenico Veniero, and of 
Signor Battista Guarini, who, I persuade myself, will not refuse 
this trouble, when they consider the zealous friendship I have 
entertained for themselves. 

" Let them be informed, too, that it was my intention that they 
should cut and hew without mercy whatever should appear to 
them defective or superfluous. With regard to additions or 
changes, I should wish them to proceed more cautiously, since, 
after all, the poem would remain imperfect. As to my other 
compositions, should there be any which, to the aforesaid Signor 
Rondinelli and the other gentlemen, might seem not unworthy of 
publication, let them be disposed of according to their pleasure. 

416 TASSO. 

" In respect to my property, I wish that such part of it as 1 

have pledged to Ahram for twenty-five lire, and seven 

pieces of arras, which are likewise in pledge to Signor Ascanio 
for thirteen sciidi, together with whatever I have in this house, 
should be sold, and that the overplus of the proceeds should go to 
defray the expense of the following epitaph to be inscribed on a 
monument to my father, whose body is in St. Polo. And should 
any impediment take place in these matters, I entreat Signor Er- 
cole to have recourse to the favour of the most excellent Madame 
Leonora, whose liherality I confide in, for my sake. 

" I, Torquato Tasso, have written this, Ferrara, 1570." 

I shall have occasion to recur to this document by and by. I will 
merely observe, for the present, that the marks in it, both of impru- 
dence in money-matters and confidence in the goodwill of a prin- 
cess, are very striking. " Abram" and " Signor Ascanio" were 
both Jews. The pieces of arras belonged to his father ; and 
probably this was an additional reason why the affectionate son 
wished the proceeds to defray the expense of the epitaph. The 
epitaph recorded his father's poetry, state-services, and vicissitudes 
of fortune. ^ 

Tasso was introduced to the French king as the poet of a French 
hero and of a Catholic victory ; and his reception was so favourable 
(particularly as the wretched Charles, the victim of his mother's 
bigotry, had himself no mean poetic feeling), that, with a rash mix- 
ture of simplicity and self-reliance (respect makes me unwilling to 
call it self-importance), the poet expressed an impolitic amount of 
astonishment at the favour shown at court to the Hufi-onots — little 
suspecting the horrible design it covered. He shortly afterwards 
broke with his master the cardinal ', and it is supposed that this 
unseasonable escape of zeal was the cause. He himself appears 
to have thought so.* Perhaps the cardinal only wanted to get the 
imprudent poet back to Italy ; for, on Tasso's return to Ferrara, 
he was not only received into the service of the duke with a 
salary of some fifteen golden scudi a-month, but told that he 
was exempted from any particular duty, and might attend in 

* Lettere Inedite, p. 33, in the Opere, vol. xvii. 


peace to his studies. Balzac alVirms, that while Tasso was at 
the court of France, he was so poor as to bog a crown from a 
friend ; and that, when he left it, he had the same coat on his 
back that he came in.* The assertions of a professed wit and 
hypcrbolist are not to be taken for granted ; yet it is difhcult to 
say to what shifts improvidence may not be reduced. 

The singer of the house of Este would now, it might have been 
supposed, be happy. He had leisure ; he had money ; he had 
the worldly honours that he was fond of; he occupied himself in 
perfecting the Jerusalem ; and he wrote his beautiful pastoral, 
the A?nhita, which was performed before the duke and his court 
to the delight of the brilliant assembly. The duke's sister Lu- 
crezia, princess of Urbino, who was a special friend of the poet, 
sent for him to read it to her at Pesaro ; and in tlie course of the 
ensuing carnival it was performed with similar applause at the 
court of her father-in-law. The poet had been as much enchanted 
by the spectacle which the audience at Ferrara presented to his 
eves, as the audience with the loves and graces with which he 
enriched their stage. The shepherd Thyrsis, by whom he meant 
himself, reflected it back upon them in a passage of the perform- 
ance. It is worth while dwelling on this passage a little, because 
it exhibits a brief interval of happiness in the author's life, and 
also shews us what he had already begun to think of courts at 
the moment he was praising them. But he ingeniously contrives 
to put the praise in his own mouth, and the blame in another's. 
The shepherd's friend, Mopsus (by whom Tasso is thought to 
have meant Speroni), had warned him against going to court : 

" Per6, figlio, 
Va su r awiso," &c. 

" Therefore, my son, take my advice. Avoid 
The places wliere thou seest much drapery, 
Colours, and i^old, and plumes, and heraldries, 
And such new-fangleinents. But, above all. 
Take care how evil chance or youthful wandering 
Bring thee upon the house of Idle Babble." 
" Whnt place is thatT' said I ; and he resumed ; — 
" Enchantresses dwell there, who make one see 

* Entretiens, 1663, p. 169, quoted by Serassi, pp. 175, 182. 



Things as they are not, ay and hear them too. 

That which shall seem pure diamond and fine gold 

Is glass and brass ; and coffers that look silver, 

Heavy with wealth, are baskets full of bladders.* 

The very walls there are so strangely made, ^v, 

They answer those who talk ; and not in syllables, 

Or bits of words, like echo in our woods. 

But go the whole talk over, word for word. 

With something else besides, that no one said.t 

The tressels, tables, bedsteads, curtains, lockers. 

Chairs, and whatever furniture there is 

In room or bedroom, all have tongues and speech, 

And are for ever tattling. Idle Babble 

Is always going about, playing the child ; 

And should a dumb man enter in that place, 

The dumb would babble in his own despite. 

And yet tliis evil is the least of all 

That might assail thee. Thou might' st be arrested 

In fearful transformation to a willow, 

A beast, fire, water, — fire for ever sighing, 

Water for ever weeping." — Here he ceased : 

And I, with all this fine foreknowledge, went 

To the great city ; and, by Heaven's kind will, 

Came where they live so happily. The first sound 

I heard was a delightful harmony, 

Which issued forth, of voices loud and sweet ; — 

Sirens, and swans, and nymphs, a heavenly noise 

Of heavenly things ; — which gave me such deUght, 

That, all admiring, and amazed, and joyed, 

I stopped awhile quite motionless. There stood 

Within the entrance, as if keeping guard 

Of those fine things, one of a high-souled aspect, 

Stalwart withal, of whom I was in doubt 

Whether to think him better knight or leader.t 

He, with a look at once benign and grave, 

In royal guise, invited me within ; 

He, great and in esteem ; me, lorn and lowly. 

Oh, the sensations and the sights which then 

Shower'd on me. Goddesses I saw, and nymphs 

* Suggested by Ariosto's furniture in the Moon. 

t This was a trick which he afterwards thought he had reason to complain 
of in a style very diiferent from pleasantry. 

t Alfonso. The word for " leader" in the original, duce, made the allusion 
more obvious. The epithet "royal," in the next sentence, conveyed a welcome 
intimation to the ducal ear, the house of Este being very proud of its connexion 
■with the sovereigns of Europe, and very desirous of becoming royal itself. 


Graceful and beautiful, and harpers fine 

As Linus or as Orpheus; and more deities, 

All without veil or cloud, briirht as the vir<nn 

Aurora, when she glads immortal eyes. 

And sows her beams and dew-drops, silver and gold. 

Ill the summer of 1574, the Duke of Ferrara went to Venice 
to pay his respects to the successor of Charles tlie Nintli, Henry 
the Third, then on his way to France from his kingdom of Poland. 
Tasso went with the Duke, and is understood to have taken the 
opportunity of looking for a printer of his Jerusalem, which was 
now almost finished. Writers were anxious to publish in tiiat 
crafty city, because its government would give no security of 
profit to books printed elsewhere. Alfonso, who was in mourn- 
ing for Henry's brother, and to whom mourning itself only sug- 
gested a new occasion of pomp and vanity, took with him to this 
interview five hundred Ferrarese gentlemen, all dressed in long 
black cloaks ; who walking about Venice (says a reporter) " by 
twos and threes," wonderfully impressed the inhabitants with 
their " gravity and magnificence."* The mourners feasted, 
however ; and Tasso had a quartan fever, which delayed the 
completion " of the Jerusalem till next year. This was at length 
effected ; and now once more, it might have been thought, that 
the writer would have reposed on his laurels. 

But Tasso had already begun to experience the uneasiness at- 
tending superiority ; and, unfortunately, the strength of his mind 
was not equal to that of his genius. He was of an ultra-sensitive 
temperament, and subject to depressing fits of sickness. He could 
not calmly bear envy. Sarcasm exasperated, and hostile criti- 
cism afflicted him. The seeds of a suspicious temper were nour- 
ished by prosperity itself. The author of the Armida and the 
Jerusalem began to think the attentions he received unequal to his 
merits ; while with a sort of hysterical mixture of demand for 
applause, and provocation of censure, he not only condescended 
to read his poems in manuscript wherever he went, but, in order 
to secure the goodwill of the papal licenser, he transmitted it for 
revisal to Rome, where it was mercilessly criticised for the space 
of two years by the bigots and hypocrites of a court, which Lu- 

* Serassi, vol. i. p. 210. 

420 TASSO. 

ther had rendered a very different one from that in the time of 

This new source of chagrin exasperated the eomplexional rest- 
lessness which now made our author think that he should be more 
easy anywhere than in Ferrara ; perhaps more able to communi- 
cate with and convince his critics ; and, unfortunately, he per- 
mitted himself to descend to a weakness the most fatal of all oth- 
ers to a mind naturally exalted and ingenuous. Perhaps it was 
one of the main causes of all which he suffered. Indeed, he him- 
self attributed his misfortunes to irresolution. What I mean in 
the present instance was, that he did not disdain to adopt un- 
derhand measures. He shewed a face of satisfaction with Alfonso, 
at the moment that he was taking steps to exchange his court for 
another. He wrote for that purpose to his friend Scipio Gonzaga, 
now a prelate at the court of Rome, earnestly begging him, at the 
same time, not to commit him in their correspondence ; and 
Scipio, who was one of his kindest and most indulgent friends, and 
who doubtless saw that the Duke of Ferrara and his poet were not 
of dispositions to accord, did all he could to procure him an ap- 
pointment with one of the family of the Medici. 

Most unhappily for this speculation (and perhaps even the 
good-natured Gonzaga took a little more pleasure in it on that 
account), Alfonso inherited all the detestation of his house for that 
lucky race ; and it is remarkable^ that the same jealousies which 
hindered Ariosto's advancement with the Medici were still more 
fatal to the hopes of Tasso ; for they served to plunge him into the 
deepest adversity. In vain he had warnings given him, both 
friendly and hostile. The princess, now Duchess of Urbino, who 
was his particular friend, strongly cautioned him against the 
temptation of going away. She said he was watched. He him- 
self thought his letters were opened ; and probably they were. 
They certainly were at a subsequent period. Tasso, however, 
persisted, and went to Rome. Scipio Gonzaga introduced him to 
Cardinal Ferdinand de' Medici, afterwards Grand Duke of Tus- 
cany ; and Ferdinand made him offers of protection so handsome, 
that they excited his suspicion. The self tormenting poet thought 
they savoured more of hatred to the Este family, than honour to 


himself.* He did not accept thein. He did nothinr^ nt Rome but 
make friends, in order to perplex tliem ; listen to his critics, in 
order to worry himself ; and perform acts of piety in the churches, 
by way of shewing that the love-scenes in the Jerusalem were inno- 
cent. For tiie bigots had begun to find something very question- 
able in mixing up so much love witli war. Tiie bloodshed tliey 
had no objection to. The love bearded their prejudices, and ex- 
cited their envy. 

Tasso returned to Ferrara, and endeavoured to solace himself 
with eulogising two fair strangers who had arrived at Alfonso's 
court, — Eleonora Sanvitale, who had been newly married to the 
Count of Scandiano (a Tiene, not a Boiardo, whose line was ex- 
tinct), and Barbara Sanseverino, Countess of Sala, her mother-in- 
law. The mother-in-law, who was a Juno-lil^e beauty, wore her 
hair in the form of a crown. The still more beautiful daughter- 
in-law had an under lip such as Anacreon or Sir John Suckling 
would have admired, — pouting and provoking, — -xpoKalovficvov <^>i\nna. 
Tasso wrote verses on them both, but particularly to the lip ; and 
this Countess of Scandiano is the second, out of the three Leono- 
ras, with whom Tasso was said by his friend Manso to have been 
in love. The third, it is now ascertained, never existed ; and his 
love-making to the new or second Leonora, goes to shew how 
little of real passion there was in the praises of the first (the Prin- 
cess Leonora), or probably of any lady at court. He even pro- 
fessed love, as a forlorn hope, to the countess's waiting-maid. 
Yet these gallantries of sonnets are exalted into bewilderments of 
the heart. 

His restlessness returning, the poet now condescended to craft 
a second time. Expecting to meet with a refusal, and so to be 
afforded a pretext for quitting Ferrara, he applied for the vacant 
office of historiographer. It was granted him ; and he then dis- 
gusted the Medici by pleading an unlooked-for engagement, 
which he could only reconcile to his applications for their favour 
by renouncing his claim to be believed. If he could have de- 
ceived others, why might he not have deceived them ? 

* " Alia lor magnaniiniti 6 convcnevole il mostrar, ch' amor dcUe virtti, non 
odio verso altri, gli abbia gii mossi ad invitanui con invito cosl largo." Opere, 
vol. XV. p. 94. 

42-3 TASSO. 

All the lurking weakness of the poet's temperament began to 
display itself at this juncture. His perplexity excited him to a 
deo-ree of irritability bordering on delirium ; and circumstances 
conspired to increase it. He had lent an acquaintance the key 
of his rooms at court, for the purpose (he tells us) of accommo- 
dating some intrigue ; and he suspected this person of opening 
cabinets containing his papers. Remonstrating with him one day 
in the court of the palace, either on that or some other account, 
the man gave him the lie. He received in return a blow on the 
face, and is said by Tasso to have brought a set of his kinsmen 
to assassinate him, all of whom the heroical poet immediately put 
to flight. At one time he suspected the Duke of jealousy respect- 
ing the dedication of his poem, and at another, of a wish to burn 
it. He suspected his servants. He became suspicious of the 
truth of his friend Gonzaga. He doubted, even, whether some 
praises addressed to him by Orazio Ariosto, the nephew of the 
great poet, which, one would have thought, would have been to 
him a consummation of bliss, were not intended to mystify and 
hurt him. At length he fancied that his persecutors had accused 
him of heresy to the Inquisition ; and, as he had gone through 
the metaphysical doubts, common with most men of reflection 
respecting points of faith and the mysteries of creation, he feared 
that some indiscreet words had escaped him, giving colour to the 
charge. He thus beheld enemies all around him. He dreaded 
stabbing and poison ; and one day, in some paroxysm of rage or 
horror, how occasioned it is not known, ran with a knife or dag- 
ger at one of the servants of the Duchess of Urbino in her own 
chamber. * 

Alfonso, upon this, apparently in the mildest and most reason- 
able manner, directed that he should be confined to his apartments, 
and put into the hands of the physician. These unfortunate 
events took place in the summer of 1577, and in the poet's thirty- 
third year. 

