Valley of the Beasts

Purgatorio 14 begins dramatically, with an interrogative in direct discourse, as one spirit queries another. Later in the canto we learn their names; they are Guido del Duca and Rinieri da Calboli. They are wondering about the identity of the man who has come among them while still alive:

  «Chi è costui che ’l nostro monte cerchia
prima che morte li abbia dato il volo,
e apre li occhi a sua voglia e coverchia?». (Purg. 14.1-3)
  “Who is this man who, although death has yet
to grant him flight, can circle round our mountain,
and can, at will, open and shut his eyes?”

This opening “Chi è costui?”—“Who is this man?”—continues the theme of names and the withholding of names that we have been tracing since Purgatorio 11’s mystery poet who will chase the first and second Guido from the nest, the unnamed name at the core of the terrace of pride: “e forse è nato / che l’uno e l’altro caccerà dal nido” (Purg. 11.98-99). Oderisi told the pilgrim that all nominanza—glory, but literally the recognition brought to one’s name—is fleeting like the color of grass: “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]). The pilgrim responds to Oderisi’s precept in a manner that is reticent, but hardly humble: he now declines to give his name to his interlocutors, because, he says, he is not yet famous enough! The pilgrim says:

  dirvi ch’i’ sia, saria parlare indarno,
ché ’l nome mio ancor molto non suona. (Purg. 14.20-21)
  to tell you who I am would be to speak
in vain—my name has not yet gained much fame.

Without saying his name, Dante indicates that he comes from the valley of the river Arno. The name of the Arno river is at first withheld, when Dante describes it as a “fiumicel” (little river [Purg. 14.17]), and then ostentatiously intuited by one of the souls in verse 24, and finally labeled a name that should perish in verse 30. The mention of the Arno river and its valley triggers a meditation on the corrupted cities that are situated along the Arno’s banks.

This is an account of human “decadence”: the inhabitants of each city on the shores of the Arno are presented as beasts. The Arno flows from the mountains of the Casentino region in the Appenines down, down down . . . until it empties into the sea at Pisa. In Dante’s telling, as the river falls, so do the inhabitants of the cities that line its banks become more degraded. Thus, the river begins among foul hogs in the mountains, and then descends to the snarling curs of Arezzo; the curs become wolves when the Arno reaches Florence, and ultimately, when the river comes to the end of its fall, the wolves are foxes, in Pisa.

Dante subscribed to a worldview current through the Renaissance, whereby there is a hierarchy of created beings that places humans in between angels (above) and beasts (below). Therefore, from a fourteenth-century perspective, to describe humans as beasts is to describe humans who have literally “fallen”—“decadence” derives from the verb cadere, to fall—from their prescribed place in the order of being.

Dante highlights the idea of a “falling” in his dramatic presentation of the corrupt valley of the Arno: “venendo giuso” (Purg. 14.46), “Vassi caggendo” (Purg. 14.49), and “Discesa poi” (Purg. 14.52) are all markers of the river’s falling flow. This passage is reminiscent of another allegory of human decadence, found in the parallel canto of Inferno: namely, the Old Man of Crete in Inferno 14.

The speaker in Purgatorio 14’s discourse on the Arno, Guido del Duca, moves into a prophetic mode, speaking of the future brutalities that will be committed against the Florentines by the nephew of his purgatorial companion, Rinieri da Calboli. Rinieri’s nephew is Fulcieri da Calboli. As podestà (chief magistrate) of Florence in 1303, Fulcieri da Calboli carried out persecutions against the enemies of the Blacks, who were newly come to power.

As a White, Dante was exiled in consequence of this same Black takeover; in fact, in this passage, Dante is speaking about the time that immediately succeeds his own exile in 1302. As the Bosco-Reggio commentary points out, Fulcieri da Calboli became podestà in Florence right after the magistrate who signed Dante’s own condemnation, whose name is Cante de’ Gabrielli da Gubbio.

Guido del Duca’s meditation moves from Tuscany to his home region of Romagna, and from a fiery prophetic mode into an elegiac mode, as he conjures the great noble casati of Romagna that have decayed or have disappeared. Notable in this section is the melancholy with which Guido del Duca conjures not just families that have withered, but families in which cortesia and onore no longer reign. The cortesia of past times brings out a nostalgic melancholy in Dante, but also the analytic insistence that virtue is not often passed on from parent to child. This is the theme of heredity, first raised in the Valley of the Princes (Purgatorio 8), whose inhabitants frequently embody Dante’s thesis that the courtly values of old are not sustained.

Here, on the terrace of envy, Guido del Duca is able to point to his comrade, Rinieri da Calboli, whose nephew disgraces himself through his butchery in Florence (“molti di vita e sé di pregio priva” depriving many of life, himself of honor [Purg. 14.63]), and to connect his friend directly and forcibly to the discourse about heredity:

  Questi è Rinier; questi è ’l pregio e l’onore
de la casa da Calboli, ove nullo
fatto s’è reda poi del suo valore. (Purg. 14.88-90)
  This is Rinieri, this is he—the glory, 
the honor of the house of Calboli;
but no one has inherited his worth.

