After 1000 Years?

As discussed in the Introduction to Purgatorio 10, there are three canti devoted to the terrace of pride and they are symmetrically and neatly arranged: Purgatorio 10 treats the examples of the virtue of humility; Purgatorio 11 treats meetings with three souls who exemplify three kinds of pride; and Purgatorio 12 treats the examples of the vice of pride.

As the central of the three canti devoted to pride, Purgatorio 11 begins with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, the only prayer inscribed fully into the Commedia. It is interesting to note the ways in which Dante effectively “rewrites” the Lord’s prayer, making it in some way a Dantean gloss of the Scriptural verses. Although the glosses are exhortations to humility, the poet’s act of rewriting the Lord’s Prayer seems precariously close to prideful, another form of the “Arachnean art of the terrace of pride” discussed in Chapter 6 of The Undivine Comedy.

The pilgrim meets three souls in Purgatorio 11, who exemplify three kinds of pride: Omberto Aldobrandeschi, a great noble who exemplifies pride of family and lineage (see Purgatorio 8 and especially the encounter with Currado Malaspina); Oderisi da Gubbio, a miniaturist who exemplifies pride in art and in human endeavor; and Provenzan Salvani, a Sienese man of power and head of the Ghibellines, who exemplifies pride of power.

Below is a chart of the terrace of pride that maps the three types of pride—pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power—onto the three structural components: the examples of the virtues, the souls, and the examples of the vices.

The core of Purgatorio 11, and thus the core of the terrace of pride, centered in Oderisi at the mid-point among the three souls who make up the middle canto of the triad devoted to this vice, is vainglory or pride in art.

Before considering what Oderisi has to say, let us note that he constitutes another of the “friends” of purgatory, following Casella, Belacqua, and Nino Visconti, and looking forward to Forese Donati. Oderisi sees Dante and recognizes him, displaying his passionate desire to speak with him:

  e videmi e conobbemi e chiamava,
tenendo li occhi con fatica fisi
a me che tutto chin con loro andava. (Purg. 11.76-78)
  he saw and knew me and called out to me,
fixing his eyes on me laboriously
as I, completely hunched, walked on with them.

Oderisi speaks on the vanity of all earthly things, including artistic supremacy. There is no point in being prideful as an artist, he says, because ultimately everything passes, no human art endures, and all great artists are eclipsed by their successors. As his examples of surpassed artists, Oderisi offers first visual artists, Cimabue who is eclipsed by Giotto, and then verbal artists, Guido Guinizzelli who is eclipsed by Guido Cavalcanti in the “gloria de la lingua” (glory of our tongue [Purg. 11.98]). And both Guidos will in turn be eclipsed by one “who will chase both out of the nest”:

  Credette Cimabue ne la pittura
tener lo campo, e ora ha Giotto il grido,
sì che la fama di colui è scura:
  così ha tolto l’uno a l’altro Guido
la gloria de la lingua; e forse è nato
chi l’uno e l’altro caccerà del nido. (Purg. 11.94-99)
  In painting Cimabue thought he held
the field, and now it’s Giotto they acclaim—
the former only keeps a shadowed fame.
  So did one Guido, from the other, wrest
the glory of our tongue—and he perhaps
is born who will chase both out of the nest.

Who is the one who will chase Guido Guinizzelli and Guido Cavalcanti from the nest? Oderisi’s lesson in humility is here compromised by what is certainly a veiled reference to Dante himself: the poet who will supersede and surpass both Guido Guinizzelli and Guido Cavalcanti.

And so, matters are not quite so simple as a straightforward lesson in humility. The dialectical thrust of the above passage is replicated in this next passage, where the vanity of all earthly achievements is proposed again, framed in a linguistic fashion this time, through the following rhetorical question:

  Che voce avrai tu più, se vecchia scindi
da te la carne, che se fossi morto
anzi che tu lasciassi il ‘pappo’ e ’l ‘dindi’,
  pria che passin mill’anni? ch’è più corto
spazio a l’etterno, ch’un muover di ciglia
al cerchio che più tardi in cielo è torto. (Purg. 11.103-08)
  Before a thousand years have passed—a span
that, for eternity, is less space than
an eyeblink for the slowest sphere in heaven—
  would you find greater glory if you left
your flesh when it was old than if your death
had come before your infant words were spent?