Tasso shewed so much affliction at this treatment, and, at the 
same time, bore it so patiently, that the duke took him to his 
beautiful country-seat of Belriguardo ; where, in one of his ac- 
counts of the matter, the poet says that he treated him as a 
brother ; but in another, he accuses him of having taken pains to 



make him criminate himself, and confess certain matters, real 
supposed, the nature of which is a puzzle witli posterity. Some 
are of opinion (and this is the prcvailinnr one), that he was found 
guilty of being in love with the Princess Leonora, perhaps of 
being loved by herself. Others think the love out of the question, 
and that the duke was concerned at nothing but his endeavourinn- 
to transfer his services and his poetic reputation into the hands of 
the ]\Iedici. Others see in the duke's conduct nothing hut that 
of a good master interesting himself in the welfare of an alllicted 

It is certain that Alfonso did all he could to prevent the surrep- 
titious printing of the Jerusalem Delivered in various towns of 
Italy, the dread of which had much afllicted the poet ; and he 
also endeavoured, though in vain, to ease his mind on the subject 
of the Inquisition ; for these facts are attested by state-papers and 
other documents, not dependent either on the testimony of third 
persons or the partial representations of the sufferer. But Tasso 
felt so uneasy at Belriguardo, that he requested leave to retire a 
while into a convent. He remained there several days, apparent- 
ly so much to his satisfaction, that he wrote to the duke to say 
that it was his intention to become a friar ; and yet he had no 
sooner got into the place, than he addressed a letter to the Inquisi- 
tion at Rome, beseeching it to desire permission for him to come 
to that city, in order to clear himself from the charges of his 
enemies. He also wrote to two other friends, requesting them to 
further his petition ; and adding that the duke was enraged with 
him in consequence of the anger of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, 
who, it is supposed, had accused Tasso of having revealed to 
Alfonso some indecent epithet which his highness had applied to 
him.* These letters were undoubtedly intercepted, for they were 
found among the secret archives of Modena, the only principality 

* The application is the conjecture of Black, vol. i. p. 317. Serassi sup- 
pressed the whole passage. The indecent word would have been known but 
for the delicacy or courtliness of Muratori, who substituted an tl-cctcra in its 
place, observing, that he had "covered" with it "an indecent word not fit to bo 
printed" ("sotto quell' el-cetera ho io cop<'rta un' indecente parola, che non era 
lecito di lasciar correre alle stampe." Opere del Tasso, vol. xvi. p. 114.) By 
" covered" he seems to have meant blotted out; for in the latest edition of Taaso 
the et-cetera is retained. 



ultimately remaining in the Este family ; so that, agreeably to 
the saying of listeners hearing no good of themselves, if Alfonso 
did not know the epithet before, he learnt it then. The reader 
may conceive his feelings. Tasso, too, at the same time, was 
plaguing him with letters to similar purpose ; and it is observable, 
that while in those which he sent to Rome he speaks of Cosmo de' 
Medici as " Grand Duke," he takes care in the others to call him 
simply the " Duke of Florence." Alfonso had been exasperated 
to the last degree at Cosmo's having had the epithet " Grand" 
added by the Pope to his ducal title ; and the reader may imagine 
the little allowance that would be made by a haughty and angry 
prince for the rebellious courtesy thus shewn to a detested rival. 
Tasso, furthermore, who had not only an infantine hatred of bitter 
" physic," but i^easonably thought the fashion of the age for giv- 
ing it a ridiculous one, begged hard, in a manner which it is hu- 
miliating to witness, that he might not be drenched with medicine. 
The duke at length, forbade his writing to him any more ; and 
Tasso, whose fears of every kind of ill usage had been wound up 
to a pitch unbearable, watched an opportunity when he was care- 
lessly guarded, and fled at once from the convent and Ferrara. 

The unhappy poet selected the loneliest ways he could find, 
and directed his course to the kingdom of Naples, where his sis- 
ter lived. He was afraid of pursuit ; he probably had little 
money ; and considering his ill health and his dread of the In- 
quisition, it is pitiable to think what he may have endured while 
picking his long way through the back states of the Church and 
over the mountains of Abruzzo, as far as the Gulf of Naples. 
For better security, he exchanged clothes with a shepherd ; and 
as he feared even his sister at first, from doubting whether she 
still loved him, his interview with her was in all its circumstan- 
ces painfully dramatic. Cornelia Tasso, now a widow, with two 
sons, was still residing at Sorrento, where the poet, casting his 
eyes around him as he proceeded towards the house, must have 
beheld with singular feelings of wretchedness the lovely spots in 
which he had been a happy little boy. He did not announce him- 
self at once. He brought letters, he said, from the lady's brother ; 
and it is affecting to think, that whether his sister might or might 
not have retained otherwise any personal recollection of him since 


that time (for he had not seen her in the interval), his dist^'uiso 
was coiupleted by the alterations which sorrow had made in his 
appearance. For, at all events, she did not know hiiu. She saw 
in him nothing but a haggard stranger who was accjuainted with 
the writer of the letters, and to whom tiiey referred for |)articu- 
lars of the risk which her brother ran, unless she could atlbrd 
him her protection. These particulars were given by the stran- 
ger with all the pathos of the real man, and the loving sister faint- 
ed away. On her recovery, tiie visitor said what he could to re- 
assure her, and then by degrees discovered himself. Cornelia 
welcomed him in the tenderest manner. She did all tiiat he de- 
sired ; and gave out to her friends that the gentleman was a 
cousin from Bergamo, who had come to Naples on family af- 

For a little while the afTection of his sister, and tl)e beauty and 
freshness of Sorrento, rendered the mind of Tasso more easy : but 
his restlessness returned. He feared he had mortally olfended 
the Duke of Ferrara ; and, with his wonted fluctuation of purpose, 
he now wished to be restored to his presence for the very reason 
he had run away from it. He did not know with what vengeance 
he might be pursued. He wrote to the duke ; but received no 
answer. The Duchess of Urbino was equally silent. Leonora 
alone responded, but with no encouragement. These appearan- 
ces only made him the more anxious to dare or to propitiate his 
doom ; and he accordingly determined to put himself in the duke's 
hands. His sister entreated him in vain to alter his resolution. He 
quitted her before the autumn was over ; and, proceeding to Rome, 
went directly to the house of the duke's agent there, who, in concert 
with theFerrarese ambassador, gave his master advice of the cir- 
cumstance. Gonzaga, however, and another good friend, Cardinal 
Albano, doubted whether it would be wise in the poet to return 
to Ferrara under any circumstances. They counselled him to 
be satisfied with being pardoned at a distance, and with having 
his papers and other things returned to him ; and the two friends 
immediataly wrote to the duke requesting as much. The duke 
apparently acquiesced in all that was desired ; but he said that 
the illness of his sister, the Duchess of Urbino, delayed the procu- 
ration of the papers, which, it seems, were chiefly in her hands. 

426 TASSO. 

The upshot was, that the papers did not come ; and Tasso, with a 
mixture of rage and fear, and perhaps for more reasons than he has 
told, became uncontrollably desirous of retracing the rest of his 
steps to Ferrara. Love may have been among these reasons — 
probably was ; though it does not follow that the passion must have 
been for a princess. The poet now, therefore, petitioned to that ef- 
fect ; and Alfonso wrote again, and said he might come, but only on 
condition of his again undergoing the ducal course of medicine ; 
adding, that if he did not, he was to be finally expelled his high- 

ness's territories. 

He was graciously received — too graciously, it would seem, for 
his equanimity ; for it gave him such a flow of spirits, that the 
duke appears to have thought it necessary to repress them. The 
unhappy poet, at this, began to have some of his old suspicions ; 
and the unaccountable detention of his papers confirmed them. 
He made an effort to keep the suspicions down, but it was by 
means, unfortunately, of drowning them in wine and jollity ; and 
this gave him such a fit of sickness as had nearly been his death. 
He recovered, only to make a fresh stir about his papers, and a 
still greater one about his poems in general, which, though his Je- 
rusalem was yet only known in manuscript, and not even his Aminta 
published, he believed ought to occupy the attention of mankind. 
People at Ferrara, therefore, not foreseeing the respect that pos- 
terity would entertain for the poet, and having no great desire 
perhaps to encourage a man who claimed to be a rival of their 
countryman Ariosto, now began to consider their Neapolitan guest 
not merely an ingenious and pitiable, but an overweening and 
tiresome enthusiast. The court, however, still seemed to be in- 
terested in its panegyrist, though Tasso feared that Alfonso meant 
to burn his Jerusalem. Alfonso, on the other hand, is supposed 
to have feared that he would burn it himself, and the ducal praises 
with it. The papers, at all events, apparently including the only 
fair copy of the poem, were constantly withheld ; and Tasso, in 
a new fit of despair, again quitted Ferrara. This mystery of the 
papers is certainly very extraordinary. 

The poet's first steps were to Mantua, where he met with no 
such reception as encouraged him to stay. He then went to Ur- 
bino, but did not stop long. The prince, it is true, was very gra- 




cious ; and bandages for a cautery were applied by the fair hands 
of his highness's sister ; but, though the nurse enchanted, the 
surgery frightened him. The hapless poet found himself pursued 
wherever he went by the tormenting beneficence of medicine. 
He escaped, and went to Turin. He had no passport ; and pre- 
sented, besides, so miserable an appearance, that the people at the 
gates roughly refused him admittance. He was well received, 
however, at court ; and as he had begun to acknowledge that he 
was subject to humours and delusions, and wrote to say as mucli 
to Cardinal Albano, who returned him a most excellent and af- 
fecting letter, full of the kindest regard and good counsel, his 
friends entertained a hope that he would become tranquil. But 
he disappointed them. He again applied to Alfonso for permis- 
sion to return to Ferrara — again received it, though on worse than 
the old conditions — and again found himself in that city in the be- 
ginning of the year 1579, delighted at seeing a brilliant assem- 
blage from all quarters of Italy on occasion of a new marriage 
of the duke's (with a princess of Mantua). He made up his mind 
to think that nothing could be denied him, at such a moment, by 
the bridegroom whom he meant to honour and glorify. 

Alas ! the very circumstance to which he looked for success, 
tended to thraw him into the greatest of his calamities. Alfonso 
was to be married the day after the poet's arrival. He was 
therefore too busy to attend to him. The princesses did not at- 
tend to him. Nobody attended to him. He again applied in 
vain for his papers. He regretted his return ; became anxious 
to be any where else ; thought himself not only neglected but 
derided ; and at length became excited to a pitch of frenzy. He 
broke forth into the most unmeasured invectives against the duke, 
even in public ; invoked curses on his head and that of his whole 
race ; retracted all he had ever said in the praise of any of them, 
prince or otherwise ; and pronounced him and his whole court 
" a parcel of ingrates, rascals, and poltroons."* The outbreak 
was reported to the duke ; and the consequence was, that the 
poet was sent to the hospital of St. Anne, an establishment for the 
reception of the poor and lunatic, where he remained (with the 

* Black's version (vol. ii. p. 58) is not strong enough. The words in Serassi 
are " una ciurma di poltroni, ingrati, e ribaldi," ii. p. 33. 

428 TASSO. 

exception of a few unaccountable leave-days) upwards of seven 
years. This melancholy event happened in the March of the 
year 1579. 

Tasso was stunned by this blow as much as if he had never 
done or suffered any thing to expect it. He could at first do 
nothing but wonder and bewail himself, and implore to be set free. 
The duke answered, that he must be cured first. Tasso replied 
by fresh entreaties ; the duke returned the same answers. The 
unhappy poet had recourse to every friend, prince, and great man 
he could think of, to join his entreaties ; he sought refuge in com- 
position, but still entreated ; he occasionally reproached and even 
bantered the duke in some of his letters to his friends, all of which, 
doubtless, were opened ; but still he entreated, flattered, adored, 
all to no purpose, for seven long years and upwards. In time he 
became subject to maniacal illusions ; so that if he was not actu- 
ally mad before, he was now considered so. He was not only 
visited with sights and sounds, such as many people have experi- 
enced whose brains have been over-excited, but he fancied him- 
self haunted by a sprite, and become the sport of "magicians." 
The sprite stole his things, and the magicians would not let him 
get well. He had a vision such as Benvenuto Cellini had, of the 
Virgin Mary in her glory ; and his nights were so miserable, 
that he ate too much in order that he might sleep. When he 
was temperate, he lay awake. Sometimes he felt " as if a horse 
had thrown himself on him." " Have pity on me," he says to 
the friend to whom he gives these affecting accounts ; "1 am 
miserable, because the world is unjust."* 

The physicians advised him to leave off' wine ; but he says he 
could not do that, though he was content to use it in moderation. 
In truth he required something to support him against the physi- 
cians themselves, for they continued to exhaust his strength by 
their medicines, and could not supply the want of it with air and 
freedom. He had ringings in the ears, vomits, and fluxes of blood. 
It would be ludicrous, if it were not deplorably pathetic, to hear 
so great a man, in the commonest medical terms, now protesting 
against the eternal drenches of these practitioners, now humbly 

♦ Opere, vol. xiv. pp. 158, 174, &c. 


submitting to them, and now entrcatinir like a cliild, tluit thoy 
might at least not be "so hitter." The physicians, with tiie 
duke at their head, were as mad for their rhubarbs and lancets as 
the quacks in Moliere ; and notliing but the very imarnnation 
that had nearly sacrificed the poet's life to their ignorance could 
have hindered him from dashing his head against the wall, and 
leaving them to the execrations of posterity. It is the only occa- 
sion in which the noble profession of medicine has not appeared 
in wise and beneficent connexion with the sufferincs of men of 
letters. Why did Ferrara possess no Brocklesby in those days ? 
no Garth, Mead, Warren, or Southwood Smith ? 