Purgatorio 14 is a canto of a certain willed opacity, whose emblem could well be Dante’s refusal to give his name in verses 20-21. Another example is the dark and obscure prophetic language used by Guido del Duca in speaking of Florence. Yet another is the opaque language used by Guido del Duca on two additional occasions, one that will be recalled in Purgatorio 15 and the other in Purgatorio 16. The language of Purgatorio 14 thus “seeds” the next two canti.

Let us begin with the passage that is reprised in Purgatorio 15:

  Di mia semente cotal paglia mieto;
o gente umana, perché poni ’l core
là ’v’è mestier di consorte divieto? (Purg. 14.85-87)
  From what I’ve sown, this is the straw I reap:
o humankind, why do you set your hearts
there where our sharing cannot have a part?

These verses, where Guido del Duca gives a synthetic definition of envy, become part of the story, for it turns out that the pilgrim did not understand them. In the next canto Dante asks Virgilio to explain what Guido del Duca’s words mean:

  Che volse dir lo spirto di Romagna,
e ‘divieto’ e ‘consorte’ menzionando?  (Purg. 15.44-45)
  What did the spirit of Romagna mean
when he said, ‘Sharing cannot have a part’?

The pilgrim has certainly shown confusion to Virgilio before now, and has solicited explanations; he has also asked for his teacher’s feedback on comments that were unclear and threatening to him, like Farinata’s prophecy of his exile (Inferno 10). Here Dante-pilgrim goes so far as to cite verbatim from what was said to him by a soul, asking for a gloss of opaque and unclear words. Given that the pilgrim puts this question to his guide, and that Dante-poet thematizes the difficulty of the language in Purgatorio 14.86-87, we too will await Virgilio’s explanation.

The second instance of a structural and productive opacity in Guido del Duca’s discourse is less lexical (what do “divieto” and “consorte” mean?) and more conceptual. There is an either-or in the presentation of the vicious Arno valley: is the viciousness of the inhabitants the result of bad luck or bad habit? To pose this question, Guido del Duca describes the Arno valley as a place in which everyone flees virtue as though it were a snake, an enemy. They do this—and here is the part that will generate a need for clarification in Purgatorio 16—either because of the “ill fortune of the place” (“sventura / del luogo”) or because of the “evil habit” (“mal uso”) that goads them:

  vertù così per nimica si fuga
da tutti come biscia, o per sventura
del luogo, o per mal uso che li fruga... (Purg. 14.37-39)
  virtue is seen as serpent, and all flee
from it as if it were an enemy,
either because the site is ill-starred or
their evil custom goads them so...

The little subordinate either/or clause, expressed in passing in a verse and a half, poses the fundamental issue of free will. Does Dante expect us to fail to notice the subordinate clause that holds so much theological potential? Or have there been readers through the centuries in which these easily bypassed words have worked as they work on the pilgrim, who in Purgatorio 16 will express a profound need to address them? The problem they pose, between sventura (bad luck or bad fortune) and mal uso (bad habit) will come to a head in Purgatorio 16.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 6, “Re-Presenting What God Presented,” p. 136; Dante’s Poets, p. 47.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 14: Valley of the Beasts.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-14/

About the Commento

1«Chi è costui che ’l nostro monte cerchia
2prima che morte li abbia dato il volo,
3e apre li occhi a sua voglia e coverchia?».

4«Non so chi sia, ma so ch’e’ non è solo;
5domandal tu che più li t’avvicini,
6e dolcemente, sì che parli, acco’lo».

7Così due spirti, l’uno a l’altro chini,
8ragionavan di me ivi a man dritta;
9poi fer li visi, per dirmi, supini;

10e disse l’uno: «O anima che fitta
11nel corpo ancora inver’ lo ciel ten vai,
12per carità ne consola e ne ditta

13onde vieni e chi se’; ché tu ne fai
14tanto maravigliar de la tua grazia,
15quanto vuol cosa che non fu più mai».

16E io: «Per mezza Toscana si spazia
17un fiumicel che nasce in Falterona,
18e cento miglia di corso nol sazia.

19Di sovr’ esso rech’ io questa persona:
20dirvi ch’i’ sia, saria parlare indarno,
21ché ’l nome mio ancor molto non suona».

22«Se ben lo ’ntendimento tuo accarno
23con lo ’ntelletto», allora mi rispuose
24quei che diceva pria, «tu parli d’Arno».

25E l’altro disse lui: «Perché nascose
26questi il vocabol di quella riviera,
27pur com’ om fa de l’orribili cose?».

