The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XVI

O slight respect of man’s nobility!

I never shall account it marvelous,

That our infirm affection here below

Thou mov’st to boasting, when I could not choose,

E’en in that region of unwarp’d desire,

In heav’n itself, but make my vaunt in thee!

Yet cloak thou art soon shorten’d, for that time,

Unless thou be eked out from day to day,

Goes round thee with his shears. Resuming then

With greeting such, as Rome, was first to bear,

But since hath disaccustom’d I began;

And Beatrice, that a little space

Was sever’d, smil’d reminding me of her,

Whose cough embolden’d (as the story holds)

To first offence the doubting Guenever.

“You are my sire,” said I, “you give me heart

Freely to speak my thought: above myself

You raise me. Through so many streams with joy

My soul is fill’d, that gladness wells from it;

So that it bears the mighty tide, and bursts not

Say then, my honour’d stem! what ancestors

Where those you sprang from, and what years were mark’d

In your first childhood? Tell me of the fold,

That hath Saint John for guardian, what was then

Its state, and who in it were highest seated?”

As embers, at the breathing of the wind,

Their flame enliven, so that light I saw

Shine at my blandishments; and, as it grew

More fair to look on, so with voice more sweet,

Yet not in this our modern phrase, forthwith

It answer’d: “From the day, when it was said

‘ Hail Virgin!’ to the throes, by which my mother,

Who now is sainted, lighten’d her of me

Whom she was heavy with, this fire had come,

Five hundred fifty times and thrice, its beams

To reilumine underneath the foot

Of its own lion. They, of whom I sprang,

And I, had there our birth-place, where the last

Partition of our city first is reach’d

By him, that runs her annual game. Thus much

Suffice of my forefathers: who they were,

And whence they hither came, more honourable

It is to pass in silence than to tell.

All those, who in that time were there from Mars

Until the Baptist, fit to carry arms,

Were but the fifth of them this day alive.

But then the citizen’s blood, that now is mix’d

From Campi and Certaldo and Fighine,

Ran purely through the last mechanic’s veins.

O how much better were it, that these people

Were neighbours to you, and that at Galluzzo

And at Trespiano, ye should have your bound’ry,

Than to have them within, and bear the stench

Of Aguglione’s hind, and Signa’s, him,

That hath his eye already keen for bart’ring!

Had not the people, which of all the world

Degenerates most, been stepdame unto Caesar,

But, as a mother, gracious to her son;

Such one, as hath become a Florentine,

And trades and traffics, had been turn’d adrift

To Simifonte, where his grandsire ply’d

The beggar’s craft. The Conti were possess’d

Of Montemurlo still: the Cerchi still

Were in Acone’s parish; nor had haply

From Valdigrieve past the Buondelmonte.

The city’s malady hath ever source

In the confusion of its persons, as

The body’s, in variety of food:

And the blind bull falls with a steeper plunge,

Than the blind lamb; and oftentimes one sword

Doth more and better execution,

Than five. Mark Luni, Urbisaglia mark,

How they are gone, and after them how go

Chiusi and Sinigaglia; and ’t will seem

No longer new or strange to thee to hear,

That families fail, when cities have their end.

All things, that appertain t’ ye, like yourselves,

Are mortal: but mortality in some

Ye mark not, they endure so long, and you

Pass by so suddenly. And as the moon

Doth, by the rolling of her heav’nly sphere,

Hide and reveal the strand unceasingly;

So fortune deals with Florence. Hence admire not

At what of them I tell thee, whose renown

Time covers, the first Florentines. I saw

The Ughi, Catilini and Filippi,

The Alberichi, Greci and Ormanni,

Now in their wane, illustrious citizens:

And great as ancient, of Sannella him,

With him of Arca saw, and Soldanieri

And Ardinghi, and Bostichi. At the poop,

That now is laden with new felony,

So cumb’rous it may speedily sink the bark,

The Ravignani sat, of whom is sprung

The County Guido, and whoso hath since

His title from the fam’d Bellincione ta’en.

Fair governance was yet an art well priz’d

By him of Pressa: Galigaio show’d

The gilded hilt and pommel, in his house.

The column, cloth’d with verrey, still was seen

Unshaken: the Sacchetti still were great,

Giouchi, Sifanti, Galli and Barucci,

With them who blush to hear the bushel nam’d.

Of the Calfucci still the branchy trunk

Was in its strength: and to the curule chairs

Sizii and Arigucci yet were drawn.

How mighty them I saw, whom since their pride

Hath undone! and in all her goodly deeds

Florence was by the bullets of bright gold

O’erflourish’d. Such the sires of those, who now,

As surely as your church is vacant, flock

Into her consistory, and at leisure

There stall them and grow fat. The o’erweening brood,

That plays the dragon after him that flees,

But unto such, as turn and show the tooth,

Ay or the purse, is gentle as a lamb,

Was on its rise, but yet so slight esteem’d,

That Ubertino of Donati grudg’d

His father-in-law should yoke him to its tribe.

Already Caponsacco had descended

Into the mart from Fesole: and Giuda

And Infangato were good citizens.

A thing incredible I tell, tho’ true:

The gateway, named from those of Pera, led

Into the narrow circuit of your walls.

Each one, who bears the sightly quarterings

Of the great Baron (he whose name and worth

The festival of Thomas still revives)

His knighthood and his privilege retain’d;

Albeit one, who borders them With gold,

This day is mingled with the common herd.

In Borgo yet the Gualterotti dwelt,

And Importuni: well for its repose

Had it still lack’d of newer neighbourhood.

The house, from whence your tears have had their spring,

Through the just anger that hath murder’d ye

And put a period to your gladsome days,

Was honour’d, it, and those consorted with it.

O Buondelmonte! what ill counseling

Prevail’d on thee to break the plighted bond

Many, who now are weeping, would rejoice,

Had God to Ema giv’n thee, the first time

Thou near our city cam’st. But so was doom’d:

On that maim’d stone set up to guard the bridge,

At thy last peace, the victim, Florence! fell.

With these and others like to them, I saw

Florence in such assur’d tranquility,

She had no cause at which to grieve: with these

Saw her so glorious and so just, that ne’er

The lily from the lance had hung reverse,

Or through division been with vermeil dyed.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:58