To the question—what glory will you have in 1000 years?—the correct answer in the key of humility is “none”: in 1000 years it will no longer matter whether you die an infant, whose only words are “pappo” and “dindi” (Purg. 11.105), or whether you live to old age.

And yet, and yet . . . I write this on the verge of 2015, which will be the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth in 1265: already three-quarters of the way to 1000 years. And Dante’s words still live. And, despite Oderisi’s claim that “La vostra nominanza è color d’erba, / che viene e va” (Your glory wears the color of the grass that comes and goes [Purg. 11.115-16]), Dante’s nominanza—his name, his cultural Q score—remains, in Ovid’s word, indelebile.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 6, “Re-Presenting What God Presented: The Arachnean Art of the Terrace of Pride,” entire. Chapter 6 is devoted to the three canti of the terrace of pride: Purgatorio 10-11-12. Dante’s Poets, pp. 127-29.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 11: After 1000 Years?.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-11/

About the Commento

1 «O Padre nostro, che ne’ cieli stai,
2 non circunscritto, ma per più amore
3 ch’ai primi effetti di là sù tu hai,

4 laudato sia ’l tuo nome e ’l tuo valore
5 da ogni creatura, com’ è degno
6 di render grazie al tuo dolce vapore.

7 Vegna ver’ noi la pace del tuo regno,
8 ché noi ad essa non potem da noi,
9 s’ella non vien, con tutto nostro ingegno.

10 Come del suo voler li angeli tuoi
11 fan sacrificio a te, cantando osanna,
12 così facciano li uomini de’ suoi.

13 Dà oggi a noi la cotidiana manna,
14 sanza la qual per questo aspro diserto
15 a retro va chi più di gir s’affanna.

16 E come noi lo mal ch’avem sofferto
17 perdoniamo a ciascuno, e tu perdona
18 benigno, e non guardar lo nostro merto.

19 Nostra virtù che di legger s’adona,
20 non spermentar con l’antico avversaro,
21 ma libera da lui che sì la sprona.

22 Quest’ ultima preghiera, segnor caro,
23 già non si fa per noi, ché non bisogna,
24 ma per color che dietro a noi restaro».

25 Così a sé e noi buona ramogna
26 quell’ ombre orando, andavan sotto ’l pondo,
27 simile a quel che tal volta si sogna,

28 disparmente angosciate tutte a tondo
29 e lasse su per la prima cornice,
30 purgando la caligine del mondo.

31 Se di là sempre ben per noi si dice,
32 di qua che dire e far per lor si puote
33 da quei c’hanno al voler buona radice?

34 Ben si de’ loro atar lavar le note
35 che portar quinci, sì che, mondi e lievi,
36 possano uscire a le stellate ruote.

37 «Deh, se giustizia e pietà vi disgrievi
38 tosto, sì che possiate muover l’ala,
39 che secondo il disio vostro vi lievi,

40 mostrate da qual mano inver’ la scala
41 si va più corto; e se c’è più d’un varco,
42 quel ne ’nsegnate che men erto cala;

43 ché questi che vien meco, per lo ’ncarco
44 de la carne d’Adamo onde si veste,
45 al montar sù, contra sua voglia, è parco».

46 Le lor parole, che rendero a queste
47 che dette avea colui cu’ io seguiva,
48 non fur da cui venisser manifeste;

49 ma fu detto: «A man destra per la riva
50 con noi venite, e troverete il passo
51 possibile a salir persona viva.

52 E s’io non fossi impedito dal sasso
53 che la cervice mia superba doma,
54 onde portar convienmi il viso basso,

55 cotesti, ch’ancor vive e non si noma,
56 guardere’ io, per veder s’i’ ’l conosco,
57 e per farlo pietoso a questa soma.

58 Io fui latino e nato d’un gran Tosco:
59 Guiglielmo Aldobrandesco fu mio padre;
60 non so se ’l nome suo già mai fu vosco.

