« PreviousContinue »
Giunto a la fonte, sente un gran fracasso
Gli dette in su la testa un gran punzone
Da l'altra i porci, e spacciava il terreno;
I monaci veggendo l'acqua fresca
E ferno a scoppia corpo per un tratto,
E scuffian, che parien de l'acqua usciti ; Tanto che 'l cane sen doleva e'l gatto, Che gli ossi rimanean troppo puliti. L'abate, poi che molto onoro ha fatto A tutti, un dì dopo questi conviti Dette a Morgante un destrier molto bello, Che lungo tempo tenuto avea quello. LXVIII. Morgante in su 'n un prato il caval mena, E vuol che corra, e che facci ogni pruo va, E pensa che di ferro abbi la schiena, O forse non credeva schiacciar l'uova: Questo caval s' accoscia per la pena, E scoppia, e 'n su la terra si ritruova. Dicca Morgante: lieva su, rozzone;
E va pur punzecchiando co lo sprone.
["Gli dette in su la testa un gran punzone." It is strange that Pulci should have literally anticipated the technical terms of my old friend and master, Jackson, and the art which he has carried to its highest pitch. "A punch on the head,” or
Arrived there, a prodigious noise he hears,
An arrow for his bow, and lifts his head;
And onward rushes with tempestuous tread, And to the fountain's brink precisely pours; So that the giant's join'd by all the boars. LXIII. Morgante at a venture shot an arrow,
Which pierced a pig precisely in the ear, And pass'd unto the other side quite thorough; So that the boar, defunct, lay tripp'd up near. Another, to revenge his fellow farrow,
Against the giant rush'd in fierce carcer, And reach'd the passage with so swift a foot, Morgante was not now in time to shoot.
Smashing the very bone; and he fell dead
The tun was on one shoulder, and there were
The hogs on t'other, and he brush'd apace On to the abbey, though by no means near,
Nor spilt one drop of water in his race. Orlando, seeing him so soon appear
With the dead boars, and with that brimful vase, Marvell'd to see his strength so very great; So did the abbot, and set wide the gate.
The monks, who saw the water fresh and good, Rejoiced, but much more to perceive the pork ;All animals are glad at sight of food:
They lay their breviaries to sleep, and work With greedy pleasure, and in such a mood,
That the flesh needs no salt beneath their fork. Of rankness and of rot there is no fear, For all the fasts are now left in arrear.
As though they wish'd to burst at once, they ate;
Perceiving that they all were pick'd too clean. The abbot, who to all did honour great,
A few days after this convivial scene, Gave to Morgante a fine horse, well train'd, Which he long time had for himself maintain'd.
The horse Morgante to a meadow led,
To gallop, and to put him to the proof, Thinking that he a back of iron had,
Or to skim eggs unbroke was light enough; But the horse, sinking with the pain, fell dead,
And burst, while cold on earth lay head and hoof. Morgante said, "Get up, thou sulky cur!" And still continued pricking with the spur.
"a punch in the head,"-" un punzone in su la testa," is the exact and frequent phrase of our best pugilists, who little dream that they are talking the purest Tuscan.
Se c'è armadura o cosa che tu voglia, Vattene in zambra e pigliane tu stessi, E cuopri a questo gigante le scoglia. Rispose Orlando: se armadura avessi Prima che noi uscissim de la soglia, Che questo mio compagno difendessi : Questo accetto io, e sarammi piacere. Disse l'abate: venite a vedere.
E in certa cameretta entrati sono,
Questo fu d'un gigante smisurata,
Ch'a la badía fu morto per antico Dal gran Milon d'Angrante, ch' arrivato; V' era, s'appunto questa istoria dico; Ed era ne le mura istoriato, Come e' fu morto questo gran nimico, Che fece a la badía già lunga guerra: E Milon v'è com' e' l'abbatte in terra. LXXXVI. Veggendo questa istoria il conte Orlando, Fra suo cor disse: o Dio, che sai sol tutto, Come venne Milon quì capitando, Che ha questo gigante qui distrutto? E lesse certe lettre lacrimando, Che non potè tenir piu il viso asciutto, Com'io dirò ne la seguente istoria : Di mal vi guardi il Re de l'alta gloria.
"If you want armour or aught else, go in,
Look o'er the wardrobe, and take what you choose, And cover with it o'er this giant's skin "
Orlando answer'd, "If there should lie loose Some armour, ere our journey we begin,
Which might be turn'd to my companion's use, The gift would be acceptable to me.' The abbot said to him, "Come in and see.”.
The Prophecy of Dante.'
"'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
The Prophecy, however, was first published in May, 1821. It is dedicated to the Countess Guiccioli, who thus describes the origin of its composition:-"On my departure from Venice, Lord Byron had promised to come and see me at
And in a certain closet, where the wall
Morgante rummaged piecemeal from the dust
'Twas an immeasurable giant's, who By the great Milo of ante fell, Before the abbey many years ago.
The story on the wall was figured well; In the last moment of the abbey's foe,
Who long had waged a war implacable: Precisely as the war occurr'd they drew him, And there was Milo as he overthrew him.
In his own heart, "Oh God, who in the sky Know'st all things! how was Milo hither led?
Who caused the giant in this place to die?" And certain letters, weeping, then he read,
So that he could not keep his visage dry, · As I will tell in the ensuing story. From evil keep you the high King of glory!
Thou, in the pride of Beauty and of Youth,
Spakest; and for thee to speak and be obey'd Are one; but only in the sunny South
Such sounds are utter'd, and such charms display'd,
So sweet a language from so fair a mouth— Ah to what effort would it not persuade ?
Ravenna, June 21. 1819.