Tasso enabled himself to endure his imprisonment with compo- 
sition. He supported it with his poetry and his poem, and what, 
alas ! he had been too proud of during his liberty, the praises of 
his admirers. His genius brought him gifts from princes, and 
some money from the booksellers : it supported him even against 
his critics. During his confinement the Jerusalem Delivered was 
first published ; though, to his grief, from a surreptitious and mu- 
tilated copy. But it was followed by a storm of applause ; and 
if this was succeeded by as great a storm of objection and contro- 
versy, still the healthier part of his faculties were roused, and he 
exasperated his critics and astonished the world by shewing how 
coolly and learnedly ine poor, wild, imprisoned genius could dis- 
cuss the most intricate questions of poetry and philosophy. The 
disputes excited by his poem are generally supposed to have done 
him harm ; but the conclusion appears to be ill founded. They 
diverted his thoughts, and made him conscious of his powers and 
his fame. I doubt whether he would have been better for entire 
approbation : it would have put him in a state of elevation, unfit 
for what he had to endure. He had found his pen his great sol- 
ace, and he had never employed it so well. It would be incredi- 
ble what a heap of things he wrote in this complicated torment 
of imprisonment, sickness, and '' physic," if habit and mental 
activity had not been sufficient to account for much greater won- 
ders. His letters to his friends and others would make a good- 
sized volume ; those to his critics, another ; sonnets and odes, a 
third ; and his Dialogues after the manner of Plato, two more. 
Perhaps a good half of all he wrote was written in this hospital 



or St. Anne ; and he studied as well as confiposed, and had to 
read all that was written at the time, pro and con, in the discussions 
about his Jerusalem^ which, in the latest edition of his works, 
amount to three out of six volumes octavo ! Many of the occa- 
sions, however, of his poems, as well as letters, are most painful 
to think of, their object having been to exchange praise for money. 
And it is distressing, in the letters, to see his other little wants, 
and the fluctuations and moods of his mind. Now he is angry 
about some book not restored, or some gift promised and delayed. 
Now he is in want of some books to be lent him ; now of some 
praise to comfort him ; now of a little fresh linen. He is very 
thankful for visits, for respectful letters, for " sweetmeats ;" and 
greatly puzzled to know what to do with the bad sonnets and 
panegyrics that are sent him. They were sometimes too much 
even for the allowed ultra courtesies of Italian acknowledgment. 
His compliments to most people are varied with astonishing grace 
and ingenuity ; his accounts of his condition often sufficient to 
bring the tears into the manliest eyes ; and his ceaseless and vain 
efforts to procure his liberation mortifying when we think of him- 
self, and exasperating when we think of the petty despot who 
detained him in so long, so degrading, and so worse than useless 
a confinement. 

Tasso could not always conceal his contempt of his imprisoner 
from the ducal servants. Alfonso excelled the grandiloquent 
poet himself in his love of pomp and worship ; and as he had no 
particular merits to warrant it, his victim bantered his love of 
titles. He says, in a letter to the duke's steward, " If it is the 
pleasure of the Most Serene Signer Duke, Most Clement and 
Most Invincible, to keep me in prison, may I beg that he will have 
the goodness to return certain little things of mine, which his 
Most Invincible, Most Clement, and Most Serene Highness has so 
often promised me."* 

But these were rare ebullitions of gaiety, perhaps rather of 

* " Prego V. Signoria che si contcnti, se place al Serenissimo Signor Duca, 
Clementissimo ed Invitissimo, che io Btia in prigione, di farini dar le poche robic- 
ciole niie, che S. A. Invitissima, Clementissinia, Serenissima m' ha promesse 
tante volte," &c. Opere, vol. xiv. p, 6. 


bitter despair. A playful address to a cat to lend liim her eyes 
to write by, during some hour in which lie hapi)onod to l)c with- 
out a light (for it does not appear to have been denied liini), may 
be taken as more probable evidence of a mind relieved at tlie 
moment, though the necessity for the relief may have been very 
sad. But the style in which he generally alludes to his situation 
is far ditierent. He continually begs his correspondents to pity 
him, to pray for him, to attribute his errors to infirmity. He 
complains of impaired memory, and acknowledges that he has 
become subject to the deliriums formerly attributed to him by the 
enemies that had helped to produce them. Petitioning the native 
city of his ancestors (Bergamo) to intercede for him with the 
duke, he speaks of the writer as "this unhappy person;" and 
subscribes himself, — 

" Most illustrious Signors, your aifectionate servant, Torquato 
TassOj a prisoner, and infirm, in the hospital of St. Anne in 

In one of his addresses to Alfonso, he says most affectingly : 

"I have sometimes attributed much to myself, and consider- 
ed myself as somebody. But now, seeing in how many ways 
imagination has imposed on me, I suspect that it has also de- 
ceived me in this opinion of my own consequence. Indeed, me- 
thinks the past has been a dream ; and hence I am resolved to 
rely on my imagination no longer." 

Alfonso made no answer. 

The causes of Tasso's imprisonment, and its long duration, are 
among the puzzles of biography. The prevailing opinion, not- 
withstanding the opposition made to it by Serassi and Black, is, 
that the poet made love to the Princess Leonora — perhaps was 
beloved by her ; and that her brother the duke punished him for 
his arrogance. This was the belief of his earliest biographer, 
Manso, who was intimately acquainted with the poet in his latter 
days ; and from Manso (though he did not profess to receive the 
information from Tasso, but only to gather it froui liis poems) it 
spread over all Europe. Milton took it on trust from him ;* and 
60 have our Enclish translators Iloole and Witfen. The Abbe do 

* '< 

Altera Torquatuni ccpit Leonora poctam," tScc. 

432 TASSO. 

Charnes, however, declined to do so ;* and Montaigne, who saw the 
poet in St. Anne's hospital, says nothing of the love at all. He at- 
tributes his condition to poetical excitement, hard study, and the 
meeting of the extremes of wisdom and folly. The philosopher, how- 
ever, speaks of the poet's having survived his reason, and become 
unconscious both of himself and his works, which the reader knows 
to be untrue. He does not appear to have conversed with Tasso. 
The poet was only shewn him ; probably at a sick moment, or 
by a new and ignorant official. f Muratori, who was in the ser- 
vice of the Este family at Modena, tells us, on the authority of 
an old acquaintance who knew contemporaries of Tasso, that the 
" good Torquato" finding himself one day in company with the 
duke and his sister, and going close to the princess in order to 
answer some question which she had put to him, was so transport- 
eb by an impulse " more than poetical," as to give her a kiss ; 
upon which the duke, who had observed it, turned about to his 
gentlemen, and said, " What a pity to see so great a man dis- 
tracted !" and so ordered him to be locked up.:}: But this writer 
adds, that he does not know what to think of the anecdote : he 
neither denies nor admits it. Tiraboschi, who was also in the 
service of the Este family, doubts the truth of the anecdote, and 
believes that the duke shut the poet up solely for fear lest his 
violence should do harm.§ Serassi, the second biographer of 
Tasso, who dedicated his book to an Este princess inimical to the 
poet's memory, attributes the confinement, on his own shewing, to 
the violent words he had uttered against his master. 1| Walker, the 
author of the Memoir on Italian Tragedy, says, that the life by 
Serassi himself induced him to credit the love-story ilT so does 

* Vie du Tasse, 1695, p. 51. 

t In the Apology for Raimond de Sebonde ; Essays, vol. ii. ch. 13. 

X In his Letter to Zeno, — Opere del Tasso, xvi. p. 118. 

§ Storia della Poesia Italiana (Mathias's edition), vol. iii. part i. p. 236. 

II Serassi is very peremptory, and even abusive. He charges every body 
who has said any thing to the contrary vi^ith imposture. " Egli non v' ha dubbio, 
che le troppe imprudenti e temerarie parole, che il Tasso si lascii) uscir di bocca 
in questo incontro, furone la sola cagione della sua prigionia, e ch' 6 mora fevola 
ed impostura tutto ci5,che divcrsamente h stato affermato e scritto da altri in tale 
proposito." Vol. ii. p. 33. But we have seen that the good Abbe could prac^ 
tise a little imposition himself. IF Black, ii. 88. 


Gingulne.* Black, forgetting the age and illnesses of hundreds 
of enamoured ladies, and the distraction of lovers at all times, de- 
rides the notion of passion on either side : hecause, he argues, Tasso 
was subject to frenzies, and Leonora forty-two ycareof age, and not 
in good hcaltli.f What would Madame d'lloudctot have said to 
him ? or Mademoiselle L'Espinasse ? or Mrs. Inchbuld, who 
used to walk up and down Sackville Street in order that she might 
see Dr. Warren's licht in his window ? Foscolo was a believer 
in the love ;:}: Sismondi admits it ;§ and Rosini, the editor of the 
latest edition of the poet's works, is passionate for it. He wonders 
how any body can fail to discern it in a number of passages, 
which, in truth, may mean a variety of other loves ; and he in- 
sists much upon certain loose verses (lascivi) which the poet, 
among his various accounts of the origin of his imprisonment, as- 
signs as the cause, or one of the causes, of it.|| 

■ I confess, after a reasonable amount of inquiry into this sub- 
ject, that I can find no proofs whatsoever of Tasso's having made 
love to Leonora ; though I think it highly probable. I believe 
the main cause of the duke's proceedings was the poet's own vio- 
lence of behaviour and incontinence of speech. I think it very 
likely that, in the course of the poetical love-making to various 
ladies, which was almost identical in that age with addressing 
them in vei^se, Torquato, whellier he was in love or not, took more 
liberties with the princesses than Alfonso approved ; and it is 
equally probable, that one of those liberties consisted in his indul- 
ging his imagination too far. It is not even impossible, that more 
gallantry may have been going on at court than Alfonso could 

* Hist. Lilt. dC Italic, V. 243, &c. t Vol. ii. p. 89. 

t Such at least is my impression ; but I cannot call the evidence to mind. 

§ Literature of the South of Europe (Roscoe's translation), vol. ii. p. 165. 
To shew the loose way in which the conclusions of a man's own mind are pre- 
sented as facts admitted by others, Sismondi says, that Tasso's " passion" was 
the cause of his return to Ferrara. There is not a tittle of evidence to shew 

for it 

II Sas-gio sugli Amori, &c. ut sup. p. 84, and passim. As specimens of tho 
learned professor's reasoning, it may be observed that whenever the words 
humble, daring, high, noble, and roijal, occur in the port's love-versos, he thinks 
they /»u-s< allude to the Princess Leonora; and he ari];ues, that Alfonso never 
could have been so angry with any "vcrsi lascivi," if they had not had the same 

43-1 TASSO, 

endure to see alluded to, especially by an ambitious pen. But 
there is no evidence that such was the case. Tasso, as a gentle- 
man, could not have hinted at such a thing on the part of a prin- 
cess of staid reputation ; and, on the other hand, the " love " he 
speaks of as entertained by her for him, and warranting the ap- 
plication to her for money in case of his death, was too plainly 
worded to mean any thing but love in the sense of friendly regard, 
" Per amor mio " is an idiomatical expression, meaning " for my 
sake ;" a strong one, no doubt, and such as a proud man like Al- 
fonso might think a liberty, but not at all of necessity an amatory 
boast. If it was, its very effrontery and vanity were presump- 
tions of its falsehood. The lady whom Tasso alludes to in the 
passage quoted on his first confinement is complained of for her 
coldness towards him ; and, unless this was itself a gentlemanly 
blind, it might apply to fifty other ladies besides the princess. 
The man who assaulted him in the streets, and who is supposed 
to have been the violator of his papers, need not have found any 
secrets of love in them. The servant at whom he aimed the knife 
or the dagger might be as little connected with such matters ; 
and the sonnets which the poet said he wrote for a friend, and 
which he desired to be buried with him, might be alike innocent 
of all reference to Leonora, whether he wrote them for a friend 
or not. Leonora's death took place during the poet's confine- 
ment ; and, lamented as she was by the verse-writers according 
to custom, Tasso wrote nothing on the event. This silence has 
been attributed to the depth of his passion ; but how is the fact 
proved ? and why may it not have been occasioned by there hav- 
ing been no passion at all ? 

All that appears certain is, that Tasso spoke violent and con- 
temptuous words against the duke ; that he often spoke ill of him 
in his letters ; that he endeavoured, not with perfect ingenuous- 
ness, to exchange his service for that of another prince ; that ha 
asserted his madness to have been pretended in the first instance 
purely to gratify the duke's whim for thinking it so (which was 
one of the reasons perhaps why Alfonso, as he complained, would 
not believe a word he said) ; and finally, that, whether the mad- 
ness was or was not so pretended, it unfortunately became a con- 
firmed though milder form of mania, during a long confinement. 


Alfonso, too proud to forgive the poet's contempt, continued thus to 
detain him, partly perhaps because he was not sorry to have a pre- 
text for revenge, partly because he did not know what to do with 
him consistently either with his own or the poet's safety. He had 
not been generous enough to put Tasso above his wants ; he had 
not address enough to secure his respect ; he had not merit enougli 
to overlook his reproaches. If Tasso had been as great a man as 
he was a poet, Alfonso would not have been reduced to these per- 
plexities. The poet would have known how to settle quietly down 
on his small court-income, and wait patiently in the midst of his 
beautiful visions for what fortune had or had not in store for him. 
But in truth, he, as well as the duke, was weak ; they made 
a bad business of it between them ; and Alfonso the Second closed 
the accounts of the Este family with the Muses, by keeping his 
panegyrist seven years in a mad-house, to the astonishment of 
posterity, and the destruction of his own claims to renown. 

It does not appear that Tasso was confined in any such dungeon 
as they now exhibit in Ferrara. The conduct of the Prior of the 
Hospital is more doubtful. His name was Agostino Mosti ; and, 
strangely enough, he was the person who had raised a monument 
to Ariosto, of whom he was an enthusiastic admii'er. To this predi- 
lection has been attributed his alleged cruelty to the stranger from 
Sorrento, who dared to emulate the fame of his idol ; — an extraor- 
dinary, though perhaps not incredible, mode of shewing a critic's 
regard for poetry. But Tasso, while he laments his severity, 
wonders at it in a man so well bred and so imbued with literature, 
and thinks it can only have originated in "orders."* Perhaps 
there were faults of temper on both sides ; and Mosti, not liking 
his office, forgot the allowance to be made for that of a prisoner 
and sick man. His nephew Giulio Mosti, became strongly attach- 
ed to the poet, and was a great comfort to him. 

At lencth the time for liberation arrived. In the summer of 
1586, Don Vincenzo Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua, kinsman of the 
poet's friend Scipio, came to Ferrara for the purpose of compli- 
menting Alfonso's heir on his nuptials. The whole court of Man- 
tua, with hereditary regard for Tasso, whose father had been one 

♦ Opere, vol. xvii. p. 32. 