61 L’antico sangue e l’opere leggiadre
62 d’i miei maggior mi fer sì arrogante,
63 che, non pensando a la comune madre,

64 ogn’ uomo ebbi in despetto tanto avante,
65 ch’io ne mori’ , come i Sanesi sanno
66 e sallo in Campagnatico ogne fante.

67 Io sono Omberto; e non pur a me danno
68 superbia fa, ché tutti miei consorti
69 ha ella tratti seco nel malanno.

70 E qui convien ch’io questo peso porti
71 per lei, tanto che a Dio si sodisfaccia,
72 poi ch’io nol fe’ tra ’ vivi, qui tra ’ morti».

73 Ascoltando chinai in giù la faccia;
74 e un di lor, non questi che parlava,
75 si torse sotto il peso che li ’ mpaccia,

76 e videmi e conobbemi e chiamava,
77 tenendo li occhi con fatica fisi
78 a me che tutto chin con loro andava.

79 «Oh!», diss’ io lui, «non se’ tu Oderisi,
80 l’onor d’Agobbio e l’onor di quell’ arte
81 ch’alluminar chiamata è in Parisi?».

82 «Frate», diss’ elli, «più ridon le carte
83 che pennelleggia Franco Bolognese;
84 l’onore è tutto or suo, e mio in parte.

85 Ben non sare’ io stato sì cortese
86 mentre ch’io vissi, per lo gran disio
87 de l’eccellenza ove mio core intese.

88 Di tal superbia qui si paga il fio;
89 e ancor non sarei qui, se non fosse
90 che, possendo peccar, mi volsi a Dio.

91 Oh vana gloria de l’umane posse!
92 com’ poco verde in su la cima dura,
93 se non è giunta da l’etati grosse!

94 Credette Cimabue ne la pittura
95 tener lo campo, e ora ha Giotto il grido,
96 sì che la fama di colui è scura:

97 così ha tolto l’uno a l’altro Guido
98 la gloria de la lingua; e forse è nato
99 chi l’uno e l’altro caccerà del nido.

100 Non è il mondan romore altro ch’un fiato
101 di vento, ch’or vien quinci e or vien quindi,
102 e muta nome perché muta lato.

103 Che voce avrai tu più, se vecchia scindi
104 da te la carne, che se fossi morto
105 anzi che tu lasciassi il ‘pappo’ e ’l ’dindi’ ,

106 pria che passin mill’ anni? ch’ è più corto
107 spazio a l’etterno, ch’un muover di ciglia
108 al cerchio che più tardi in cielo è torto.

109 Colui che del cammin sì poco piglia
110 dinanzi a me, Toscana sonò tutta;
111 e ora a pena in Siena sen pispiglia,

112 ond’ era sire quando fu distrutta
113 la rabbia fiorentina, che superba
114 fu a quel tempo sì com’ ora è putta.

115 La vostra nominanza è color d’erba,
116 che viene e va, e quei la discolora
117 per cui ella esce de la terra acerba».

118 E io a lui: «Tuo vero dir m’incora
119 bona umiltà, e gran tumor m’appiani;
120 ma chi è quei di cui tu parlavi ora?».

121 «Quelli è», rispuose, «Provenzan Salvani;
122 ed è qui perché fu presuntüoso
123 a recar Siena tutta a le sue mani.

124 Ito è così e va, sanza riposo,
125 poi che morì; cotal moneta rende
126 a sodisfar chi è di là troppo oso».

127 E io: «Se quello spirito ch’attende,
128 pria che si penta, l’orlo de la vita,
129 qua giù dimora e qua sù non ascende,

130 se buona orazïon lui non aita,
131 prima che passi tempo quanto visse,
132 come fu la venuta lui largita?».

133 «Quando vivea più glorïoso», disse,
134 «liberamente nel Campo di Siena,
135 ogne vergogna diposta, s’affisse;

136 e lì, per trar l’amico suo di pena
137 ch’e’ sostenea ne la prigion di Carlo,
138 si condusse a tremar per ogne vena.

139 Più non dirò, e scuro so che parlo;
140 ma poco tempo andrà, che ’ tuoi vicini
141 faranno sì che tu potrai chiosarlo.