28E l’ombra che di ciò domandata era,
29si sdebitò così: «Non so; ma degno
30ben è che ’l nome di tal valle pèra;

31ché dal principio suo, ov’ è sì pregno
32l’alpestro monte ond’ è tronco Peloro,
33che ’n pochi luoghi passa oltra quel segno,

34infin là ’ve si rende per ristoro
35di quel che ’l ciel de la marina asciuga,
36ond’ hanno i fiumi ciò che va con loro,

37vertù così per nimica si fuga
38da tutti come biscia, o per sventura
39del luogo, o per mal uso che li fruga:

40ond’ hanno sì mutata lor natura
41li abitator de la misera valle,
42che par che Circe li avesse in pastura.

43Tra brutti porci, più degni di galle
44che d’altro cibo fatto in uman uso,
45dirizza prima il suo povero calle.

46Botoli trova poi, venendo giuso,
47ringhiosi più che non chiede lor possa,
48e da lor disdegnosa torce il muso.

49Vassi caggendo; e quant’ ella più ’ngrossa,
50tanto più trova di can farsi lupi
51la maladetta e sventurata fossa.

52Discesa poi per più pelaghi cupi,
53trova le volpi sì piene di froda,
54che non temono ingegno che le occùpi.

55Né lascerò di dir perch’ altri m’oda;
56e buon sarà costui, s’ancor s’ammenta
57di ciò che vero spirto mi disnoda.

58Io veggio tuo nepote che diventa
59cacciator di quei lupi in su la riva
60del fiero fiume, e tutti li sgomenta.

61Vende la carne loro essendo viva;
62poscia li ancide come antica belva;
63molti di vita e sé di pregio priva.

64Sanguinoso esce de la trista selva;
65lasciala tal, che di qui a mille anni
66ne lo stato primaio non si rinselva».

67Com’ a l’annunzio di dogliosi danni
68si turba il viso di colui ch’ascolta,
69da qual che parte il periglio l’assanni,

70così vid’ io l’altr’ anima, che volta
71stava a udir, turbarsi e farsi trista,
72poi ch’ebbe la parola a sé raccolta.

73Lo dir de l’una e de l’altra la vista
74mi fer voglioso di saper lor nomi,
75e dimanda ne fei con prieghi mista;

76per che lo spirto che di pria parlòmi
77ricominciò: «Tu vuo’ ch’io mi deduca
78nel fare a te ciò che tu far non vuo’mi.

79Ma da che Dio in te vuol che traluca
80tanto sua grazia, non ti sarò scarso;
81però sappi ch’io fui Guido del Duca.

82Fu il sangue mio d’invidia sì rïarso,
83che se veduto avesse uom farsi lieto,
84visto m’avresti di livore sparso.

85Di mia semente cotal paglia mieto;
86o gente umana, perché poni ’l core
87là ’v’ è mestier di consorte divieto?

88Questi è Rinier; questi è ’l pregio e l’onore
89de la casa da Calboli, ove nullo
90fatto s’è reda poi del suo valore.

91E non pur lo suo sangue è fatto brullo,
92tra ’l Po e ’l monte e la marina e ’l Reno,
93del ben richesto al vero e al trastullo;

94ché dentro a questi termini è ripieno
95di venenosi sterpi, sì che tardi
96per coltivare omai verrebber meno.

97Ov’ è ’l buon Lizio e Arrigo Mainardi?
98Pier Traversaro e Guido di Carpigna?
99Oh Romagnuoli tornati in bastardi!

100Quando in Bologna un Fabbro si ralligna?
101quando in Faenza un Bernardin di Fosco,
102verga gentil di picciola gramigna?

103Non ti maravigliar s’io piango, Tosco,
104quando rimembro, con Guido da Prata,
105Ugolin d’Azzo che vivette nosco,

106Federigo Tignoso e sua brigata,
107la casa Traversara e li Anastagi
108(e l’una gente e l’altra è diretata),

109le donne e ’ cavalier, li affanni e li agi
110che ne ’nvogliava amore e cortesia
111là dove i cuor son fatti sì malvagi.

112O Bretinoro, ché non fuggi via,
113poi che gita se n’è la tua famiglia
114e molta gente per non esser ria?

115Ben fa Bagnacaval, che non rifiglia;
116e mal fa Castrocaro, e peggio Conio,
117che di figliar tai conti più s’impiglia.

118Ben faranno i Pagan, da che ’l demonio
119lor sen girà; ma non però che puro
120già mai rimagna d’essi testimonio.

121O Ugolin de’ Fantolin, sicuro
122è ’l nome tuo, da che più non s’aspetta
123chi far lo possa, tralignando, scuro.

124Ma va via, Tosco, omai; ch’or mi diletta
125troppo di pianger più che di parlare,
126sì m’ha nostra ragion la mente stretta».

127Noi sapavam che quell’ anime care
128ci sentivano andar; però, tacendo,
129facëan noi del cammin confidare.