436 TASSO. 

of their ornaments, were desirous of having him among them ; 
and the prince extorted Alfonso's permission to take him away, 
on condition (so hard did he find this late concession to humanity, 
and so fearful was he of losing the dignity of jailor) that his de- 
liverer should not allow him to quit Mantua without obtaining 
leave. A young and dear friend, his most frequent visitor. An- 
tonio Constantini, secretary to the Tuscan ambassador, went to 
St. Anne's to prepare the captive by degrees for the good news. 
He told him that he really might look for his release in the course 
of a few days. The sensitive poet, now a premature old man of 
forty-two, was thrown into a transport of mingled delight and 
anxiety. He had been disappointed so often that he could 
scarcely believe his good fortune. In a day or two he writes 
thus to his visitor : 

"Your kindness, my dear friend, has so accustomed me to 
your precious and frequent visits, that I have been all day long 
at the window expecting your coming to comfort me as you are 
wont. But since you have not yet arrived, and in order not to 
remain altogether without consolation, I visit you with this letter. 
It encloses a sonnet to the ambassador, written with a trembling 
hand, and in such a manner that he will not, perhaps, have less 
difficulty in reading it than I had in writing." 

Two days afterwards, the prince himself came again, requested 
of the poet some verses on a given subject, expressed his esteem 
for his genius and virtues, and told him that, on his return to 
Mantua, he should have the pleasure of conducting him to that 
city. Tasso lay awake almost all night, composing the verses ; 
and next day enclosed them, with a letter, in another to Constan- 
tini, ardently begging him to" keep the prince in mind of his prom- 
ise. The prince had not forgotten it ; and two or three days 
afterwards, the order for the release arrived, and Tasso quitted 
his prison. He had been confined seven years, two months, and 
several days. He awaited the prince's departure for a week or 
two in his friend's abode, paying no visits, probably from inability 
to endure so much novelty. Neither was he inclined or sent for 
to pay his respects to the duke. Two such parties could hardly 
have been desirous to look on each other. The duke must es- 
pecially have disliked the thought of it ; though Tasso afterwards 


fancied otherwise, and that ho was ollended at his non-appearance. 
But his letters, unfortunately, differ witli themselves on this point, 
as on most otliers. About the middle of July 158(3, the poet quit- 
ted Fcrrara for ever. 

At Mantua Tasso was greeted with all the honours and atten- 
tions which his love of distinction could desire. The good old 
duke, the friend of his father, ordered handsome apartments to be 
provided for him in tiie palace ; the prince made him presents of 
costly attire, including perfumed silken hose (kindred elegancies 
to the Italian gloves of Queen Elizabeth) ; the princess and her 
mother-in-law were declared admirers of his poetry ; the courtiers 
caressed the favourite of their masters ; Tasso found literary so- 
ciety ; he pronounced the very bread and fruit, the fish and the 
flesh, excellent ; the wines were sharp and brisk (" such as his 
father was fond of") ; and even the physician was admirable, for 
he ordered confections. One might imagine, if circumstances 
had not proved the cordial nature of the Gonzaga family, and the 
real respect and admiration entertained for the poet's genius by 
the greatest men of the time, in spite of the rebuke it had received 
from Alfonso, that there had been a confederacy to mock and 
mystify him, after the fashion of the duke and duchess with Don 
Quixote (the only blot, by the way, in the book of Cervantes ; if, 
indeed, he did not intend it as a satire on the mystifiers). 

For a while, in short,, the liberated prisoner thought himself 
happy. He corrected his prose works, resumed and finished the 
tragedy of Torrismond, which he had begun some years be- 
fore, corresponded with princes, and completed and published a 
narrative poem left unfinished by his father. Torquato was as 
lovincr a son as Mozart or Montaigne. Whenever he had a 
glimpse of felicity, he appears to have associated the idea of it 
with that of his father. In the conclusion of his fragment, " O 
del grand' Apennino," he affectingly begs pardon of his blessed 
spirit for troubling him with his earthly griefs.* 

* " Padre, o buon padre, che dal ciel riniiri, 
Egro e morto ti piansi, e ben tu il sai ; 
E gemendo scaldai 

La tomha e il lotto. Or che ncgli altri giri 
Tu godi, a te si dcve onor, non lutto : 
A me versato il mio dolor sia tutto." 

438 TASSO, 

But, alas, what had been an indulgence of self-esteem had now 
become the habit of a disease ; and in the course of a few months 
the restless poet began to make his old discovery, that he was not 
sufficiently cared for. The prince had no leisure to attend to 
him ; the nobility did not " yield him the first place," or at least 
(he adds) they did not allow him to be treated " externally as 
their equal ; and he candidly confessed that he could not live in 
a place where such was the custom.* He felt also, naturally 
enough, however well it might have been intended, that it was 
not pleasant to be confined to the range of the city of Mantua, 
attended by a servant, even though he confessed that he was now 
subject to " frenzy." He contrived to stay another half-year by 
help of a brilliant carnival and of the select society of the prince's 
court, who were evidently most kind to him ; but at the end of 
the twelvemonth he was in Bergamo among his relations. The 
prince gave him leave to go ; and the Cavaliere Tasso, his kins- 
man, sent his chariot on purpose to fetch him. 

Here again he found himself at a beautiful country-seat, which 
the family of Tasso still possesses near that city ; and here again, in 
the house of his father, he proposed to be happy, " having never 
desired," he says, " any journey more earnestly than this." He 
left it in the course of a month, to return to Mantua. 

And it was only to wander still. Mantua he quitted in less 
than two months to go to Rome, in spite of the advice of his best 
friends. He vindicated the proceeding by a hope of obtaining 
some permanent settlement from the Pope. He took Loretto by 
the way, to refresh himself with devotion ; arrived in a transport 
at Rome ; got nothing from the Pope (the hard-minded Sixtus the 
Fifth) ; and in the spring of the next year, in the triple hope of 

O father, my good father, looking now 

On thy poor son from heaven, well knowest thou 

What scaldinrr tears I shed 

Upon thy grave, upon thy dying bed ; 

But since thou dwellest in the happy skies, 

'Tis fit I raise to thee no sorrowing eyes : 

Be all my grief on my own head. 

* " Non posso viver in cittji, ove tutti 1 nobili, o non mi concedano i primi 
luoghi, o almeno non si contentino che la cosa in quel che appartiene a queste 
esteriori dimostrazioni, vada del pari." Opcre, vol. xiii. p. 153. 


again embracing his sister, and recoveriiii^r tlio dowry of his mo- 
ther and the confiscated property of his father, he proceeded to 

Naples was in its most beautiful vernal condition, and the Ne- 
apolitans welcomed the poet with all honour and glory ; but his 
, lister, alas, was dead ; he got none of his father's property, 
nor (till too late) any of his mother's ; and before the year was 
out, he was again in Rome. He acquired in Naples, however, 
another friend, as attached to him and as constant in his attentions 
as his beloved Constantini, to wit, Giambattista Manso, Marquis 
of Villa, who became his biographer, and who was visited and 
praised for his good offices by Milton. In the society of this gen- 
tleman he seemed for a short while to have become a new man. 
He entered into field sports, listened to songs and music, nay, 
danced, says Manso, with "the girls." (One fancies a poetical 
Dr. Johnson with the two country damsels on his knees.) In 
short, good air and freedom, and no medicine, had conspired with 
the lessons of disappointment to give him, before he died, a glimpse 
of the power to be pleased. He had not got rid of all his spirit- 
ual illusions, even those of a melancholy nature ; but he took the 
latter more quietly, and had grown so comfortable with the race 
in general, that he encouraged them. He was so entirely freed 
from his fears of the Inquisition and of charges of magic, that 
whereas he had formerly been anxious to shew that he meant 
nothing but a poetical fancy by the spirit which he introduced as 
communing w^ith liim in his dialogue entitled the Messenger^ he 
now maintained its reality against the arguments of his friend 
Manso ; and these arguments gave rise to the most poetical scene 
in his history. He told Manso that he should have ocular testi- 
mony of the spirit's existence ; and accordingly one day while 
they were sitting together at the marquis's fireside, " he turned 
his eyes," says Manso, " towards a window, and held them a long 
time so intensely on it, that, when I called him, he did not answer. 
At last, ' Behold,' said he, ' the friendly spirit which has courteous- 
ly come to talk with me. Lift up your eyes and see the truth.' 
I turned my eyes thither immediately (continues the marquis) ; 
but though I endeavoured to look as keenly as I could, I beheld 
nothing but the rays of the sun, which streamed through the panes 

440 TASSO. 

of the window into the chamber. Whilst I still looked around, 
without beholding any object, Torquato began to hold, with this 
unknown something, a most lofty converse. I heard, indeed, and 
saw nothing but himself; nevertheless his words, at one time ques- 
tioning, at another replying, were such as take place between those 
who reason strictly on some important subject. And from what was 
said by the one, the reply of the other might be easily compre- 
hended by the intellect, although it was not heard by the ear. 
The discourses were so lofty and marvellous, both by the sub- 
limity of their topics and a certain unwonted manner of talking, 
that, exalted above myself in a kind of ecstasy, I did not dare to 
interrupt them, nor ask Tasso about the spirit, which he had an- 
nounced to me, but which I did not see. In this w^y, while I 
listened between stupefaction and rapture, a considerable time 
had elapsed ; till at last the spirit departed, as I learned from the 
words of Torquato ; who, turning to me, said, ' From this day 
forward all your doubts will have vanished from your mind.' 
* Nay,' said I, ' they are rather increased ; since, though I have 
heard many things worthy of marvel, I have seen nothing of what 
you promised to shew me to dispel them.' He smiled, and said, 

' You have seen and heard more of him than perhpas ,' and 

here he paused. Fearful of importuning him with new questions, 
the discourse ended ; and the only conclusion I can draw is, what 
I before said, that it is more likely his visions or frenzies will dis- 
order my own mind than that I shall extirpate his true or imagi- 
nary opinion."* 

Did the " smile" of Tasso at the close of this extraordinary 
scene, and the words which he omitted to add, signify that his 
friend had seen and heard more, perhaps, than the poet would 
have liked to explain ? Did he mean that he himself alone had 
been seen and heard, and was author of the whole dialogue ? 
Perhaps he did ; for credulity itself can impose ; — can take 
pleasure in seeing others as credulous as itself. On the other 
hand, enough has become known in our days of the phenomena 
of morbid perception, to render Tasso's actual belfef in such 
visions not at all surprising. It is not uncommon for the sanest 

* Black, vol. ii. p. 340. 


people of delicate organisation to see faces before theni while 
roing to sleep, sometimes in fantastical succession. A stroncrer 
jxercise of this disposition in temperaments more delicate will 
enlarge the face to figure ; and there can be no question that an 
magination so heated as Tasso's, so full of the speculations of the 
ater Platonists, and accompanied by a state of body so " nerv- 
)us," and a will so bent on its fancies, might embody whatever 
16 chose to behold. The dialogue he could as easily read in the 
dsion's looks, whether he heard it or not with ears. If Nicholay, 
he Prussian bookseller, who saw crowds of spiritual people go 
hrough his rooms, had been a poet, and possessed of as wilful an 
magination as Tasso, he might have gifted them all with speak- 
ng countenances as easily as with coats and waistcoats. Sweden- 
K)rg founded a religion on this morbid faculty ; and the Catholics 
vorship a hundred stories of the like sort in the Lives of the 
Jaints, many of which are equally true and false ; false in reali- 
y, though true in supposition. Luther himself wrote and 
tudied till he saw^ the Devil ; only the great reformer retained 
nough of his naturally sturdy health and judgment to throw an 
akstand at Satan's head, — a thing that philosophy has been doing 
ver since. 

Tasso's principal residence while at Naples had been in the 
•eautiful monastery of Mount Olivet, on which the good monks 
egged he would write them a poem ; which he did. A cold 
eception at Rome, and perhaps the difference of the air, brought 
ack his old lamentations ; but here again a monastery gave him 
efuge, and he set himself down to correct his former works and 
ompose new ones. He missed, however, the comforts of society 
nd amusement which he had experienced at Naples. Neverthe- 
3ss, he did not return thither. He persuaded himself that it was 
ecessary to be in Rome in order to expedite the receipt of some 
ooks and manuscripts from Bergamo and other places ; but his 
estlessness desired novelty. He thus slipped back from the 
eighbourhood of Rome to the city itself, and from the city back 
) the monastery, his friends in both places being probably tired 
f his instability. He thought of returning to Mantua ; but a 
resent from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, accompanied by an 
avitation to his court, drew him, in one of his short-lived-trans- 



ports, to Florence. He returned, in spite of the best and most 
generous reception, to Rome ; then left Rome for Mantua, on 
invitation from his ever-kind deliverer from prison, now the reign- 
ing duke ; tired again, even of him ; returned to Rome ; then 
once more to Naples, where the Prince of Conca, Grand Admiral 
of the kingdom, lodged and treated him like an equal ; but he 
grew suspicious of the admiral, and went to live with his friend 
Manso ; quitted Manso for Rome again ; was treated with rever- 
ence on the way, like Ariosto, by a famous leader of banditti ; 
was received at Rome into the Vatican itself, in the apartments 
of his friend Cintio Aldobrandino, nephew of the new pope 
Clement the Eighth, where his hopes now seemed to be raised at 
once to their highest and most reasonable pitch ; but fell ill, and 
was obliged to go back to Naples for the benefit of the air. A 
life so strangely erratic to the last (for mortal illness was ap- 
proaching) is perhaps unique in the history of men of letters, and 
might be therefore worth recording even in that of a less man 
than Tasso ; "fe'ut when we recollect that this poet, in spite of all 
his weaknesses, and notwithstanding the enemies they provokec 
and the friends they cooled, was really almost adored for his 
genius in his own time, and instead of refusing jewels one da} 
and soliciting a ducat the next, might have settled down almost an) 
where in quiet and glory, if he had but possessed the patience t( 
do so, — it becomes an association of weakness with power, and ol 
adversity with the means of prosperity, the absurdity of whicl 
admiration itself can only drown in pity. 