142 Quest’ opera li tolse quei confini».

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens-
but are not circumscribed by them-out of
Your greater love for Your first works above,

praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,
by every creature, just as it is seemly
to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.

Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if
it does not come, then though we summon all
our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.

Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
so may men offer up their wills to You.

Give unto us this day the daily manna
without which he who labors most to move
ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.

Even as we forgive all who have done
us injury, may You, benevolent,
forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.

Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
against the ancient foe, but set it free
from him who goads it to perversity.

This last request we now address to You,
dear Lord, not for ourselves-who have no need-
but for the ones whom we have left behind.”

Beseeching, thus, good penitence for us
and for themselves, those shades moved on beneath
their weights, like those we sometimes bear in dreams-

each in his own degree of suffering
but all, exhausted, circling the first terrace,
purging themselves of this world’s scoriae.

If there they pray on our behalf, what can
be said and done here on this earth for them
by those whose wills are rooted in true worth?

Indeed we should help them to wash away
the stains they carried from this world, so that,
made pure and light, they reach the starry wheels.

“Ah, so may justice and compassion soon
unburden you, so that your wings may move
as you desire them to, and uplift you,

show us on which hand lies the shortest path
to reach the stairs; if there is more than one
passage, then show us that which is less steep;

for he who comes with me, because he wears
the weight of Adam’s flesh as dress, despite
his ready will, is slow in his ascent.”

These words, which had been spoken by my guide,
were answered by still other words we heard;
for though it was not clear who had replied,

an answer came: “Come with us to the right
along the wall of rock, and you will find
a pass where even one alive can climb.

And were I not impeded by the stone
that, since it has subdued my haughty neck,
compels my eyes to look below, then I

should look at this man who is still alive
and nameless, to see if I recognize
him-and to move his pity for my burden.

I was Italian, son of a great Tuscan:
my father was Guiglielmo Aldobrandesco;
I do not know if you have heard his name.

The ancient blood and splendid deeds of my
forefathers made me so presumptuous
that, without thinking on our common mother,

I scorned all men past measure, and that scorn
brought me my death-the Sienese know how,
as does each child in Campagnatico.

I am Omberto; and my arrogance
has not harmed me alone, for it has drawn
all of my kin into calamity.

Until God has been satisfied, I bear
this burden here among the dead because
I did not bear this load among the living.”

My face was lowered as I listened; and
one of those souls-not he who’d spoken-twisted
himself beneath the weight that burdened them;

he saw and knew me and called out to me,
fixing his eyes on me laboriously
as I, completely hunched, walked on with them.

“Oh,” I cried out, “are you not Oderisi,
glory of Gubbio, glory of that art
they call illumination now in Paris?”

“Brother,” he said, “the pages painted by
the brush of Franco Bolognese smile
more brightly: all the glory now is his;

mine, but a part. In truth I would have been
less gracious when I lived-so great was that
desire for eminence which drove my heart.

For such pride, here one pays the penalty;
and I’d not be here yet, had it not been
that, while I still could sin, I turned to Him.

O empty glory of the powers of humans!
How briefly green endures upon the peak-
unless an age of dullness follows it.

In painting Cimabue thought he held
the field, and now it’s Giotto they acclaim-
the former only keeps a shadowed fame.

So did one Guido, from the other, wrest
the glory of our tongue-and he perhaps
is born who will chase both out of the nest.

Worldly renown is nothing other than
a breath of wind that blows now here, now there,
and changes name when it has changed its course.

Before a thousand years have passed-a span
that, for eternity, is less space than
an eyeblink for the slowest sphere in heaven-

would you find greater glory if you left
your flesh when it was old than if your death
had come before your infant words were spent?

All Tuscany acclaimed his name-the man
who moves so slowly on the path before me,
and now they scarcely whisper of him even

in Siena, where he lorded it when they
destroyed the raging mob of Florence-then
as arrogant as now it’s prostitute.

Your glory wears the color of the grass
that comes and goes; the sun that makes it wither
first drew it from the ground, still green and tender.”

And I to him: “Your truthful speech has filled
my soul with sound humility, abating
my overswollen pride; but who is he

of whom you spoke now?” “Provenzan Salvani,
he answered, “here because-presumptuously-”
he thought his grip could master all Siena.