130Poi fummo fatti soli procedendo,
131folgore parve quando l’aere fende,
132voce che giunse di contra dicendo:

133‘Anciderammi qualunque m’apprende’;
134e fuggì come tuon che si dilegua,
135se sùbito la nuvola scoscende.

136Come da lei l’udir nostro ebbe triegua,
137ed ecco l’altra con sì gran fracasso,
138che somigliò tonar che tosto segua:

139«Io sono Aglauro che divenni sasso»;
140e allor, per ristrignermi al poeta,
141in destro feci, e non innanzi, il passo.

142Già era l’aura d’ogne parte queta;
143ed el mi disse: «Quel fu ’l duro camo
144che dovria l’uom tener dentro a sua meta.

145Ma voi prendete l’esca, sì che l’amo
146de l’antico avversaro a sé vi tira;
147e però poco val freno o richiamo.

148Chiamavi ’l cielo e ’ntorno vi si gira,
149mostrandovi le sue bellezze etterne,
150e l’occhio vostro pur a terra mira;

151onde vi batte chi tutto discerne».

“Who is this man who, although death has yet
to grant him flight, can circle round our mountain,
and can, at will, open and shut his eyes?”

“I don’t know who he is, but I do know
he’s not alone; you’re closer; question him
and greet him gently, so that he replies.”

So were two spirits, leaning toward each other,
discussing me, along my right—hand side;
then they bent back their heads to speak to me,

and one began: “O soul who—still enclosed
within the body—make your way toward Heaven,
may you, through love, console us; tell us who

you are, from where you come; the grace that you’ve
received—a thing that’s never come to pass
before—has caused us much astonishment.”

And I: “Through central Tuscany there spreads
a little stream first born in Falterona;
one hundred miles can’t fill the course it needs.

I bring this body from that river’s banks;
to tell you who I am would be to speak
in vain—my name has not yet gained much fame.”

“If, with my understanding, I have seized
your meaning properly,” replied to me
the one who’d spoken first, “you mean the Arno.”

The other said to him: “Why did he hide
that river’s name, even as one would do
in hiding something horrible from view?”

The shade to whom this question was addressed
repaid with this: “I do not know; but it
is right for such a valley’s name to perish,

for from its source (at which the rugged chain—
from which Pelorus was cut off—surpasses
most other places with its mass of mountains)

until its end point (where it offers back
those waters that evaporating skies
drew from the sea, that streams may be supplied),

virtue is seen as serpent, and all flee
from it as if it were an enemy,
either because the site is ill—starred or

their evil custom goads them so; therefore,
the nature of that squalid valley’s people
has changed, as if they were in Circe’s pasture.

That river starts its miserable course
among foul hogs, more fit for acorns than
for food devised to serve the needs of man.

Then, as that stream descends, it comes on curs
that, though their force is feeble, snap and snarl;
scornful of them, it swerves its snout away.

And, downward, it flows on; and when that ditch,
ill—fated and accursed, grows wider, it
finds, more and more, the dogs becoming wolves.

Descending then through many dark ravines,
it comes on foxes so full of deceit—
there is no trap that they cannot defeat.

Nor will I keep from speech because my comrade
hears me (and it will serve you, too, to keep
in mind what prophecy reveals to me).

I see your grandson: he’s become a hunter
of wolves along the banks of the fierce river,
and he strikes every one of them with terror.

He sells their flesh while they are still alive;
then, like an ancient beast, he turns to slaughter,
depriving many of life, himself of honor.

Bloody, he comes out from the wood he’s plundered,
leaving it such that in a thousand years
it will not be the forest that it was.”

Just as the face of one who has heard word
of pain and injury becomes perturbed,
no matter from what side that menace stirs,

so did I see that other soul, who’d turned
to listen, growing anxious and dejected
when he had taken in his comrade’s words.

The speech of one, the aspect of the other
had made me need to know their names, and I
both queried and beseeched at the same time,

at which the spirit who had spoken first
to me began again: “You’d have me do
for you that which, to me, you have refused.

But since God would, in you, have His grace glow
so brightly, I shall not be miserly;
know, therefore, that I was Guido del Duca.

My blood was so afire with envy that,
when I had seen a man becoming happy,
the lividness in me was plain to see.

From what I’ve sown, this is the straw I reap:
o humankind, why do you set your hearts
there where our sharing cannot have a part?

This is Rinieri, this is he—the glory,
the honor of the house of Calboli;
but no one has inherited his worth.

It’s not his kin alone, between the Po
and mountains, and the Reno and the coast,
who’ve lost the truth’s grave good and lost the good

of gentle living, too; those lands are full
of poisoned stumps; by now, however much
one were to cultivate, it is too late.

Where is good Lizio? Arrigo Mainardi?
Pier Traversaro? Guido di Carpigna?
O Romagnoles returned to bastardy!

When will a Fabbro flourish in Bologna?
When, in Faenza, a Bernadin di Fosco,
the noble offshoot of a humble plant?