He now took up his abode in another monastery, that of Sai 
Severino, where he was comforted by the visits of his friend Man 
so, to whom he had lately inscribed a dialogue on Friendship . 
for he continued writing to the last. He had also the consolation 
such as it was, of having the lawsuit for his mother's dowry set 
tied in his favour, though under circumstances that rendered it oj 
little importance, and only three months before his death. Si 
strangely did Fortune seem to take delight in sporting with a mai 
of genius, who had thought both too much of her and too little 
too much for pomp's sake, and too little in prudence. Amonj 
his new acquaintances were the young Marino, afterwards th( 
corrupter of Italian poetry, and the Prince of Venosa, an amateu 


composer of music. The dying poet wrote mndrij^'als for him so 
much lo liis satisfoction, that, heing about to marry into the house 
of Este, lie wished to reconcile him with the Duke of Forrara ; 
and Tasso, who to the last moment of his life seems never to have 
been able to resist the chance of resuming old quarters, apparently 
from the double temptation of renouncing them, wrote his old 
master a letter full of respects and regrets. But the duke, who 
himself died in the course of the year, was not to be moved from 
his silence. The poet had given him the last possible offence by 
recasting his Jerusalem, omitting the glories of the house of Este, 
and dedicating it to another patron. Alfonso, who had been ex- 
travagantly magnificent, though not to poets, had so weakened 
his government, that the Pope wrested Ferrara from the hands of 
his successor, and reduced the Este family to the possession of 
Modena, which it still holds and dishonours. The duke and the 
poet were thus fading away at the same time ; they never met 
again in this world : and a new Dante would have divided them 
far enough in the next.* 

The last glimpse of honour and glory was now opening in a 

very grand manner on the poet — the last and the greatest, as if on 

purpose to give the climax to his disappointments. Cardinal Cin- 

Lio requested the Pope to give him the honour of a coronation. 

[t had been desired by the poet, it seems, three years before. He 

was disappointed of it at that time ; and now that it was granted, 

he was disappointed of the ceremony. Manso says he no longer 

ared for it ; and, as he felt himself dying, this is not improbable. 

>fevertheless he went to Rome for the purpose ; and though the 

everity of the winter there delayed the intention till spring, 

-vealth and honours seemed determined to come in floods upou the 

)oor expiring great man, in order to take away the breath which 

hey had refused to support. The Pope assigned him a yearly 

)ension of a hundred scudi ; and the withholders of his mother's 

lowry came to an accommodation by which he was to have aai 

.nnuity of a hundred ducats, and a considerable sum in hand. 

•■ The world in general have taken no notice of Tasso's re-construction of his 
Jerusalem, which he called the Gerusalemnie Conquistata. It never "obtained," 
3 the phrase is. It was the mere tribute of his declining years to bigotry and 
ew acquaintances; and therefore I say no more of it. 

444 TASSO. 

His hand was losing strength enough to close upon the money. 
Scarcely was the day for the coronation about to dawn, when the 
poet felt his dissolution approaching. Alfonso's doctors had killed 
him at last by superinducing a habit of medicine-taking, which 
defeated its purpose. He requested leave to return to the monas- 
tery of St. Onofi'io — wrote a farewell letter to Constantini — re- 
ceived the distinguished honour of a plenary indulgence from the 
Pope — said (in terms very like what Milton might have used, had 
he died a Catholic), that " this was the chariot upon which he 
hoped to go crowned, not with laurel as a poet into the capitol, 
but with glorj' as a saint to heaven " — and expired on the 25th 
of April, 1575, and the fifty-first year of his age, closely embra- 
cing the crucifix, and imperfectly uttering the sentence begin- 
ning, " Into thy hands, O Lord !"* 

Even after death, success mocked him ; for the coronation took 
place on the senseless dead body. The head was wreathed with 
laurel ; a magnificent toga delayed for a while the shroud ; and 
a procession took place through the city by torchlight, all the in- 
habitants pouring forth to behold it, and painters crowding over 
the bier to gaze on the poet's lineaments, from which they pro- 
duced a multitude of portraits. The corpse was then buried in 
the church of St. Onofrio ; and magnificent monuments talked of, 
which never appeared. Manso, however, obtained leave to set 
up a modest tablet ; and eight years afterwards a Ferrarese car- 
dinal (Bevilacqua) made what amends he could for his country- 
men, by erecting the stately memorial which is still to be seen. 

Poor, illustrious Tasso ! weak enough to warrant pity from his 
inferiors — great enough to overshadow in death his once-fancied 
superiors. He has been a by- word for the misfortunes of genius ; 
but genius was not his misfortune ; it was his only good, and might 
have brought him all happiness. It is the want of genius, as far 
as it goes, and apart from martyrdoms for conscience' sake, which ■■ 
produces misfortunes even to genius itself — the want of as much) 
wit and balance on the common side of things, as genius is sup- 
posed to confine to the uncommon. 

Manso has left a minute account of his friend's person and ' 

* In nmmis tuas, Domine. One likes to know the actual words; at least soi 
it appears to me. j 




iiuiers. He was tall, even among the tall ; luul a pale com- 
jxion, sunken cheeks, lightish brown hair, head bald at the top, 
•ge blue eyes, square forehead, big nose inclining towards the 
)uth, lips pale and thin, white teeth, delicate white hands, long 
ms, broad chest and slioulders, legs rather strong than fleshy, 
d the body altogether better proportioned than in good condi- 
n ; the result, nevertheless, being an aspect of" manly beauty 
d expression, particularly in the countenance, the dignity of 
lich marked him for an extraordinary person even to those who 
1 not know him. His demeanour was grave and deliberate ; 
laughed seldom ; and though his tongue was prompt, his de- 
ary was slow ; and he was accustomed to repeat his la^t words. 
3 was expert in all manly exercises, but not equally graceful ; 
d the same defect attended his otherwise striking eloquence in 
blic assemblies. His putting to flight the assassins in Ferrara 
ve him such a reputation for courage, that there went about in 
5 honour a popular couplet : 

" Colla penna e colla spada 
Nessun val quanto Torquato." 

For the sword as well as pen 
Tasso is the man of men. 

I was a little eater, but not averse to wine, particularly such as 
Tnbined piquancy with sweetness ; and he always dressed in 

Manso's account is still more particular, and yet it does not tell 
for Tasso himself informs us that he stammered, and was 
ir-sighted ;* and a Neapolitan writer who knew him adds to 

near-sightedness some visible defect in the eyes.f I should 
ibt, from what Tasso says in his letters, whether he was fond 
speaking in public, notwithstanding his debut in that line with 

Fifty Amorous Conclusions. Nor does he appear to have 

Serassi, ii. 276. 

" Qucm cernis, quisquis rs, procera statiira vinmi, luscis oculis, &c. hie 
quatus est." — Cappacio, Illustrium Litcris Virorum Elosria et Judicia, 
:ed by Serassi, ut sup. The Latin word luscus, as well as the Italian Iosco, 
ns, I believe, near-sighted; but it certainly means also a great deal more; 
unless the word cernis (thou beholdest) is a mere form of speech implying 
•egone conclusion, it shews that the defect was obvious to the spectator. 

446 TASSO. 

been remarkable for his conversation. Manso has left a colle< 
tion of one hundred of his pithy sayings — a suspicious amoun 
and unfortunately more than warranting the suspicion ; for a 
most every one of them is traceable to some other man. The 
come from the Greek and Latin philosophers, and the apothegn 
of Erasmus. The two following have the greatest appearanc 
of being genuine : 

A Greek, complaining that he had spoken ill of his country 
and maintaining that all the virtues in the world had issued oi 
of it, the poet assented ; with the addition, that they had not le 
one behind them. 

A foolish young fellow, garnished with a number of golde 
chains, coming into a room where he was, and being overhear 
by him exclaiming, " Is this the great man that was mad ? 
Tasso said, " Yes ; but that people had never put on him moi 
than one chain at a time.^' 

His character may be gathered, but not perhaps entirely, froi 
what has been written of his life ; for some of his earlier lette] 
shew him to have been not quite so grave and refined in his wa 
of talking as readers of the Jerusalem might suppose. He W£ 
probably at that time of life not so scrupulous in his morals as h 
professed to be during the greater part of it. His mother ; 
thought to have died of chagrin and impatience at being separate 
so long from her husband, and not knowing what to do to save he 
dowry from her brothers ; and I take her son to have combine 
his mother's ultra-sensitive organisation with his father's worldl 
imprudence and unequal spirits. The addition of the nervoi: 
temperament of one parent to the aspiring nature of the othe 
gave rise to the poet's trembling eagerness for distinction ; an 
Torquato's very love for them both hindered him from seein 
what should have been corrected in the infirmities which he ir 
herited. Falling from the highest hopes of prosperity into th 
most painful afTlictions, he thus wanted solid principles of actio 
to support him, and was forced to retreat upon an excess of sel 
esteem, which allowed his pride to become a beggar, and his na 
urally kind, loving, just, and heroical disposition to condescend 1 
almost every species of inconsistency. The Duke of Ferran 


c complains, did not believe a word he said ;* and the fact is, 
it, partly from disease, and partly from a want of courage to 
)k his defects in the face, he beheld the same tliincrs in so many 
Ibrent lights, and according as it suited him at the moment, 
it, without intending falsehood, his statements are really not to 
relied on. He degraded even his verses, sometimes with 
negyrics for interest's sake, sometimes out of weak wishes to 
lige, of which he was afterwards ashamed ; and, witii the ex- 
ption of Constantini, we cannot be sure that any one person 
aised in them retained his regard in his last days. His suspi- 
)n made him a kind of Rousseau ; but he was more amiable 
an the Genevese, and far from being in the habit of talking 
ainst old acquaintances, whatever he might have thought of 
?m. It is observable, not only that he never married, but he 
id Manso he had led a life of entire continence ever since he 
tered the walls of his prison, being then in his thirty-fifth year."j" 
las this out of fidelity to some mistress ? or the consequence of 
iprevious life the reverse of continent ? or was it from some 
inciple of superstition ? He had become a devotee, apparently 
It of a dread of disbelief; and he remained extremely religious 
r the rest of his days. The two unhappiest of Italian poets, 
asso and Dante, were the two most superstitious. 

t lAs for the once formidable question concerning the compara- 
e merits of this poet and Ariosto, which anticipated the modern 
barrels of the classical and romantic schools, some idea of the 
^atment which Tasso experienced may be conceived by sup- 
sing all that used to be sarcastic and bitter in the periodical party- 
iticism among ourselves some thirty years back, collected into 
le huge vial of wrath, and poured upon the new poet's head, 
en the great Galileo, who was a man of wit, bred up in the 
re Tuscan school of Berni and Casa, and who was an idolator 
Ariosto, wrote, when he was young, a "review" of the Jeru- 
hm Delivered, which it is painful to read, it is so unjust and 

' " II Signer Duca non crcde ad alcuna mia parola." Opere, xiv. IGI. 
r " Fui da bocca di lui mcdesimo rassicurato, chc dal tempo del suo ritegno 
snnt' Anna, ch' avenne negli anni trentacinque della sua vita e sedici avanti la 
rtc, egli intieraniente fu casto : dcgli anni prinii non mi favcUo mai di modo 
io possa alcuna cosa di certo qui raccontare." Opere, xxxiii. 235. 

448 TASSO. 

contemptuous.* But now that the only final arbiter, posterity, 
has accepted both the poets, the dispute is surely the easiest thing 
in the world to settle ; not, indeed, with prejudices of creeds oi 
temperaments, but before any judges thoroughly sympathising 
with the two claimants. Its solution is the principle of the 
greater including the less. For Ariosto errs only by having ar 
unbounded circle to move in. His sympathies are unlimited : 
and those who think him inferior to Tasso, only do so in conse- 
quence of their own want of sympathy with the vivacities that de- 
grade him in their eyes. Ariosto can be as grave and exalted as 
Tasso when he pleases, and he could do a hundred things which 
Tasso never attempted. He is as different in this respect as 
►Shakspeare from Milton. He had far more knowledge of man- 
kind than Tasso, and he was superior in point of taste. But it isj 
painful to make disadvantageous comparisons of one great poell 
with another. Let us be thankful for Tasso's enchanted gardens, 
without being forced to vindicate the universal world of his pre- 
decessor. Suffice it to bear in mind, that the grave poet himself 
agreed with the rest of the Italians in calling the Ferrarese the 
" divine Ariosto ;" a title which has never been popularly given 
to his rival. 

The Jerusalem Delivered is the history of a Crusade, related 
with poetic license. The Infidels are assisted by unlawful arts ; 
and the libertinism that brought scandal on the Christians, is con- 
verted into youthful susceptibility, led away by enchantment. 
The author proposed to combine the ancient epic poets with Ari- 
osto, or a simple plot, and uniformly dignified style, with roman- 
tic varieties of adventure, and the luxuriance of fairy-land. Pie 
did what he proposed to do, but with a judgment inferior to Vir- 
gil's ; nay, in point of the interdependence of the adventures, to 
Ariosto, and with far less general vigour. The mixture of affec- 
tation with his dignity is so frequent, that, whether Boileau's fa- 
mous line about Tasso's tinsel and Virgil's gold did or did not 
mean to imply that the Jerusalem was nothing but tinsel, and the 
jEneid all gold, it is certain that the tinsel is so interwoven with | 
the gold, as to render it more of a rule than an exception, and |TI 

* It is to be found in the collected works, ut supra, both of the philosopher i 
and the poet. 



put a provoking distance between Tasso's epic pretensions and 
jtliose of the greatest masters of tlie art. lVoj)le wlio take for 
granted the conceits because of tlie " wildness" of Ariosto, and 
tlie good taste because of the " regularity" of Tasso, just assume 
ithe reverse of the fact. It is a rare thing to find a conceit in 
lAriosto ; and, where it does exist, it is most likely defensible on 
some Shakspearian ground of subtle propriety. Open Tasso in 
almost anv part, particularly the love-scenes, and it is marvellous 
if, before long, you do not see the conceits vexatiously interfering 
with the beauties. 

" Oh maraviglia! Amor, chc appcna 6 nato, 
Gii iirande vola, e cri^ trionfa armato." Canto i. st. 47. 

Oh, niiraclo! Love is scarce born, wlien, lo. 
He tlies full wing'd, and lords it with his bow ! 


" Se '1 miri fuhiiinar nc 1' arme avvolto, 
1 Marie lo stiini ; Amor, se scopre il volto." St. 58. 

Mars you would think him, when his thund'ring race 
In arms he ran ; Love, when he shcw'd his face. 


|\Vhich is as little true to reason as to taste ; for no god of war 

30uld look like a god of love. The habit of mind would render 

ft impossible. But the poet found the prettiness of the Greek 

ALUthology irresistible. 

Olindo, tied to the stake amidst the flames of martyrdom, can 

say to his mistress : 

" Altre fianime, altri nodi amor promise." Canto ii. st. 34. 
Other flames, other bonds than these, love promised. 

The sentiment is natural, but the double use of the " flames" on 
such an occasion, miserable. 