So he has gone, and so he goes, with no
rest since his death; this is the penalty
exacted from those who-there-overreached.”

And I: “But if a spirit who awaits
the edge of life before repenting must-
unless good prayers help him-stay below

and not ascend here for as long a time
as he had spent alive, do tell me how
Salvani’s entry here has been allowed.”

“When he was living in his greatest glory”
said he, “then of his own free will he set
aside all shame and took his place upon

the Campo of Siena; there, to free
his friend from suffering in Charles’s prison,
humbling himself, he trembled in each vein.

I say no more; I know I speak obscurely;
but soon enough you’ll find your neighbor’s acts
are such that what I say can be explained.

This deed delivered him from those confines.”

“OUR Father, thou who dwellest in the heavens,
Not circumscribed, but from the greater love
Thou bearest to the first effects on high,

Praised be thy name and thine omnipotence
By every creature, as befitting is
To render thanks to thy sweet effluence.

Come unto us the peace of thy dominion,
For unto it we cannot of ourselves,
If it come not, with all our intellect.

Even as thine own Angels of their will
Make sacrifice to thee, Hosanna singing,
So may all men make sacrifice of theirs.

Give unto us this day our daily manna,
Withouten which in this rough wilderness
Backward goes he who toils most to advance.

And even as we the trespass we have suffered
Pardon in one another, pardon thou
Benignly, and regard not our desert.

Our virtue, which is easily o’ercome,
Put not to proof with the old Adversary,
But thou from him who spurs it so, deliver.

This last petition verily, dear Lord,
Not for ourselves is made, who need it not,
But for their sake who have remained behind us.”

Thus for themselves and us good furtherance
Those shades imploring, went beneath a weight
Like unto that of which we sometimes dream,

Unequally in anguish round and round
And weary all, upon that foremost cornice,
Purging away the smoke—stains of the world

If there good words are always said for us,
What may not here be said and done for them,
By those who have a good root to their will?

Well may we help them wash away the marks
That hence they carried, so that clean and light
They may ascend unto the starry wheels!

“Ah! so may pity and justice you disburden
Soon, that ye may have power to move the wing,
That shall uplift you after your desire,

Show us on which hand tow’rd the stairs the way
Is shortest, and if more than one the passes,
Point us out that which least abruptly falls;

For he who cometh with me, through the burden
Of Adam’s flesh wherewith he is invested,
Against his will is chary of his climbing.”

The words of theirs which they returned to those
That he whom I was following had spoken,
It was not manifest from whom they came,

But it was said: “To the right hand come with us
Along the bank, and ye shall find a pass
Possible for living person to ascend.

And were I not impeded by the stone,
Which this proud neck of mine doth subjugate,
Whence I am forced to hold my visage down,

Him, who still lives and does not name himself,
Would I regard, to see if I may know him
And make him piteous unto this burden.

A Latian was I, and born of a great Tuscan;
Guglielmo Aldobrandeschi was my father;
I know not if his name were ever with you.

The ancient blood and deeds of gallantry
Of my progenitors so arrogant made me
That, thinking not upon the common mother,

All men I held in scorn to such extent
I died therefor, as know the Sienese,
And every child in Campagnatico.

I am Omberto; and not to me alone
Has pride done harm, but all my kith and kin
Has with it dragged into adversity.

And here must I this burden bear for it
Till God be satisfied, since I did not
Among the living, here among the dead.”

Listening I downward bent my countenance;
And one of them, not this one who was speaking,
Twisted himself beneath the weight that cramps him,

And looked at me, and knew me, and called out,
Keeping his eyes laboriously fixed
On me, who all bowed down was going with them.

“O,” asked I him,” art thou not Oderisi,
Agobbio’s honour, and honour of that art
Which is in Paris called illuminating?”

“Brother,” said he, “more laughing are the leaves
Touched by the brush of Franco Bolognese;
All his the honour now, and mine in part.

In sooth I had not been so courteous
While I was living, for the great desire
Of excellence, on which my heart was bent.

Here of such pride is paid the forfeiture;
And yet I should not be here, were it not
That, having power to sin, I turned to God.