Don’t wonder, Tuscan, if I weep when I
remember Ugolino d’Azzo, one
who lived among us, and Guido da Prata,

the house of Traversara, of Anastagi
(both houses without heirs), and Federigo
Tignoso and his gracious company,

the ladies and the knights, labors and leisure
to which we once were urged by courtesy
and love, where hearts now host perversity.

O Bretinoro, why do you not flee—
when you’ve already lost your family
and many men who’ve fled iniquity?

Bagnacaval does well: it breeds no more—
and Castrocuro ill, and Conio worse,
for it insists on breeding counts so cursed.

Once freed of their own demon, the Pagani
will do quite well, but not so well that any
will testify that they are pure and worthy.

Your name, o Ugolin de’ Fantolini,
is safe, since one no longer waits for heirs
to blacken it with their degeneracy.

But, Tuscan, go your way; I am more pleased
to weep now than to speak: for that which we
have spoken presses heavily on me!”

We knew those gentle souls had heard us move
away; therefore, their silence made us feel
more confident about the path we took.

When we, who’d gone ahead, were left alone,
a voice that seemed like lightning as it splits
the air encountered us, a voice that said:

“Whoever captures me will slaughter me”;
and then it fled like thunder when it fades
after the cloud is suddenly ripped through.

As soon as that first voice had granted us
a truce, another voice cried out with such
uproar—like thunder quick to follow thunder:

“I am Aglauros, who was turned to stone”;
and then, to draw more near the poet, I
moved to my right instead of moving forward.

By now the air on every side was quiet;
and he told me: “That is the sturdy bit
that should hold every man within his limits.

But you would take the bait, so that the hook
of the old adversary draws you to him;
thus, neither spur nor curb can serve to save you.

Heaven would call—and it encircles—you;
it lets you see its never—ending beauties;
and yet your eyes would only see the ground;

thus, He who sees all things would strike you down.”

“WHO is this one that goes about our mountain,
Or ever Death has given him power of flight,
And opes his eyes and shuts them at his will ?”

“I know not who, but know he’s not alone;
Ask him thyself, for thou art nearer to him,
And gently, so that he may speak, accost him.”

Thus did two spirits, leaning tow’rds each other,
Discourse about me there on the right hand;
Then held supine their faces to address me.

And said the one:”O soul, that, fastened still
Within the body, tow’rds the heaven art going,
For charity console us, and declare

Whence comest and who art thou; for thou mak’st us
As much to marvel at this grace of thine
As must a thing that never yet has been.”

And I:”Through midst of Tuscany there wanders
A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;

To tell you who I am were speech in vain,
Because my name as yet makes no great noise.”
“If well thy meaning I can penetrate

With intellect of mine,”then answered me
He who first spake,”thou speakest of the Arno.”
And said the other to him:”Why concealed

This one the appellation of that river,
Even as a man doth of things horrible ?”
And thus the shade that questioned was of this

Himself acquitted:”I know not; but truly
‘Tis fit the name of such a vallev perish:
For from its fountain—head where is so pregnant

The Alpine mountain whence is cleft Peloro
That in few places it that mark surpasses
To where it yields itself in restoration

Of what the heaven doth of the sea dry up.
Whence have the rivers that which goes with them,
Virtue is like an enemy avoided

By all, as is a serpent, through misfortune
Of place, or through bad habit that impels them;
On which account have so transformed their nature

The dwellers in that miserable valley,
It seems that Circe had them in her pasture.
‘Mid ugly swine, of acorns worthier

Than other food for human use created,
It first directeth its impoverished way.
Curs findeth it thereafter, coming downward,

More snarling than their puissance demands,
And turns from them disdainfully its muzzle.
It goes on falling, and the more it grows,

The more it finds the dogs becoming wolves,
This maledict and misadventurous ditch.
Descended then through many a hollow gulf,

It finds the foxes so replete with fraud,
They fear no cunning that may master them.
Nor will I cease because another hears me;

And well ’twill be for him, if still he mind him
Of what a truthful spirit to me unravels.
Thy grandson I behold, who doth become

A hunter of those wolves upon the bank
Of the wild stream, and terrifies them all.
He sells their flesh, it being yet alive;

Thereafter slaughters them like ancient beeves .
Many of life, himself of praise, deprives.
Blood—stained he issues from the dismal forest;

He leaves it such, a thousand years from now
In its primeval state ’tis not re—wooded.”
As at the announcement of impending ills

The face of him who listens is disturbed,
From whate’er side the peril seize upon him;
So I beheld that other soul, which stood

Turned round to listen, grow disturbed and sad,
When it had gathered to itself the word.
The speech of one and aspect of the other

Had me desirous made to know their names,
And question mixed with prayers I made thereof,
Whereat the spirit which first spake to me

Began again:”Thou wishest I should bring me
To do for thee what thou’lt not do for me;
But since God willeth that in thee shine forth

Such grace of his, I’ll not be chary with thee;
Know, then, that I Guido del Duca am.
My blood was so with envy set on fire,

That if I had beheld a man make merry,
Thou wouldst have seen me sprinkled o’er with pallor.
From my own sowing such the straw I reap!