In the third canto the fair Amazon Clorinda challenges her love 
sincle combat. 

" E di due morti in un punto lo sfida." St. 23. 

" And so at once she threats to kill him twice." Fairfax. 

That is to say, with her valour and beauty. 

, Another twofold employment of flame, with an exclamation 

450 TASSO. 

to secure our astonishment, makes its appearance in the fourth 

canto : 

" Oh miracol d' amor ! che le faville 
Tragge del pianto, e i cor' ne 1' acqua accende." St. 76. 

Oh, miracle of love ! that draweth sparks 

Of fire from tears, and kmdlest hearts m water ! 

This puerile antithesis of /re and water, fire and ice, light in dark- 
ness, silence in speech, together with such pretty turns as wound- 
ing one's-self in wounding others, and the worse sacrifice of con- 
sistency and truth of feeling, — lovers making long speeches on 
the least fitting occasions, and ladies retaining their rosy cheeks 
in the midst of fears of death, — is to be met with, more or less, 
throughout the poem. I have no doubt they were the proximate 
cause of that general corruption of taste which was afterwards 
completed by Marino, the acquaintance and ardent admirer of 
Tasso when a boy. They have been laid to the charge of Pe- 
trarch ; but, without entering into the question, how far and in 
what instances conceits may not be natural to lovers haunted, as 
Petrarch was, with one idea, and seeing it in every thing they 
behold, what had the great epic poet to do with the faults of the 
lyrical ? And what is to be said for his standing in need of the 
excuse of bad example ? Homer and Milton were in no such 
want. Virgil would not have copied the tricks of Ovid. There 
is an effeminacy and self reflection in Tasso, analogous to his 
Rinaldo, in the enchanted garden ; where the hero wore a looking- 
glass by his side, in which he contemplated his sophisticated self, 
and the meretricious beauty of his enchantress.* 

Agreeably to this tendency to weakness, the style of Tasso, 
when not supported by great occasions (and even the occasion 
itself sometimes fails him), is too apt to fall into tameness and 
commonplace, — to want movement and picture ; while, at the 
same time, with singular defect of enjoyment, it does not possess 

* It is an extraordinary instance of a man's violating, in older life, the better 
critical principles of his youth, — that Tasso, in his Discourses on Poetry, should 
have objected to a passage in Ariosto about sighs and tears, as being a " conceit 
too lyrical," (though it was warranted by the subtleties of madness, see present 
volume, p. 131), and yet afterwards riot in the same conceits when wholly 
without warrant. 



the music which might be exj>ectcd from a lyrical and voluptuous 
poet. 13ernar(lo prophesied of his son, that, liowever ho ini<rht 
surpass him in other respects, he would never equal him in sweet- 
ness ; and he seems to have judged him riirhtly. i imve met 
with a passage in Torquato's prose writings (but I cannot lay my 
hands on it), in which he expresses a singular i)redilecti()n for 
verses fuU of tlie same vowel. He seems, if I remember rightly, 
to have regarded it, not merely as a pleasing variety, which it is 
on occasion, but as a reigning principle. Voltaire (I tiiink, in 
his treatise on Epic Poetry) has noticed the multitude of o's in 
the exordium of the Jerusalem. This apparent negligence seems 
io have beea intentional. 

*' Cant6 r armi pictiise c '1 capitan5 

Che '1 gran Sep6lcr6 libcr6 di Cristf) ; 
M6lth I'gli »)pr6 c5l scnnO c c6n la inaiir>, 

M()lt6 s6fl'ri nel glOrioso acquistC) ; 
E invan 1' iiifernt> a lui s' 6pp5se ; invan6 

S' arm6 d' Asia e di Libia il p6p6l misto ; 
Che il ciel gli die fov6re, e s6tt5 ai santi 
Segni ridusse i sut)i c6nipagni erranti." 

The reader will not be surprised to find, that he who could thus 
confound monotony with music, and commence his greatest poem 
with it, is too often discordant in the rest of his versification. It 
has been thought, that Milton might have taken from the Italians 
the grand musical account to which he turns a list of proper 
names, as in his enumerations of realms and deities ; but I have 
been surprised to find how little the most musical of languages 
appears to have suggested to its poets anything of the sort. I am 
not aware of it, indeed, in any poets but our own. All others, 
i from Homer, with his catalogue of leaders and ships, down to 
Mctastasio himself, though he wrote for music, appear to have 
overlooked this opportunity of playing a voluntary of fine sounds, 
where they had no other theme on which to modulate. Its in- 
ventor, as far as I am aware, is that great poet, Marlowe.* 

it ♦ Aapiaviu3v avT Tjp^eVy cvi rais Ay;^;(ffao, 

V Aivfiaj' rov vn Ay^icTj tckc Si A<PpoiiTti 

l6ni tv Kvr\fioiai^ Ota /3fior<^ £VVT)Q€i(Ta' 

452 TASSO. 

There are faults of invention as well as style in the Jerusalem. 
The Talking Bird, or bird that sings with a human voice (can- 
to iv. 13), is a piece of inverisimilitude, which the author, perhaps, 
thought justifiable by the speaking horses of the ancients. But 

OvK oioi' ajxit T.yys cvio A.vTi]vopos v'lt, 

Iliad, ii. 819. 

1 1 b ciuious that these five lines should abound as much in a's as Tasso's first 
Btanza does in o's. Similar monotonies are strikingly observable in the nomen- 
clatures of Virgil. See his most perfect poem, the Georgics : 

" Omni^ secum 
"Armentirius Wfer hgit, tectumque, Li\remque, 
'Armaque, 'Amyclaeumque cJinem, Crcssimque pharetrim." 

Lib. iii. 343. 

It is clear that Dante never thought of this point. See his Mangiadore, San- 
vittore, Natan, Raban, &c. at the end of the twelfth canto of the Paradiso. Yet 
in liis time poetry was rccitatired to music. So it was in Petrarch's, who was a 
lutenist, and who " tried" his verses, to see how they would go to the instrument. 
Yet Petrarch could allow himself to write such a quatram as the followino- 
list of rivers : 

" Non Tesin, P5, Varo, Arno, Adige e Tebro, 
Eufrate, Tigre, Nilo, Ermo, Indo e Gange, 
Tana, Istro, Alfeo, Garrona, 6 '1 mar che frange, 
Rodano, Ibero, Ren, Senna, Albia, Era, Ebro!" 

In Tasso's Sette Giomate, to which Black thinks Milton indebted for his grand 
use of proper names, the following is the way in which the poet writes : 

" Di SilvJini 
Di Pi\ni, e d' Egipini, e d' iiltri errinti, 
Ch' empier le solitarie incults solve 
D' antiche maraviglie ; e quell' accbltd 
Esercit^ di Bacco in 5riente 
Ond' egli vinse, e trionf5 dcgl' Indi, 
Tornand5 gl6ri5sb ai Greci Udi, 
Sicc5m' e fav6l0s5 antico trrido." 

The most diversified passage of this kind (as far as I am aware) is Ariosto's list 
of his friends at the close of the Orlando ; and yet such writing as follows 
would seem to shew that it was an accident : 

•' lb veggiu il Fracast5r5, il BevazzanO, 
Trifbn Gabriel, e il Tass5 piu Ibntanb ; 
Vegg6 NiccblO TiepoU, e cOn essb 
NiccOlO .\raani6 in me affissar le cicrlia ; 

•9 / 



he latter were moved supernatunilly for the occasion, and for a 
'ery line occasion. Tasso's bird is a inere born contradiction to 
lature and for no necessity. Tlio vulgar idea of the devil witli 
lorns and a tail (though the retention of it argued a genius in 
Tasso very inferior to that of Milton) is defensible, I think, on tiie 
lea of the German critics, that malignity sliould be made a thin"- 
o\v and deformed ; but as much cannot be said for the storeiiouse 
a heaven, where St. Michael's spear is kept with which he slew 
he dragon, and the trident which is used for making earthquakes 
canto vii. st. 81). The tomb which supernaturally comes out 
f the ground, inscribed with the name and virtues of Sueno, 
canto viii. st. 39), is worthy only of a pantomime ; and the wiz- 
ird in robes, with beech-leaves on his head, who walks dry-shod 
m water, and superfluously helps the knights on their way to 
^rmida's retirement (xiv. 33), is almost as ludicrous as the 
)urlesque of the river-god in the Voyage of Bachaumont and 

But let us not wonder, nevertheless, at the effect which the 
Terusalcm has had upon the world. It could not have had it with- 
»ut great nature and power. Rinaldo, in spite of his aberrations 
vith Armida, knew the path to renown, and so did his poet. 
Tasso's epic, with all its faults, is a noble production, and justly 

Aut6n Fulgbst), ch' a vedermi appress6 
Al lit6, m5stra gaudio c maraviglia. 
II mi5 ValcriC) e quel clie \ii .s' b mess6 
Fu6r dc Ic dunne," &c. 

ven IMetastasio, who wrote expressly for singers, and oflcn with exquisite 
nodulation, especially in his songs, forgets himself when he comes to the names 
►f his dramatis personcc, — " Artiserse, ' ,'Arbicc, Mindine, Semiri, 
tfegJibise," — all in one play. 

" Gran cose io temo. II mio germino 'Arbice 
Pirte priil de 1' aurori. II pfidre arinito 
Incontro, e non mi pJirla^. AiH^usd ii ciclo 
'Acritiito Artiiscrsc, e m' ibbindoni." Atto i. so. 6. 

am far from intending to say that these reiterations arc not sometimes allow- 
ible, nay, often beautiful and desirable. Alliteration itself may be rendered an 
ixquisite instrument of music. I am only spetiking of monotony or discord in 
he enumeration of proper names. 

4^ TASSO. 

considered one of the poems of the world. Each of those poems i^ 
hit some one great point of universal attraction, at least in their 
respective countries, and among the givers of fame in others. 
Homer's poem is that of action ; Dante's, of passion ; Virgil's, 
of judgment ; Milton's, of religion ; Spenser's, of poetry itself ; 
Ariosto's, of animal spirits (I do not mean as respects gaiety only, 
but in strength and readiness of accord with the whole play of 
nature) ; Tasso looked round with an ultra-sensitive temperament, 
and an ambition which required encouragement, and his poem is 
that of tenderness. Every thing inclines to this point in his cir- 
cle, with the tremulousness of the needle. Love is its all in all, 
even to the design of the religious war which is to rescue the 
sepulchre of the God of Charity from the hands of »the unloving. 
Ilis heroes are all in love, at least those on the right side ,• his 
leader, Godfrey, notwithstanding his prudence, narrowly escapes 
the passion, and is full of a loving consideration ; his amazon, 
Clorinda, inspires the truest passion, and dies taking her lover's 
hand ; his Erminia is all love for an enemy ; his enchantress 
Armida falls from pretended love into real, and forsakes her re- 
ligion for its sake. An old father (canto ix.) loses his five sons 
in battle, and dies on their dead bodies of a wound which he has 
provoked on purpose. Tancred cannot achieve the enterprise of 
the Enchanted Forest, because his dead mistress seems to come 
out of one of the trees. Olindo thinks it happiness to be martyred 
at the same stake with Sophronia. The reconciliation of Rinaldo 
with his enchantress takes place within a few stanzas of the close 
of the poem, as if contesting its interest with religion. The Jeru- 
salem Delivered, in short, is the favourite epic of the young : all 
the lovers in Europe have loved it. The French have forgiven 
the author his conceits for the sake of his gallantry : he is the 
poet of tlie gondoliers ; and Spenser, the most luxurious of his 
brethren, plundered his bowers of bliss. Read Tasso's poem by 
this gentle light of his genius, and you pity him twenty-fold, and 
know not what excuse to find for his jailer. 

The stories translated in the present volume, though including 
war and magic, are all love-stories. They were not selected on that 
account , They suggested themselves for selection, as containing 
most of the finest things in the poem. They are conducted with 












great art, and the characters and aOcctions happily varied. The 
first {Olindo and Sophronia) is pcrliaps uni(iut> for the 
of its comniencenient (I mean witli regard to the lovers), and the 
perfect, and at the same time quite probable, felicity of the con- 
clusion. There is no reason to believe that the staid and devout 
Sophronia would have loved her adorer at all, but for the circum- 
stance that first dooms them both to a shocking death, and then 
sends them, with perfect warrant, from the stake to the altar. 
Clorinda is an Amazon, the idea of whom, as such, it is impossible 
for us to separate from very repulsive and unfeminine images ; yet, 
under the circumstances of the story, we call to mind in her be- 
half the possibility of a Joan of Arc's having loved and been be- 
loved ; and her death is a surprising and most affecting variation 
upon that of Agrican in Boiardo. Tasso's enchantress Armida is 
a variation of the Angelica of the same poet, combined with Ari- 
osto's Alcina ; but her passionate voluptuousness makes her quite 
a new character in regard to the one ; and she is as dillerent 
from the painted hag of the Orlando as youth, beauty, and patri- 
otic intention can make her. She is not very sentimental ; but 
all the passion in the world has sympathised with her ; and it was 
manly and honest in the poet not to let her Paganism and ve- 
hemence hinder him from doing justice to her claims as a human 
being and a deserted woman. Her fate is left in so pleasing a 
state of doubt, that we gladly avail ourselves of it to suppose her 
married to Rinaldo, and becoming the mother of a line of Chris- 
tian princes. I wish they had treated her poet half so well as she 
would infallibly have treated him herself. 

But the singer of the Crusades can be strong as well as gentle. 
You discern in his battles and single combats the poet ambitious 
of renown, and the accomplished swordsman. The duel of Tan- 
cred and Argantes, in which the latter is slain, is as earnest and 
fiery writing throughout as truth and passion could desire ; that of 
Tancred and Clorinda is also very powerful as well as alfecling ; 
and the whole siege of Jerusalem is admirable for the strength of 
its interest. Every body knows the grand verse (not, however, 
quite original) that summons the devils to council, " ('hiama gli 
abitator," &c. ; and the still grander, though less original one, 


456 TASSO. 

describing the desolations of time, " Giace 1' alta Cartago."* The 
forest filled with supernatural terrors by a magician, in order that 
the Christians may not cut wood from it to make their engines of 
war, is one of the happiest pieces of invention in romance. It is 
founded in as true human feeling as those of Ariosto, and is made 
an admirable instrument for the aggrandizement of the character 
of Rinaldo. Godfrey's attestation of all time, and of the host of 
heaven, when he addresses his army in the first canto, is in the 
highest spirit of epic magnificence. So is the appearance of the 
celestial armies, together with that of the souls of the slain Chris- 
tian warriors, in the last canto, where they issue forth in the air 
to assist the entrance into the conquered city. The classical 
poets are turned to great and frequent account throughout the 
poem ; and yet the work has a strong air of originality, partly 
owing to the subject, partly to the abundance of love-scenes, and 
to a certain compactness in the treatment of the main story, not- 
withstanding the luxuriance of the episodes. The Jerusalem 
Deliver,ed is stately, well-ordered, full of action and character, 
sometimes sublime, always elegant, and very interesting — more 
so, I think, as a whole, and in a popular sense, than any other 
story in verse, not excepting the Odyssey. For the exquisite do- 
mestic attractiveness of the second Homeric poem is injured, like 
the hero himself, by too many diversions from the main point. 
There is an interest, it is true, in that very delay ; but we become 
too much used to the disappointment. In the epic of Tasso the 
reader constantly desires to learn how the success of the enter- 
prise is to be brought about ; and he scarcely loses sight of any 
of the persons but he wishes to see them again. Even in the 
love-scenes, tender and absorbed as they are, we feel that the he- 
roes are fighters, or going to fight. When you are introduced to 
Armida in the Bower of Bliss, it is by warriors who come to take 
her lover away to battle. 