O thou vain glory of the human powers,
How little green upon thy summit lingers,
If ‘t be not followed by an age of grossness!

In painting Cimabue thought that he
Should hold the field, now Giotto has the cry,
So that the other’s fame is growing dim.

So has one Guido from the other taken
The glory of our tongue, and he perchance
Is born, who from the nest shall chase them both.

Naught is this mundane rumour but a breath
Of wind, that comes now this way and now that,
And changes name, because it changes side.

What fame shalt thou have more, if old peel off
From thee thy flesh, than if thou hadst been dead
Before thou left the _pappo_ and the _dindi,_

Ere pass a thousand years ? which is a shorter
Space to the eterne, than twinkling of an eye
Unto the circle that in heaven wheels slowest.

With him, who takes so little of the road
In front of me, all Tuscany resounded;
And now he scarce is lisped of in Siena,

Where he was lord, what time was overthrown
The Florentine delirium, that superb
Was at that day as now ’tis prostitute.

Your reputation is the colour of grass
Which comes and goes, and that discolours it
By which it issues green from out the earth.”

And I: “Thy true speech fills my heart with good
Humility, and great tumour thou assuagest;
But who is he, of whom just now thou spakest ?”

“That,” he replied, “is Provenzan Salvani,
And he is here because he had presumed
To bring Siena all into his hands.

He has gone thus, and goeth without rest
E’er since he died; such money renders back
In payment he who is on earth too daring.”

And I: “If every spirit who awaits
The verge of life before that he repent,
Remains below there and ascends not hither,

Unless good orison shall him bestead,)
Until as much time as he lived be passed,
How was the coming granted him in largess ?”

“When he in greatest splendour lived,” said he,
“Freely upon the Campo of Siena,
All shame being laid aside, he placed himself;

And there to draw his friend from the duress
Which in the prison—house of Charles he suffered,
He brought himself to tremble in each vein.

I say no more, and know that I speak darkly;
Yet little time shall pass before thy neighbours
Will so demean themselves that thou canst gloss it.

This action has released him from those confines.”

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens-
but are not circumscribed by them-out of
Your greater love for Your first works above,

praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,
by every creature, just as it is seemly
to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.

Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if
it does not come, then though we summon all
our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.

Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
so may men offer up their wills to You.

Give unto us this day the daily manna
without which he who labors most to move
ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.

Even as we forgive all who have done
us injury, may You, benevolent,
forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.

Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
against the ancient foe, but set it free
from him who goads it to perversity.

This last request we now address to You,
dear Lord, not for ourselves-who have no need-
but for the ones whom we have left behind.”

Beseeching, thus, good penitence for us
and for themselves, those shades moved on beneath
their weights, like those we sometimes bear in dreams-

each in his own degree of suffering
but all, exhausted, circling the first terrace,
purging themselves of this world’s scoriae.

If there they pray on our behalf, what can
be said and done here on this earth for them
by those whose wills are rooted in true worth?

Indeed we should help them to wash away
the stains they carried from this world, so that,
made pure and light, they reach the starry wheels.

“Ah, so may justice and compassion soon
unburden you, so that your wings may move
as you desire them to, and uplift you,

show us on which hand lies the shortest path
to reach the stairs; if there is more than one
passage, then show us that which is less steep;

for he who comes with me, because he wears
the weight of Adam’s flesh as dress, despite
his ready will, is slow in his ascent.”

These words, which had been spoken by my guide,
were answered by still other words we heard;
for though it was not clear who had replied,

an answer came: “Come with us to the right
along the wall of rock, and you will find
a pass where even one alive can climb.

And were I not impeded by the stone
that, since it has subdued my haughty neck,
compels my eyes to look below, then I

should look at this man who is still alive
and nameless, to see if I recognize
him-and to move his pity for my burden.

I was Italian, son of a great Tuscan:
my father was Guiglielmo Aldobrandesco;
I do not know if you have heard his name.

The ancient blood and splendid deeds of my
forefathers made me so presumptuous
that, without thinking on our common mother,

I scorned all men past measure, and that scorn
brought me my death-the Sienese know how,
as does each child in Campagnatico.