O human race! why dost thou set thy heart
Where interdict of partnership must be ?
This is Renier; this is the boast and honour

Of the house of Calboli, where no one since
Has made himself the heir of his desert.
And not alone his blood is made devoid,

‘Twixt Po and mount, and sea—shore and the Reno,
Of good required for truth and for diversion;
For all within these boundaries is full

Of venomous roots, so that too tardily
By cultivation now would they diminish.
Where is good Lizio, and Arrigo Manardi,

Pier Traversaro, and Guido di Carpigna,
O Romagnuoli into bastards turned ?
When in Bologna will a Fabbro rise ?

When in Faenza a Bernardin di Fosco,
The noble scion of ignoble seed ?
Be not astonished, Tuscan, if I weep

When I remember, with Guido da Prata,
Ugolin d’ Azzo, who was living with us,
Frederick Tignoso and his company

The house of Traversara, and th’ Anastagi,
And one race and the other is extinct .
The dames and cavaliers, the toils and ease

That filled our souls with love and courtesy,
There where the hearts have so malicious grown!
O Brettinoro! why dost thou not flee,

Seeing that all thy family is gone,
And many people, not to be corrupted ?
Bagnacaval does well in not begetting

And ill does Castrocaro, and Conio worse,
In taking trouble to beget such Counts.
Will do well the Pagani, when their Devil

Shall have departed; but not therefore pure
Will testimony of them e’er remain.
O Ugolin de’ Fantoli, secure

Thy name is, since no longer is awaited
One who, degenerating, can obscure it!
But go now, Tuscan, for it now delights me

To weep far better than it does to speak,
So much has our discourse my mind distressed.”
We were aware that those beloved souls

Heard us depart; therefore, by keeping silent,
They made us of our pathway confident.
When we became alone by going onward,

Thunder, when it doth cleave the air, appeared
A voice, that counter to us came, exclaiming:
“Shall slay me whosoever findeth me!”

And fled as the reverberation dies
If suddenly the cloud asunder bursts.
As soon as hearing had a truce from this,

Behold another, with so great a crash,
That it resembled thunderings following fast:
“I am Aglaurus, who became a stone!”

And then, to press myself close to the Poet,
I backward, and not forward, took a step.
Already on all sides the air was quiet;

And said he to me:”That was the hard curb
That ought to hold a man within his bounds;
But you take in the bait so that the hook

Of the old Adversary draws you to him,
And hence availeth little curb or call.
The heavens are calling you, and wheel around you,

Displaying to you their eternal beauties,
And still your eye is looking on the ground;
Whence He, who all discerns, chastises you.”

Whence He, who all discerns, chastises you.”

“Who is this man who, although death has yet
to grant him flight, can circle round our mountain,
and can, at will, open and shut his eyes?”

“I don’t know who he is, but I do know
he’s not alone; you’re closer; question him
and greet him gently, so that he replies.”

So were two spirits, leaning toward each other,
discussing me, along my right—hand side;
then they bent back their heads to speak to me,

and one began: “O soul who—still enclosed
within the body—make your way toward Heaven,
may you, through love, console us; tell us who

you are, from where you come; the grace that you’ve
received—a thing that’s never come to pass
before—has caused us much astonishment.”

And I: “Through central Tuscany there spreads
a little stream first born in Falterona;
one hundred miles can’t fill the course it needs.

I bring this body from that river’s banks;
to tell you who I am would be to speak
in vain—my name has not yet gained much fame.”

“If, with my understanding, I have seized
your meaning properly,” replied to me
the one who’d spoken first, “you mean the Arno.”

The other said to him: “Why did he hide
that river’s name, even as one would do
in hiding something horrible from view?”

The shade to whom this question was addressed
repaid with this: “I do not know; but it
is right for such a valley’s name to perish,

for from its source (at which the rugged chain—
from which Pelorus was cut off—surpasses
most other places with its mass of mountains)

until its end point (where it offers back
those waters that evaporating skies
drew from the sea, that streams may be supplied),

virtue is seen as serpent, and all flee
from it as if it were an enemy,
either because the site is ill—starred or

their evil custom goads them so; therefore,
the nature of that squalid valley’s people
has changed, as if they were in Circe’s pasture.

That river starts its miserable course
among foul hogs, more fit for acorns than
for food devised to serve the needs of man.

Then, as that stream descends, it comes on curs
that, though their force is feeble, snap and snarl;
scornful of them, it swerves its snout away.

And, downward, it flows on; and when that ditch,
ill—fated and accursed, grows wider, it
finds, more and more, the dogs becoming wolves.