One of the reasons why Tasso hurt the style of his poem by a 
manner too lyrical was, that notwithstanding its deficiency in 
sweetness, he was one of the profusest lyrical writers of his na- 
tion, and always having his feelings turned in upon himself. I 

♦ See them both in the present volume, pp. 420 and 445. 

HIS Lll-'li AND ^.,i..NiLo. .i:.7 

am not sunicicntly acquainted with his odes and sonnets to spcuk 
of them in the gross ; but I may be allowed to express my U'lii-f 
that they possess a great deal of fancy and R-elinL,'. It has been 
wondered liow he could write so many, considering tjjo troubles 
he went through : but the experience was the reason. The con- 
stant succession of hopes, fears, wants, gratitudes, loves, and 
the necessity of employing his imagination, accounts l«ir all. 
Some of his sonnets, such as those on the Countess of Scandiauo's 
lip (" Quel labbro," &c.) ; the one to Stigliano, concluding with 
the atlecting mention of himself and his lost harp ; that begiiming 

" lo veggio in cicia sciiitillar le stcllc ," 

recur to my mind oftener than any others except Dante's " Tanto 
gentile" and Filicaia^s Lament on llahj ; and, with the exception 
of a few of the more famous odes of Petrarch, and one or two of 
Filicaia's and Guidi's, I know of none in Italian like several of 
Tasso's, including his fragment " O del grand' Apcnnino," and 
tlie exquisite chorus on the Golden Age, which struck a note in 
the hearts of the world. 

His Aminta, the chief pastoral poem of Italy, though, with the 
exception of that ode, not equal in passages to the Faithful Shep- 
erfZ<:s5 (which is a Pan to it compared with a beardless shepherd), 
is elegant, interesting, and as superior to Guarini's more sophisti- 
cate yet still beautiful Pastor Fido as a first thought may be sup- 
posed to be to its emulator. The objection of its being too elegant 
for shepherds he anticipated and nullified by making Love himsell 
account for it in a charming prologue, of which the god is the 
speaker : 

" Qucste selvc oggi ragionar d' Amore 
S' udranno in nuova guisa ; c ben paraBsi, 
Che la inia Dt-iui sia qui prcsrnlc 
In se medcsina, c non nc' 8Uoi ministri. 
Spircrb nobil sensi k rozzi |)otti ; 
Ra(l(loIrir6 nello lor linguc il suono : 
Prrrh6, ovunquc i' mi sia, io sono Amorp 
Nc' pastori non men oho ncgli eroi ; 
E la tlisaggiiaglianz-a dr' ROggotti, 
Come a mc piacp, ngguaglio o qucfita 6 puro 

458 TASSa 

Suprema glcaia, e gran miracol mio, 
Render simili alle piii dotte cetre 
Le rustiche sampogne." 

After new fashion shall these woods to-day 

Hear love discoursed ; and it shall well be seers 

That my divinity is present here 

In its own person, not its ministers, 

I will inbreathe high fancies in rvide hearts ; 

I will refine and render dulcet sweet 

Their tongues ; because, wherever I may be. 

Whether with rustic or heroic men, 

There am I Love ; and inequahty, 

As it may please me, do I equalise ; 

And 'tis my crowning glory and great miracle 

To make the rural pipe as eloquent 

Even as the subtlest harp. 

I ought not to speak of Tasso's other poetry, or of his prose, for 
I have read little of either ; though, as they are not popular with 
his countrymen, a foreigner may be pardoned for thinking his 
classical tragedy, Torrismmido, not attractive — his Sette Giornate 
(Seven Days of the Creation) still less so — and his platonical 
and critical discourses better filled with authorities than reasons. 

Tasso was a lesser kind of Milton, enchanted by the Sirens. 
We discern the weak parts of his character, more or less, in all 
his writings ; but we see also the irrepressible elegance and su- 
periority of the mind, which, in spite of all weakness, was felt to 
tower above its age, and to draw to it the homage as well as the 
resentment of princes. 



The Mahomedan king of Jerusalem, at the instigation of Ismeno, a magician, 
deprives a Christian church of its image of the Virgin, and sets it up in a 
mosque, under a spell of enchantment, as a palladium against the Crusaders. 
The image is stolen in the night; and the king, unable to discover who has 
taken it, orders a massacre of the Christian portion of his subjects, which is 
prevented by Sophronia's accusing herself of the offence. Her lover, Olindo, 
finding her sentenced to the stake in consequence, disputes with her the right 
of martyrdom. He is condemned to suffer with her. The Amazon Clorinda, 
who has come to fight on the side of Aladin, obtains their pardon in acknow- 
ledgment of her services ; and Sophronia, who had not loved Olindo before, 
now returns his passion, and goes with Mm from the stake to the marriage-altar. 


Godfrey of Boulogne, the leader of tlie Crusaders, was now in 
full march for Jerusalem with the Christian army ; and Ahidin, 
the old infidel king, became agitated with wrath and terror, lie 
had heard nothinor but accounts of the enemy's irresistible ad- 
vance. There were many Christians witin'n his walls whose in- 
surrection he dreaded ; and though lie had appeared to grow 
milder with age, he now, in spite of the frost in his veins, felt as 
hot for cruelty, as the snake excited by the fire of summer. I lo 
longed to stifle his fears of insurrection by a massacre, but dread- 
ed the consequence in the event of the city's being taken. lie 
therefore contented himself, for the present, with laying wa.ste the 
country round about it, destroying every possible receptacle of 
the invaders, poisoning the wells, and doubly fortifying the only 
weak point in his fortifications. 

At this juncture the renegade Ismeno stood before him — a bad 
old man who had studied unlawful arts. He could bind and 
loose evil spirits, and draw the dead out of their tombs, restoring 
to them breath and perception. This man told the king, that in 
the church belonging to his Christian subjects there was an altar 
underground, on which stood a veiled imago of the woman whom 
they worshipped — the mother, as they called her, of their dead 
and buried God. A dazzling light burnt for ever before it ; and 
the walls were hung with the offerings of her credulous devotees. 
If this image, he said, were taken away by the king's own hand, 
and set up in a mosque, such a spell of enchantment could be 
thrown about it as should render the city impregnable so long as 
the idol was kept safe. 

Aladin proceeded instantly to the Christian temple, and, treat- 
ing the priests with violence, tore the image from its shrine and 


conveyed it to his own place of worship. The necromancer then 
muttered before it his blasphemous enchantment. 

But tlie light of morning no sooner appeared in the mosque, 
than the official to whose charge the palladium had been commit- 
ted missed it from its place, and in vain searched every other to 
find it. In truth it never was found again ; nor is it known to 
this day how it went. Some think the Christians took it ; others 
that Heaven interfered in order to save it from profanation. And 
well (says the poet) does it become a pious humility so to think 
of a disappearance so wonderful. 

The king, who fell into a paroxysm of rage, not doubting that 
some Christian was the offender, issued a proclamation setting a 
price on the head of any one who concealed it. But no discovery 
was made. The necromancer resorted to his art with as little 
effect. The king then ordered a general Christian massacre. 
His savage wrath hugged itself on the reflection, that the criminal 
would be sure to perish, perish else who might. 

The Christians heard the order with an astonishment that took 
away all their powers of resistance. The suddenness of the pres- 
ence of death stupified them. They did not resort even to an en- 
treaty. They waited, like sheep, to be butchered. Little did 
they think what kind of saviour was at hand. 

There was a maiden among them of ripe years, grave and beau- 
tiful ; one who took no heed of her beauty, but was altogether ab- 
sorbed in high and holy thoughts. If she thought of her beauty 
ever, it was only to subject it to the dignity of virtue. The 
greater her worth, the more she concealed it from the world, liv- 
ing a close life at home, and veiling herself from all eyes. 

But the rays of such a jewel could not but break through their 
casket. Love would not consent to have it so locked up. Love 
turned her very retirement into attraction. There was a youth 
who had become enamoured of this hidden treasure. His name 
was Olindo ; Sophronia was that of the maiden. Olindo, like 
herself, was a Christian ; and the humbleness of his passion was 
equal to the worth of her that inspired it. He desired much, 
hoped little, asked nothing.* He either knew not how to disclose 

* " Braina assai, proco spera, e nulla chiede."— Canto ii. st. 16. 
A line justly famous. 


his love, or did not dare it. And she eilhrr drspisid it, or di.I 
not, or would not, see it. Tiie poor youtjj, np to tlii» day, had 
got nothing by his devotion, not even n look. 

The niiiiden, who was nevertheless as generous as she wqh 
virtuous, fell into deep thouglit how she might save her Christian 
brethren. She soon came to her resolve. She delayed the cxe- 
cution of it a little, only out of a sense of virgin decorum, which 
in its turn, made her still more resolute. She issued forth by 
herself, in the sight of all, not mullling up her beauty, nor yet 
exposing it. She withdrew her eyes beneath a veil, and, attired 
neither with ostentation nor carelessness, passed througii the 
streets with unatFected simplicity, admired by all save herself. 
She went straight before the king. Ilis angry aspect did not re- 
pel her. She drew aside the veil, and looked him steadily in tjje 

" I am come," she said, " to beg, sir, that you will suspend 
your wrath, and withhold the orders given to your people. I 
know and will give up the author of the deed which has olFended 
you, on that condition." 

At the noble confidence thus displayed, at the sudden appari- 
tion of so much lofty and virtuous beauty, the king's countenance 
was confused, and its angry expression abated. Had his spirit 
been less stern, or the look she gave him less firm in its purpose, 
he would have loved her. But haughty beauty and haughty be- 
holder are seldom drawn together. Glances of pleasure are the 
baits of love. And yet, if the ungentle king was not enamoured, 
he was impressed. He was bent on gazing at her ; he felt an 
emotion of delight. 

" Say on," he replied ; " I accept the condition." 

"Behold then," said she, '' the offender. Tiie deed was the 
work of this hand. It was I that conveyed away the image. I 
am she whom you look for. I am the criminal to be punished." 

And as she spake, she bent her head before him, as already 
yielding it to the executioner. 

Oh, noble falsehood ! when was truth to be compared with 
thee ?* 

♦ " Magnanima mengogna! or quanilo 6 il vero 
SI belio, chc si possa a te preporreV 


The king was struck dumb. He did not fail into his accus- 
tomed transports of rage. When he recovered from his astonish- 
ment, he said, " Who advised you to do this ? Who was your 
accomplice ?" 

" Not a soul," replied the maiden. " I would not have allowed 
another person to share a particle of my glory. I alone knew 
of the deed ; I alone counselled it ; I alone did it." 

" Then be the consequence," cried he, "on your own head." 

" 'Tis but just," returned Sophronia. " Mine was the sole 
honour; mine, therefore, should be the only punishment." 

The tyrant at this began to feel the accession of his old wrath. 
" Where," he said, " have you hidden the image ?" 

" I did not hide it," she replied, " I burnt it. I thought it 
fit and righteous to do so. I knew of no other way to save it 
from the hands of the unbelieving. Ask not for what will never 
again be found. Be content with the vengeance you have before 

Oh, chaste heart ! oh, exalted soul ! oh, creature full of noble- 
ness ! think not to find a forgiving moment return. Beauty itself 
is thy shield no longer. 

The glorious maiden is taken and bound. The cruel king 
has condemned her to the stake. Her veil, and the mantle that 
concealed her chaste bosom, are torn away, and her soft arms 
tied with a hard knot behind her. She said nothing ; she was not 
terrified ; but yet she was not unmoved. Her bosom heaved 
in spite of its courage. Her lovely colour was lost in a pure 

The news spread in an instant, and the city crowded to the 
sight, Christians and all, Olindo among them. He had thought 
within himself, " What if it should be Sophronia !" But when 
he beheld that it was she indeed, and not only condemned, but 
already at the stake, he made through the crowd with violence, 
crying out, " This is not the person, — this poor simpleton ! She 
never thought of such a thing ; she had not the courage to do it ; 
she had not the strength. How was she to carry the sacred im- 
age away ? Let her abide by her story if she dare. I did it." 

Such was the love of the poor youth for her that loved him 

0L1?\D0 AND SOPHROMA. 455 

When he came up to the stake, he gave a formal account of 
what he pretended to liave done. " I climbed in," he said, " at 
the window of your mosque at night, and found a narrow passage 
round to the image, where nobody could expect to meet me. I 
shall not suffer the penalty to be usurped by another. I did tlie 
deed, and I will have the honour of doing it, now that it comes to 
this. Let our places be exchanged." 

Sophronia had looked up when she heard the youth call out, 
and she gazed on him with eyes of pity. " What madness is 
this !" exclaimed she. " What can induce an innocent person to 
bring destruction on himself for nothing ? Can I not bear the 
thing by myself? Is the anger of one man so tremendous, that 
one person cannot sustain it ? Trust me, friend, you are mistaken. 
I stand in no need of your company." 

Thus spoke Sophronia to her lover ; but not a whit was he dis- 
posed to alter his mind. Oh, great and beautiful spectacle ! Love 
and virtue at strife ; — death the prize they contend for ; — ruin 
itself the salvation of the conqueror ! 

But the contest irritated the king. He felt himself set at 
nought ; felt death itself despised, as if in despite of the inflictor. 
'' Let them be taken at their words," cried he ; " let both have 
the prize they long for." 

The youth is seized on the instant, and bound like the maiden. 
Both are tied to the stake, and set back to back. They behold 
not the face of one another. The wood is heaped round about 
them ; the fire is kindled. 