I am Omberto; and my arrogance
has not harmed me alone, for it has drawn
all of my kin into calamity.

Until God has been satisfied, I bear
this burden here among the dead because
I did not bear this load among the living.”

My face was lowered as I listened; and
one of those souls-not he who’d spoken-twisted
himself beneath the weight that burdened them;

he saw and knew me and called out to me,
fixing his eyes on me laboriously
as I, completely hunched, walked on with them.

“Oh,” I cried out, “are you not Oderisi,
glory of Gubbio, glory of that art
they call illumination now in Paris?”

“Brother,” he said, “the pages painted by
the brush of Franco Bolognese smile
more brightly: all the glory now is his;

mine, but a part. In truth I would have been
less gracious when I lived-so great was that
desire for eminence which drove my heart.

For such pride, here one pays the penalty;
and I’d not be here yet, had it not been
that, while I still could sin, I turned to Him.

O empty glory of the powers of humans!
How briefly green endures upon the peak-
unless an age of dullness follows it.

In painting Cimabue thought he held
the field, and now it’s Giotto they acclaim-
the former only keeps a shadowed fame.

So did one Guido, from the other, wrest
the glory of our tongue-and he perhaps
is born who will chase both out of the nest.

Worldly renown is nothing other than
a breath of wind that blows now here, now there,
and changes name when it has changed its course.

Before a thousand years have passed-a span
that, for eternity, is less space than
an eyeblink for the slowest sphere in heaven-

would you find greater glory if you left
your flesh when it was old than if your death
had come before your infant words were spent?

All Tuscany acclaimed his name-the man
who moves so slowly on the path before me,
and now they scarcely whisper of him even

in Siena, where he lorded it when they
destroyed the raging mob of Florence-then
as arrogant as now it’s prostitute.

Your glory wears the color of the grass
that comes and goes; the sun that makes it wither
first drew it from the ground, still green and tender.”

And I to him: “Your truthful speech has filled
my soul with sound humility, abating
my overswollen pride; but who is he

of whom you spoke now?” “Provenzan Salvani,
he answered, “here because-presumptuously-”
he thought his grip could master all Siena.

So he has gone, and so he goes, with no
rest since his death; this is the penalty
exacted from those who-there-overreached.”

And I: “But if a spirit who awaits
the edge of life before repenting must-
unless good prayers help him-stay below

and not ascend here for as long a time
as he had spent alive, do tell me how
Salvani’s entry here has been allowed.”

“When he was living in his greatest glory”
said he, “then of his own free will he set
aside all shame and took his place upon

the Campo of Siena; there, to free
his friend from suffering in Charles’s prison,
humbling himself, he trembled in each vein.

I say no more; I know I speak obscurely;
but soon enough you’ll find your neighbor’s acts
are such that what I say can be explained.

This deed delivered him from those confines.”

“OUR Father, thou who dwellest in the heavens,
Not circumscribed, but from the greater love
Thou bearest to the first effects on high,

Praised be thy name and thine omnipotence
By every creature, as befitting is
To render thanks to thy sweet effluence.

Come unto us the peace of thy dominion,
For unto it we cannot of ourselves,
If it come not, with all our intellect.

Even as thine own Angels of their will
Make sacrifice to thee, Hosanna singing,
So may all men make sacrifice of theirs.

Give unto us this day our daily manna,
Withouten which in this rough wilderness
Backward goes he who toils most to advance.

And even as we the trespass we have suffered
Pardon in one another, pardon thou
Benignly, and regard not our desert.

Our virtue, which is easily o’ercome,
Put not to proof with the old Adversary,
But thou from him who spurs it so, deliver.

This last petition verily, dear Lord,
Not for ourselves is made, who need it not,
But for their sake who have remained behind us.”

Thus for themselves and us good furtherance
Those shades imploring, went beneath a weight
Like unto that of which we sometimes dream,

Unequally in anguish round and round
And weary all, upon that foremost cornice,
Purging away the smoke—stains of the world

If there good words are always said for us,
What may not here be said and done for them,
By those who have a good root to their will?

Well may we help them wash away the marks
That hence they carried, so that clean and light
They may ascend unto the starry wheels!