Descending then through many dark ravines,
it comes on foxes so full of deceit—
there is no trap that they cannot defeat.

Nor will I keep from speech because my comrade
hears me (and it will serve you, too, to keep
in mind what prophecy reveals to me).

I see your grandson: he’s become a hunter
of wolves along the banks of the fierce river,
and he strikes every one of them with terror.

He sells their flesh while they are still alive;
then, like an ancient beast, he turns to slaughter,
depriving many of life, himself of honor.

Bloody, he comes out from the wood he’s plundered,
leaving it such that in a thousand years
it will not be the forest that it was.”

Just as the face of one who has heard word
of pain and injury becomes perturbed,
no matter from what side that menace stirs,

so did I see that other soul, who’d turned
to listen, growing anxious and dejected
when he had taken in his comrade’s words.

The speech of one, the aspect of the other
had made me need to know their names, and I
both queried and beseeched at the same time,

at which the spirit who had spoken first
to me began again: “You’d have me do
for you that which, to me, you have refused.

But since God would, in you, have His grace glow
so brightly, I shall not be miserly;
know, therefore, that I was Guido del Duca.

My blood was so afire with envy that,
when I had seen a man becoming happy,
the lividness in me was plain to see.

From what I’ve sown, this is the straw I reap:
o humankind, why do you set your hearts
there where our sharing cannot have a part?

This is Rinieri, this is he—the glory,
the honor of the house of Calboli;
but no one has inherited his worth.

It’s not his kin alone, between the Po
and mountains, and the Reno and the coast,
who’ve lost the truth’s grave good and lost the good

of gentle living, too; those lands are full
of poisoned stumps; by now, however much
one were to cultivate, it is too late.

Where is good Lizio? Arrigo Mainardi?
Pier Traversaro? Guido di Carpigna?
O Romagnoles returned to bastardy!

When will a Fabbro flourish in Bologna?
When, in Faenza, a Bernadin di Fosco,
the noble offshoot of a humble plant?

Don’t wonder, Tuscan, if I weep when I
remember Ugolino d’Azzo, one
who lived among us, and Guido da Prata,

the house of Traversara, of Anastagi
(both houses without heirs), and Federigo
Tignoso and his gracious company,

the ladies and the knights, labors and leisure
to which we once were urged by courtesy
and love, where hearts now host perversity.

O Bretinoro, why do you not flee—
when you’ve already lost your family
and many men who’ve fled iniquity?

Bagnacaval does well: it breeds no more—
and Castrocuro ill, and Conio worse,
for it insists on breeding counts so cursed.

Once freed of their own demon, the Pagani
will do quite well, but not so well that any
will testify that they are pure and worthy.

Your name, o Ugolin de’ Fantolini,
is safe, since one no longer waits for heirs
to blacken it with their degeneracy.

But, Tuscan, go your way; I am more pleased
to weep now than to speak: for that which we
have spoken presses heavily on me!”

We knew those gentle souls had heard us move
away; therefore, their silence made us feel
more confident about the path we took.

When we, who’d gone ahead, were left alone,
a voice that seemed like lightning as it splits
the air encountered us, a voice that said:

“Whoever captures me will slaughter me”;
and then it fled like thunder when it fades
after the cloud is suddenly ripped through.

As soon as that first voice had granted us
a truce, another voice cried out with such
uproar—like thunder quick to follow thunder:

“I am Aglauros, who was turned to stone”;
and then, to draw more near the poet, I
moved to my right instead of moving forward.

By now the air on every side was quiet;
and he told me: “That is the sturdy bit
that should hold every man within his limits.

But you would take the bait, so that the hook
of the old adversary draws you to him;
thus, neither spur nor curb can serve to save you.

Heaven would call—and it encircles—you;
it lets you see its never—ending beauties;
and yet your eyes would only see the ground;

thus, He who sees all things would strike you down.”

“WHO is this one that goes about our mountain,
Or ever Death has given him power of flight,
And opes his eyes and shuts them at his will ?”

“I know not who, but know he’s not alone;
Ask him thyself, for thou art nearer to him,
And gently, so that he may speak, accost him.”

Thus did two spirits, leaning tow’rds each other,
Discourse about me there on the right hand;
Then held supine their faces to address me.

And said the one:”O soul, that, fastened still
Within the body, tow’rds the heaven art going,
For charity console us, and declare

Whence comest and who art thou; for thou mak’st us
As much to marvel at this grace of thine
As must a thing that never yet has been.”