Ravenna. Dante's tomb, the classical pine wood, the relics
antiquity which are to be found in that place, afforded a sufficient pretext for me to invite him to come, and for him to accept my invitation. He came in the month of June, 1819, arriving at Ravenna on the day of the festival of the Corpus Domini. Being deprived at this time of his books, his horses, and all that occupied him at Venice, I begged him to gratify me by writing something on the subject of Dante; and, with his usual facility and rapidity, he composed his Prophecy."]
[* "Twas in a grove of spreading pines he strayed," &c. DRYDEN'S Theodore and Honoria]
I the course of a visit to the city of Ravenna in the summer of 1819, it was suggested to the author that having composed something on the subject of Tasso's confinement, he should do the same on Dante's exile, -the tomb of the poet forming one of the principal objects of interest in that city, both to the native and to the stranger.
"On this hint I spake," and the result has been the following four cantos, in terza rima, now offered to the reader. If they are understood and approved, it is my purpose to continue the poem in various other cantos, to its natural conclusion in the present age. The reader is requested to suppose that Dante addresses him in the interval between the conclusion of the Divina Commedia and his death, and shortly before the latter event, foretelling the fortunes of Italy in general in the ensuing centuries. In adopting this plan I have had in my mind the Cassandra of Lycophron, and the Prophecy of Nercus by Horace, as well as the Prophecies of Holy Writ. The measure adopted is the terza rima of Dante, which I am not aware to have seen hitherto tried in our language, except it may be by Mr. Hayley, of whose translation I never saw but one extract, quoted in the notes to Caliph Vathek; so that-if I do not err this poem may be considered as a metrical experiment. The cantos are short, and about the same length of those of the poet, whose name I have borrowed, and most probably taken in vain.
Amongst the inconveniences of authors in the present day, it is difficult for any who have a name, good or bad, to escape translation. I have had the fortune to see the fourth canto of Childe Harold translated into Italian versi sciolti,—that is, a poem written in the Spenserean stanza into blank verse, without regard to the natural divisions of the stanza or of the sense. If the present poem, being on a national topic, should chance to undergo the same fate, I would request the Italian reader to remember that when I have failed in the imitation of his great "Padre Alighier," I have failed in imitating that which all study and few understand, since to this very day it is not yet settled what was the meaning of the allegory in the first canto of the Inferno, unless Count Marchetti's ingenious and probable conjecture may be considered as having decided the question.
He may also pardon my failure the more, as I am not quite sure that he would be pleased with my success, since the Italians, with a pardonable nationality, are particularly jealous of all that is left them
1 [Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in May, 1265, of an ancient and honourable family. In the early part of his life he gained some credit in a military character, and distinguished himself by his bravery in an action where the Florentines obtained a signal victory over the citizens of Arezzo. He became still more eminent by the acquisition of court honours; and at the age of thirty-five he rose to be one of the chief magistrates of Florence, when that dignity was conferred by the suffrages of the people. From this exaltation the poet himself dated his principal misfortunes. Italy was at that time distracted by the contending factions of the Ghibelines and Guelphs, among the latter Dante took an active part. In one of the proscriptions he was banished, his possessions confiscated, and he died in exile in 1321. Boccaccio thus describes his person and manners: -" He was of the middle stature, of a mild disposition, and, from the time he arrived at manhood, grave in his manner and deportment. His clothes were plain, and his dress always conformable to his years: his face was long; his nose aquiline; his eyes rather large than otherwise. His complexion was dark, melancholy, and pensive. In his meals he was extremely moderate; in his
as a nation-their literature; and in the present bitterness of the classic and romantic war, are but ill disposed to permit a foreigner even to approve or imitate them, without finding some fault with his ultramontane presumption. I can easily enter into all this, knowing what would be thought in England of an Italian imitator of Milton, or if a translation of Monti, or Pindemonte, or Arici, should be held up to the rising generation as a model for their future poetical essays. But I perceive that I am deviating into an address to the Italian reader, when my business is with the English one; and be they few or many, I must take my leave of both.
The Prophecy of Dante.'
CANTO THE FIRST.
ONCE more in man's frail world! which I had left
My earthly sorrows, and to God's own skies
Midst whom my own bright Beatrice bless'd My spirit with her light; and to the base Of the eternal Triad! first, last, best,
Mysterious, three, sole, infinite, great God! Soul universal! led the mortal guest, Unblasted by the glory, though he trod
From star to star to reach the almighty throne. Oh Beatrice! whose sweet limbs the sod So long hath press'd, and the cold marble stone, Thou sole pure seraph of my earliest love, Love so ineffable, and so alone,
That nought on earth could more my bosom move, And meeting thee in heaven was but to meet
That without which my soul, like the arkless dove, Had wander'd still in search of, nor her feet
Relieved her wing till found; without thy light My paradise had still been incomplete. 3 Since my tenth sun gave summer to my sight
Thou wert my life, the essence of my thought, Loved ere I knew the name of love, and bright
manners most courteous and civil; and, both in public and private life, he was admirably decorous."]
The reader is requested to adopt the Italian pronunciation of Beatrice, sounding all the syllables.
"Che sol per le belle opre
Che fanno in Cielo il sole e l'altre stelle
Dentro di lui' si crede il Paradiso,
Pensar ben dèi ch' ogni terren' placere."
[According to Boccaccio, Dante was a lover long before he was a soldier, and his passion for the Beatrice whom he has immortalised commenced while he was in his ninth year, and she in her eighth year. It is said that their first meeting was at a banquet in the house of Folco Portinaro, her father; and certain it is, that the impression then made on the susceptible and constant heart of Dante was not obliterated by her death, which happened after an interval of sixteen years. - CARY.]