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Chapter 6 Dante's Inquiry on Prayers for the Dead. Sordello. Italy.

  • Whene'er is broken up the game of Zara,
  • He who has lost remains behind despondent,
  • The throws repeating, and in sadness learns;
  • The people with the other all depart;
  • One goes in front, and one behind doth pluck him,
  • And at his side one brings himself to mind;
  • He pauses not, and this and that one hears;
  • They crowd no more to whom his hand he stretches,
  • And from the throng he thus defends himself.
  • Even such was I in that dense multitude,
  • Turning to them this way and that my face,
  • And, promising, I freed myself therefrom.
  • There was the Aretine, who from the arms
  • Untamed of Ghin di Tacco had his death,
  • And he who fleeing from pursuit was drowned.
  • There was imploring with his hands outstretched
  • Frederick Novello, and that one of Pisa
  • Who made the good Marzucco seem so strong.
  • I saw Count Orso; and the soul divided
  • By hatred and by envy from its body,
  • As it declared, and not for crime committed,
  • Pierre de la Brosse I say; and here provide
  • While still on earth the Lady of Brabant,
  • So that for this she be of no worse flock!
  • As soon as I was free from all those shades
  • Who only prayed that some one else may pray,
  • So as to hasten their becoming holy,
  • Began I: "It appears that thou deniest,
  • O light of mine, expressly in some text,
  • That orison can bend decree of Heaven;
  • And ne'ertheless these people pray for this.
  • Might then their expectation bootless be?
  • Or is to me thy saying not quite clear?"
  • And he to me: "My writing is explicit,
  • And not fallacious is the hope of these,
  • If with sane intellect 'tis well regarded;
  • For top of judgment doth not vail itself,
  • Because the fire of love fulfils at once
  • What he must satisfy who here installs him.
  • And there, where I affirmed that proposition,
  • Defect was not amended by a prayer,
  • Because the prayer from God was separate.
  • Verily, in so deep a questioning
  • Do not decide, unless she tell it thee,
  • Who light 'twixt truth and intellect shall be.
  • I know not if thou understand; I speak
  • Of Beatrice; her shalt thou see above,
  • Smiling and happy, on this mountain's top."
  • And I: "Good Leader, let us make more haste,
  • For I no longer tire me as before;
  • And see, e'en now the hill a shadow casts."
  • "We will go forward with this day" he answered,
  • "As far as now is possible for us;
  • But otherwise the fact is than thou thinkest.
  • Ere thou art up there, thou shalt see return
  • Him, who now hides himself behind the hill,
  • So that thou dost not interrupt his rays.
  • But yonder there behold! a soul that stationed
  • All, all alone is looking hitherward;
  • It will point out to us the quickest way."
  • We came up unto it; O Lombard soul,
  • How lofty and disdainful thou didst bear thee,
  • And grand and slow in moving of thine eyes!
  • Nothing whatever did it say to us,
  • But let us go our way, eying us only
  • After the manner of a couchant lion;
  • Still near to it Virgilius drew, entreating
  • That it would point us out the best ascent;
  • And it replied not unto his demand,
  • But of our native land and of our life
  • It questioned us; and the sweet Guide began:
  • "Mantua,"—and the shade, all in itself recluse,
  • Rose tow'rds him from the place where first it was,
  • Saying: "O Mantuan, I am Sordello
  • Of thine own land!" and one embraced the other.
  • Ah! servile Italy, grief's hostelry!
  • A ship without a pilot in great tempest!
  • No Lady thou of Provinces, but brothel!
  • That noble soul was so impatient, only
  • At the sweet sound of his own native land,
  • To make its citizen glad welcome there;
  • And now within thee are not without war
  • Thy living ones, and one doth gnaw the other
  • Of those whom one wall and one fosse shut in!
  • Search, wretched one, all round about the shores
  • Thy seaboard, and then look within thy bosom,
  • If any part of thee enjoyeth peace!
  • What boots it, that for thee Justinian
  • The bridle mend, if empty be the saddle?
  • Withouten this the shame would be the less.
  • Ah! people, thou that oughtest to be devout,
  • And to let Caesar sit upon the saddle,
  • If well thou hearest what God teacheth thee,
  • Behold how fell this wild beast has become,
  • Being no longer by the spur corrected,
  • Since thou hast laid thy hand upon the bridle.
  • O German Albert! who abandonest
  • Her that has grown recalcitrant and savage,
  • And oughtest to bestride her saddle-bow,
  • May a just judgment from the stars down fall
  • Upon thy blood, and be it new and open,
  • That thy successor may have fear thereof;
  • Because thy father and thyself have suffered,
  • By greed of those transalpine lands distrained,
  • The garden of the empire to be waste.
  • Come and behold Montecchi and Cappelletti,
  • Monaldi and Fillippeschi, careless man!
  • Those sad already, and these doubt-depressed!
  • Come, cruel one! come and behold the oppression
  • Of thy nobility, and cure their wounds,
  • And thou shalt see how safe is Santafiore!
  • Come and behold thy Rome, that is lamenting,
  • Widowed, alone, and day and night exclaims,
  • "My Caesar, why hast thou forsaken me?"
  • Come and behold how loving are the people;
  • And if for us no pity moveth thee,
  • Come and be made ashamed of thy renown!
  • And if it lawful be, O Jove Supreme!
  • Who upon earth for us wast crucified,
  • Are thy just eyes averted otherwhere?
  • Or preparation is 't, that, in the abyss
  • Of thine own counsel, for some good thou makest
  • From our perception utterly cut off?
  • For all the towns of Italy are full
  • Of tyrants, and becometh a Marcellus
  • Each peasant churl who plays the partisan!
  • My Florence! well mayst thou contented be
  • With this digression, which concerns thee not,
  • Thanks to thy people who such forethought take!
  • Many at heart have justice, but shoot slowly,
  • That unadvised they come not to the bow,
  • But on their very lips thy people have it!
  • Many refuse to bear the common burden;
  • But thy solicitous people answereth
  • Without being asked, and crieth: "I submit."
  • Now be thou joyful, for thou hast good reason;
  • Thou affluent, thou in peace, thou full of wisdom!
  • If I speak true, the event conceals it not.
  • Athens and Lacedaemon, they who made
  • The ancient laws, and were so civilized,
  • Made towards living well a little sign
  • Compared with thee, who makest such fine-spun
  • Provisions, that to middle of November
  • Reaches not what thou in October spinnest.
  • How oft, within the time of thy remembrance,
  • Laws, money, offices, and usages
  • Hast thou remodelled, and renewed thy members?
  • And if thou mind thee well, and see the light,
  • Thou shalt behold thyself like a sick woman,
  • Who cannot find repose upon her down,
  • But by her tossing wardeth off her pain.