And I:”Through midst of Tuscany there wanders
A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;

To tell you who I am were speech in vain,
Because my name as yet makes no great noise.”
“If well thy meaning I can penetrate

With intellect of mine,”then answered me
He who first spake,”thou speakest of the Arno.”
And said the other to him:”Why concealed

This one the appellation of that river,
Even as a man doth of things horrible ?”
And thus the shade that questioned was of this

Himself acquitted:”I know not; but truly
‘Tis fit the name of such a vallev perish:
For from its fountain—head where is so pregnant

The Alpine mountain whence is cleft Peloro
That in few places it that mark surpasses
To where it yields itself in restoration

Of what the heaven doth of the sea dry up.
Whence have the rivers that which goes with them,
Virtue is like an enemy avoided

By all, as is a serpent, through misfortune
Of place, or through bad habit that impels them;
On which account have so transformed their nature

The dwellers in that miserable valley,
It seems that Circe had them in her pasture.
‘Mid ugly swine, of acorns worthier

Than other food for human use created,
It first directeth its impoverished way.
Curs findeth it thereafter, coming downward,

More snarling than their puissance demands,
And turns from them disdainfully its muzzle.
It goes on falling, and the more it grows,

The more it finds the dogs becoming wolves,
This maledict and misadventurous ditch.
Descended then through many a hollow gulf,

It finds the foxes so replete with fraud,
They fear no cunning that may master them.
Nor will I cease because another hears me;

And well ’twill be for him, if still he mind him
Of what a truthful spirit to me unravels.
Thy grandson I behold, who doth become

A hunter of those wolves upon the bank
Of the wild stream, and terrifies them all.
He sells their flesh, it being yet alive;

Thereafter slaughters them like ancient beeves .
Many of life, himself of praise, deprives.
Blood—stained he issues from the dismal forest;

He leaves it such, a thousand years from now
In its primeval state ’tis not re—wooded.”
As at the announcement of impending ills

The face of him who listens is disturbed,
From whate’er side the peril seize upon him;
So I beheld that other soul, which stood

Turned round to listen, grow disturbed and sad,
When it had gathered to itself the word.
The speech of one and aspect of the other

Had me desirous made to know their names,
And question mixed with prayers I made thereof,
Whereat the spirit which first spake to me

Began again:”Thou wishest I should bring me
To do for thee what thou’lt not do for me;
But since God willeth that in thee shine forth

Such grace of his, I’ll not be chary with thee;
Know, then, that I Guido del Duca am.
My blood was so with envy set on fire,

That if I had beheld a man make merry,
Thou wouldst have seen me sprinkled o’er with pallor.
From my own sowing such the straw I reap!

O human race! why dost thou set thy heart
Where interdict of partnership must be ?
This is Renier; this is the boast and honour

Of the house of Calboli, where no one since
Has made himself the heir of his desert.
And not alone his blood is made devoid,

‘Twixt Po and mount, and sea—shore and the Reno,
Of good required for truth and for diversion;
For all within these boundaries is full

Of venomous roots, so that too tardily
By cultivation now would they diminish.
Where is good Lizio, and Arrigo Manardi,

Pier Traversaro, and Guido di Carpigna,
O Romagnuoli into bastards turned ?
When in Bologna will a Fabbro rise ?

When in Faenza a Bernardin di Fosco,
The noble scion of ignoble seed ?
Be not astonished, Tuscan, if I weep

When I remember, with Guido da Prata,
Ugolin d’ Azzo, who was living with us,
Frederick Tignoso and his company

The house of Traversara, and th’ Anastagi,
And one race and the other is extinct .
The dames and cavaliers, the toils and ease

That filled our souls with love and courtesy,
There where the hearts have so malicious grown!
O Brettinoro! why dost thou not flee,

Seeing that all thy family is gone,
And many people, not to be corrupted ?
Bagnacaval does well in not begetting

And ill does Castrocaro, and Conio worse,
In taking trouble to beget such Counts.
Will do well the Pagani, when their Devil

Shall have departed; but not therefore pure
Will testimony of them e’er remain.
O Ugolin de’ Fantoli, secure

Thy name is, since no longer is awaited
One who, degenerating, can obscure it!
But go now, Tuscan, for it now delights me

To weep far better than it does to speak,
So much has our discourse my mind distressed.”
We were aware that those beloved souls

Heard us depart; therefore, by keeping silent,
They made us of our pathway confident.
When we became alone by going onward,

Thunder, when it doth cleave the air, appeared
A voice, that counter to us came, exclaiming:
“Shall slay me whosoever findeth me!”

And fled as the reverberation dies
If suddenly the cloud asunder bursts.
As soon as hearing had a truce from this,

Behold another, with so great a crash,
That it resembled thunderings following fast:
“I am Aglaurus, who became a stone!”

And then, to press myself close to the Poet,
I backward, and not forward, took a step.
Already on all sides the air was quiet;

And said he to me:”That was the hard curb
That ought to hold a man within his bounds;
But you take in the bait so that the hook

Of the old Adversary draws you to him,
And hence availeth little curb or call.
The heavens are calling you, and wheel around you,

Displaying to you their eternal beauties,
And still your eye is looking on the ground;
Whence He, who all discerns, chastises you.”

Whence He, who all discerns, chastises you.”