“Ah! so may pity and justice you disburden
Soon, that ye may have power to move the wing,
That shall uplift you after your desire,

Show us on which hand tow’rd the stairs the way
Is shortest, and if more than one the passes,
Point us out that which least abruptly falls;

For he who cometh with me, through the burden
Of Adam’s flesh wherewith he is invested,
Against his will is chary of his climbing.”

The words of theirs which they returned to those
That he whom I was following had spoken,
It was not manifest from whom they came,

But it was said: “To the right hand come with us
Along the bank, and ye shall find a pass
Possible for living person to ascend.

And were I not impeded by the stone,
Which this proud neck of mine doth subjugate,
Whence I am forced to hold my visage down,

Him, who still lives and does not name himself,
Would I regard, to see if I may know him
And make him piteous unto this burden.

A Latian was I, and born of a great Tuscan;
Guglielmo Aldobrandeschi was my father;
I know not if his name were ever with you.

The ancient blood and deeds of gallantry
Of my progenitors so arrogant made me
That, thinking not upon the common mother,

All men I held in scorn to such extent
I died therefor, as know the Sienese,
And every child in Campagnatico.

I am Omberto; and not to me alone
Has pride done harm, but all my kith and kin
Has with it dragged into adversity.

And here must I this burden bear for it
Till God be satisfied, since I did not
Among the living, here among the dead.”

Listening I downward bent my countenance;
And one of them, not this one who was speaking,
Twisted himself beneath the weight that cramps him,

And looked at me, and knew me, and called out,
Keeping his eyes laboriously fixed
On me, who all bowed down was going with them.

“O,” asked I him,” art thou not Oderisi,
Agobbio’s honour, and honour of that art
Which is in Paris called illuminating?”

“Brother,” said he, “more laughing are the leaves
Touched by the brush of Franco Bolognese;
All his the honour now, and mine in part.

In sooth I had not been so courteous
While I was living, for the great desire
Of excellence, on which my heart was bent.

Here of such pride is paid the forfeiture;
And yet I should not be here, were it not
That, having power to sin, I turned to God.

O thou vain glory of the human powers,
How little green upon thy summit lingers,
If ‘t be not followed by an age of grossness!

In painting Cimabue thought that he
Should hold the field, now Giotto has the cry,
So that the other’s fame is growing dim.

So has one Guido from the other taken
The glory of our tongue, and he perchance
Is born, who from the nest shall chase them both.

Naught is this mundane rumour but a breath
Of wind, that comes now this way and now that,
And changes name, because it changes side.

What fame shalt thou have more, if old peel off
From thee thy flesh, than if thou hadst been dead
Before thou left the _pappo_ and the _dindi,_

Ere pass a thousand years ? which is a shorter
Space to the eterne, than twinkling of an eye
Unto the circle that in heaven wheels slowest.

With him, who takes so little of the road
In front of me, all Tuscany resounded;
And now he scarce is lisped of in Siena,

Where he was lord, what time was overthrown
The Florentine delirium, that superb
Was at that day as now ’tis prostitute.

Your reputation is the colour of grass
Which comes and goes, and that discolours it
By which it issues green from out the earth.”

And I: “Thy true speech fills my heart with good
Humility, and great tumour thou assuagest;
But who is he, of whom just now thou spakest ?”

“That,” he replied, “is Provenzan Salvani,
And he is here because he had presumed
To bring Siena all into his hands.

He has gone thus, and goeth without rest
E’er since he died; such money renders back
In payment he who is on earth too daring.”

And I: “If every spirit who awaits
The verge of life before that he repent,
Remains below there and ascends not hither,

Unless good orison shall him bestead,)
Until as much time as he lived be passed,
How was the coming granted him in largess ?”

“When he in greatest splendour lived,” said he,
“Freely upon the Campo of Siena,
All shame being laid aside, he placed himself;

And there to draw his friend from the duress
Which in the prison—house of Charles he suffered,
He brought himself to tremble in each vein.

I say no more, and know that I speak darkly;
Yet little time shall pass before thy neighbours
Will so demean themselves that thou canst gloss it.

This action has released him from those confines.”