The youth broke out into lamentations, but only loud enough 
to be heard by his fellow-sufferer. " Is this, then," said he, " the 
bond which I hoped might join us ? Is this the fire which I 
thought might possibly warm two lovers' hearts ?* Too long (is it 
not so ?) have we been divided, and now too cruelly are we united : 
too cruelly, I say, but not as regards me ; for since I am not to 
be partner of thy existence, gladly do I share thy death. It is 
thy fate, not mine, that afflicts me. Oh ! too happy were it to 
me, too sweet and fortunate, if I could obtain grace enough to be 
set with thee heart to heart, and so breathe out my soul into thy 

* This conceit is more dwelt upon in the original, coupled with the one no- 
ticed at p. 217. 


lips ! Perhaps thou wouldst do the like with mine, and so give 
me thy last sigh." 

Tims spoke the youth in tears ; but the maiden gently reproved 


She said : " Other thoughts, my friend, and other lamentations 
hcfit a time like this. Why thinkest thou not of thy sins, and of 
the rewards which God has promised to the righteous 1 Meet 
thy sufferings in his name ; so shall their bitterness be made sweet, 
and thy soul be carried into the realms above. Cast thine eyes 
upwards, and behold them. See how beautiful is the sky ; how 
the sun seems to invite thee towards it with its splendour." 

At words so noble and piteous as these the Pagans them- 
selves, who stood within hearing, began to weep. The Christians 
wept too, but in voices more lowly. Even the king felt an un- 
usual emotion of pity ; but disdaining to give way to it, turned 
aside and withdrew. The maiden alone partook not of the com- 
mon grief She for whom every body wept wept not for herself. 

The flames were now beginning to approach the stake, when 
there appeared, coming through the crowd, a warrior of noble 
mien, habited in the arms of another country. The tiger, which 
formed the crest of his helmet, drew all eyes to it, for it was a 
cognizance well known. They began to think that it was a hero- 
ine instead of a hero which they saw, even the famous Clorinda. 
Nor did they err in the supposition. 

A despiser of feminine habits had Clorinda been from her 
childhood. She disdained to put her hand to the needle and the 
distaff. She renounced every sofl indulgence, every timid retire- 
ment, thinking that virtue could be safe wherever it went in its 
own courageous heart ; and so she armed her countenance with 
pride, and pleased herself with making it stern, but not to the 
effect she looked for, for the sternness itself pleased. While yet 
a child her little right hand would control the bit of the charger, 
and she wielded the sword and spear, and hardened her limbs 
with wrestling, and made them supple for the race ; and then as 
she grew up, she tracked the footsteps of the bear and lion, and 
followed the trumpet to the wars ; and in those and in the depths 
of the forest she seemed a wild creature to mankind, and a man 
to the wildest creature. She had now come out of Persia to 


wreak lier displeasure uii the Christians, who had already felt the 
sharpness of her sword ; and as she arrived near this ussoinhhHl 
multitude, death was the first thing that met her eyes, but in a 
shape so perplexing, that she looked narrowly to discern wlmt ii 
was, and then spurred her horse towards the scene of action. 
The crowd gave way as she approached, and she halted us she 
entered the circle round the stake, and sat gazing on tlie youth 
and maiden. She wondered to see the male victim lamenting, 
while the female was mute. But indeed she saw that he was 
weeping not out of grief but pity ; or at least, not out of grief 
for himself; and as to the maiden, she observed her to be so wrapt 
up in the contemplation of the heavens at which she was gazing, 
that she appeared to have already taken leave of earth. 

Pity touched the heart of the Amazon, and the tears came into 
her eyes. She felt sorry for both the victims, but chiefly for the 
one that said nothing. She turned to a white-headed man beside 
her, and said, " What is this ? Who are these two persons whom 
crime, or their ill-fortune, has brought hither?" 

The man answered her briefly, but to the purpose; and she 
discerned at once that both must be innocent. She therefore de- 
termined to save them. She dismounted, and set the example of 
putting a stop to the flames, and then said to the oflicers, " Let 
nobody continue this work till I have spoken to the king. Rest 
assured he will hold you guiltless of the delay." Tlie olficers 
obeyed, being struck with lier air of confidence and authority ; 
and she went straigiit towards the king, who had heard of her arri- 
val, and who was coming to bid her welcome. 

" I am Clorinda," she said. " Thou knowest me ? Then thou 
knowest, sir, one who is desirous to defend the good faith and the 
king of Jerusalem. I am ready for any duty that may be assigned 
me. I fear not the greatest, nor do I disdain the least. Open 
field or walled city, no post will come amiss to the king's ser- 


" Illustrious maiden," answered the king, " who knoweth not 
Clorinda ? What region is there so distant from Asia, or so far 
away out of the paths of the sun, to which the sound of thy 
achievements has not arrived ? Joined by thee and by thy sword 
I fear nothing. Godfrey, methinks, is too slow to attack me. 


Dost thou ask to which post thou shalt be appointed ? To the 
greatest ! None else become thee. Thou art lady and mistress 
of the war.-' 

Clorinda gave the king thanks for his courtesy, and then re- 
sumed. " Strange is it, in truth," she said, " to ask my reward 
before I have earned it ; but confidence like this reassures mo. 
Grant me, for what I propose to do in the good cause, the lives of 
those two persons. I wave the uncertainty of their offence ; I 
wave the presumption of innocence afforded by their own behaviour. 
I ask their liberation as a favour. And yet it becomes me, at the 
same time, to confess, that 1 do not believe the Christians to have 
taken the image out of the mosque. It was an impious thing of 
the nia<Tician to put it there. An idol has no business in a Mus- 
sulman temple, much less the idols of unbelievers ; and my 
opinion is, that the miracle was the work of Mahomet himself, out 
of scorn and hatred of the contamination. Let Ismeno prefer his 
craft, if he will, to the weapons of a man ; but let him not take 
upon himself the defence of a nation of warriors." 

The warlike damsel was silent : and the kins:, thoun;h he could 
with difficulty conquer his anger, yet did so, to please his guest. 
" They are free," said he ; "I can deny nothing to such a peti- 
tioner. Whether it be justice or not to absolve them, absolved 
they are. If they are innocent, I pronounce them so ; if guilty, I 
concede their pardon." 

At' these wards the youth and the maiden were set free ; and 
blissful indeed was the fortune of Olindo ; for love so proved as 
his awoke love in the noble bosom of Sophronia, and so he passed 
from the stake to the marriage-altar, a husband, instead of a wretch 
condemned — a lover beloved, instead of a hopeless adorer. 



The Mussulman Amazon Clorinda, who is beloved by the Christain chief 
Tancred, goes forth in disguise at night to burn the batteiing tower of the 
Christian army. She effects her purpose : but, in retreating from its discov- 
erers, is accidentally shut out of the gate through which she had left the city. 
She makes her way into the open country, trusting to get in at one of the other 
gates ; but, having been watched by Tancred, who does not know her in the 
armour in which she is disguised, a combat ensues between them, in which she 
is slain. She requests baptism in her last moments, and receives it from the 
hands of her despairing lover. 


The Christians, in their s'lQcrc of Jerusalem, had brou<;ht a iiii"<« 
rolling tower against the walls, from wjiich they battered and 
commanded the city with such deadly effect that the generous Am- 
azon Clorinda resolved to go forth in disguise and burn it. She 
disclosed her design to the chieftain Argantes, for the pur|)ose of 
recommending to him the care of her damsels, in case any mis- 
fortune should happen to her ; but the warrior, jealous of the 
glory of such an enterprise, insisted on partaking it. The old 
king, weeping for gratitude, joyfully gave them leave ; and tlie 
Soldan of Egypt, with a generous emulation, would fain join 
them. Argantes was about to give him a disdainful refusal, 
when the king interposed, and persuaded the Soldan to remain 
behind, lest the city should miss too many of its best defrnders at 
a time ; adding, that the risk of sallying forth should be his, in 
case the burners of the tower were pursued on their return. Ar- 
gantes and the Amazon then retired to prepare for the exploit, and 
the magician Ismeno compounded two balls of sulphur for the work 
of destruction. 

Clorinda took off her beautiful helmet, and her surcoat of cloth 
of silver, and laid aside all her haughty arms, and dressed her- 
self (unfortunate omen !) in black armour without polish, the 
better to conceal herself from the enemy. Her faithful servant, 
the good old eunuch Arsetes, who had attended her from inf.mcy, 
and was now following her about as well as he could with his 
accustomed zeal, anxiously noticed what she was doing, and 
guessing it was for some desperate enterprise, entreated her, by 
his white hairs and all the love he had shewn her, to give it up. 
Finding his prayers to no purpose, he requested with great emo- 
tion that she would give ear to certain matters in her family his- 


tory, which he at length felt it his duty to disclose. " It would 
then," he said, " be for herself to judge, whether she would per- 
sist in the enterprise or renounce it." Clorinda, at this, looked 
at the good man, and listened with attention. 

" Not long ago," said he, " there reigned in Ethiopia, and per- 
haps is still reigning, a king named Senapus, who in common 
with his people professed the Christian religion. They are a 
black, though a handsome people, and the king and his queen 
were of the same colour. The king loved her dearly, but was 
unfortunately so jealous, that he concealed her from the sight of 
mankind. Had it been in his power, I think he would have hin- 
dered the very eyes of heaven from beholding her. The sweet 
ladv, however, was wdse and humble, and did every thing she 
could to please him. 

" I was not a Christian myself. I was a Pagan slave, em- 
ployed among the women about the queen, and making one of her 
special attendants. 

" It happened that the royal bed-chamber was painted with the 
story of a holy knight saving a maiden from a dragon i^ and the 
maiden had a face beautifully fair, with blooming cheeks. The 
queen often prayed and w^ept before this picture ; and it made so 
great an impression on her, particularly the maiden's face, that 
when she bore a child, she saw with consternation that the in- 
fant's skin was of the same fair colour. This child was thyself.f 

" Terrified with the thoughts of what her husband would feel 
at such a sight, what a convincing proof he w^ould hold it of a 
faith on her part the reverse of spotless, she procured a babe of 
her own colour by means of a confidant ; and before thou wert 
baptised (which is a ceremony that takes place in Ethiopia later 
than elsewhere) committed thee to my care to be brought up at a 
distance. Who shall relate the tears which thy mother poured 
forth, and the sighs and sobs with w^hich they were interrupted ? 

* St. Gcorse. 

t Tills fiction of a white Ethiop child is taken from the Greek romance of 
Iloliodorus, book the fourth. The imaginative principle on which it is founded 
is true to physiology, and Tasso had a right to use it ; but the particular and 
excessive instance does not appear happy in the eyes of a modern reader ac- 
quainted with the Ixistor}^ of albinos. 


How many times, when she tliought she luid given tliee the lust 
embrace, did she not gatlier thee to her bosom once more !* At 
lengtli, raising licr eyes to lieaven, she said, ' () thou that sccst 
into tlie hearts of mortals, and knowest in tliis matter the spot- 
lessness of mine, dark though it be otlierwise with frailty and with 
sin, save, I pray thee, tiiis innocent creature wiio is denied the 
milk of its mother's breast. Vouchsafe that she resemble her 
hapless parent in nothing but a chaste life. And thou, celestial 
warrior, that didst deliver the maiden out of the serpent's mouth, 
if I have ever lit humble taper on thine altar, and set before thee 
olTerings of gold and incense, be, I implore thee, her advocate. 
Be her advocate to such purpose, that in every turn of fortune 
she may be enabled to count on thy good hel}).' Here she ceased, 
tore to her very heart-strings, with a face painted of the colour of 
death ; and I, weeping myself, received thee, and bore thee away 
hidden in a sweet covering of flowers and leaves. 

" I journeyed with thee along a forest, where a tiger came 
upon us with fury in its eyes. I betook me, alas ! to a tree, and 
left thee lying on the ground, such terror was in me ; and the 
horrible beast looked down upon thee. But it fell to licking thee 
with its dreadful tongue, and thou didst smile to it, and put thy 
little hand to its jaws ; and lo ! it gave thee suck, being a mother 
itself, and then, wonderful to relate, it returned into the woods, 
leaving me to venture down from the tree, and bear thee onward 
to my "place of refuge. There, in a little obscure cottage, I had 
thee nursed for more than a year ; till, feeling that I grew old, I 
resolved to avail myself of the riches the queen had given me, 
and go into my own country, which was Egypt. I set out for it 
accordingly, and had to cross a torrent wiiere thieves threatened 
me on one side, and the fierce water on the other. I plunged in, 
holding thee above the torrent with one hand, till I came to an 
eddy that tore thee from me. I thought thee lost. Wiiat was 
my delight and astonishment, on reaching tiie bank, to fmd that 
the water itself had tossed thee upon it in safety ! 

♦ The conceit is more antithetically put in the original : 

" Ch' cfjli avria del candor che in te si vcdc 
Argomcntato in lei non bianca fcde." 

°, Canto xii. st. 2-1. 


" But I had a dream at night, which seemed to shew me the 
cause of thy good fortune. A warrior appeared before me with a 
threatening countenance, holding a sword in my face, and saying 
in an imperious voice, ' Obey the commands of the child's mother 
and of me, and baptise it. She is favoured of Heaven, and her 
lot is in my keeping. It was I that put tenderness in the heart 
of the wild beast, and even a will to save her in the water. Woe 
to thee, if thou belie vest not this vision. It is a message from the 


" The spirit vanished, and I awoke and pursued my journey ; 
but thinkino- my own creed the true one, and therefore concluding 
the dream to be false, I baptised thee not ; I bred thee what I was 
myself, a Pagan ; and thou didst grow up, and become great and 
wonderful in arms, surpassing the deeds of men, and didst acquire 
riches and lands ; and what thy life has been since, thou knowest 
as well as I ; ay, and thou knowest mine own ways too, how I 
have followed and cautiously waited on thee ever, being to thee 
both as a servant and father. 

" Now yesterday morning, as I lay 'heavily asleep, in conse- 
quence of my troubled mind, the same figure of the warrior made 
its appearance, but with a countenance still more threatening, and 
speaking in a louder voice. ' Wretch,' it exclaimed, ' the hour 
is approaching when Clorinda shall end both her life and her be- 
lief. She is mine in despite of thee. Misery be thine.' With 
these words it darted away as though it flew. 

" Consider then, delight of my soul, what these dreams may 
portend. They threaten thee terrible things ; for what reason I 
know not. Can it be, that mine own faith is the wrong one, and 
that of thy parents the right ? Ah ! take thought at least, and