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In the month of July, 1321, died the Poet Dante Alighieri of Florence, in the city of Ravenna in Romagna, after his return from an embassy to Venice for the Lords of Polenta with whom he resided ; and in Ravenna before the door of the principal church he was interred with high honor, in the habit of a poet and great philosopher. He died in banishment from the community of Florence, at the age of about fifty-six. This Dante was an honorable and ancient citizen of Porta San Piero at Florence, and our neighbor; and his exile from Florence was on the occasion of Charles of Valois, of the house of France, coming to Florence in 1301, and the expulsion of the White party, as has already in
its place been mentioned. The said Dante was of the supreme governors of our city, and of that party although a Guelf; and therefore without any other crime was with the said White party expelled and banished from Florence; and he went to the University of Bologna, and into many parts of the world. This was a great and learned person in almost every science, although a layman ; he was a consummate poet and philosopher and rhetorician; as perfect in prose and verse as he was in public speaking a most noble orator ; in rhyming excellent, with the most polished and beautiful style that ever appeared in our language up to his time or since. He wrote in his youth the book of The Early Life of Love, and
afterwards when in exile made twenty do so. He also wrote the Monarchia, moral and amorous canzonets very ex- where he treats of the office of popes cellent, and amongst other things three and emperors. And he began a comnoble epistles: one he sent to the Flor- ment on fourteen of the above-named entine government, complaining of his moral canzonets in the vulgar tongue, undeserved exile; another to the Em- which in consequence of his death is peror Henry when he was at the siege found imperfect except on three, which of Brescia, reprehending him for his to judge from what is seen would have delay, and almost prophesying; the proved a lofty, beautiful, subtile, and third to the Italian cardinals during the most important work; because it is vacancy after the death of Pope Clem- equally ornamented with noble opinent, urging them to agree in electing ions and fine philosophical and astroan Italian Pope ; all in Latin, with logical reasoning. Besides these he noble precepts and excellent senten- composed a little book which he ences and authorities, which were much titled De Vulgari Eloquentia, of which commended by the wise and learned. he promised to make four books, but And he wrote the Commedia, where, in only two are to be found, perhaps in polished verse and with great and sub- consequence of his early death; where, tile arguments, moral, natural, astro in powerful and elegant Latin and good logical, philosophical, and theological, reasoning, he rejects all the vulgar with new and beautiful figures, similes, tongues of Italy. This Dante, from and poetical graces, he composed and his knowledge, was somewhat presumptreated in a hundred chapters or cantos tuous, harsh, and disdainful, like an of the existence of hell, purgatory, and ungracious philosopher; he scarcely paradise ; so loftily as may be said of deigned to converse with laymen; but it, that whoever is of subtile intellect for his other virtues, science, and worth may by his said treatise perceive and as a citizen, it seems but reasonable to understand. He was well pleased in give him perpetual remembrance in this this poem to blame and cry out, in the our chronicle; nevertheless, his noble manner of poets, in some places per- works, left to us in writing, bear true haps more than he ought to have done; testimony of him, and honorable fame but it may be that his exile made him to our city.
LETTER OF FRATE ILARIO.
Arrivabene, Comento Storico, p. 379. ..... Hither he came, passing through other feeling. And seeing him, as yet the diocese of Luni, moved either by unknown to me and to all my brethren, the religion of the place, or by some I questioned him of his wishings and his seekings there. He moved not; of these matters, perhaps inspired by but stood silently contemplating the Heaven, began to bud, I chose that columns and arches of the cloister. language which was most worthy of And again I asked him what he wished, them: and not alone chose it, but beand whom he sought. Then, slowly gan forth with to poetize therein, after turning his head, and looking at the fri- this wise: ars and at me, he answered: “Peace!” Ultima regna canam Auido contermina mundo, Thence kindling more and more the Spiritibus quæ lata patent; quæ præmia solwish to know him and who he might be, I led him aside somewhat. and. Pro meritis cuicumque suis.' having spoken a few words with him, But when I recalled the condition of I knew him; for although I had never the present age, and saw the songs of seen him till that hour, his fame had the illustrious poets esteemed almost long since reached me. And when he as naught, and knew that the generous saw that I hung upon his countenance, men, for whom in better day's these and listened to him with strange affec- things were written, had abandoned, tion, he drew from his bosom a book, ah me! the liberal arts unto vulgar did gently open it, and offered it to hands, I threw aside the delicate lyre, me, saying: “ Sir Friar, here is a por- which had armed my flank, and attuned tion of my work, which peradventure another more befitting the ear of modthou hast not seen. This remem- erns; — for the food that is hard we brance I leave with thee. Forget me hold in vain to the mouths of sucknot.” And when he had given me lings.” the book, I pressed it gratefully to my Having said this, he added with emobosom, and in his presence fixed my tion, that, if the occasion served, I eyes upon it with great love. But I should make some brief annotations beholding there the vulgar tongue, and upon the work, and, thus apparailed, showing by the fashion of my coun should forward it to you. Which task tenance my wonderment thereat, he in truth, although I may not have exasked the reason of the same. I an- tracted all the marrow of his words, swered, that I marvelled he should I have nevertheless performed with sing in that language ; for it seemed fidelity; and the work required of me a difficult thing, nay, incredible, that I frankly send you, as was enjoined those most high conceptions could be upon me by that most friendly man ; expressed in common language ; nor in which work, if it appear that any did it seem to me right that such and ambiguity still remains, you must imso worthy a science should be clothed pute it to my insufficiency, for there is in such plebeian garments. “You think no doubt that the text is perfect in all aright,” he said, “and I myself have points. .... thought so. And when at first the seeds
PASSAGE FROM THE CONVITO, I. iii.
Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets, p. 12.
Ah! would it had pleased the Dis- almost a beggar, exposing against my penser of all things that this excuse had will the wounds given me by fortune, never been needed; that neither others too often unjustly imputed to the sufhad done me wrong, nor myself under- ferer's fault. Truly I have been a gone penalty undeservedly, — the pen vessel without sail and without rudder, alty, I say, of exile and of poverty. driven about upon different ports and For it pleased the citizens of the fairest shores by the dry wind that springs out and most renowned daughter of Rome of dolorous poverty ; and hence have
- Florence - to cast me out of her I appeared vile in the eyes of many,
DANTE'S LETTER TO A FRIEND.
Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets, p. 13. From your letter, which I received many other friends, that by a decree with due respect and affection, I ob- concerning the exiles I am allowed to serve how much you have at heart my return to Florence, provided I pay a restoration to my country. I am bound certain sum of money, and submit to to you the more gratefully, inasmuch the humiliation of asking and receiving as an exile rarely finds a friend. But absolution : wherein, my father, I see after mature consideration I must, by two propositions that are ridiculous and my answer, disappoint the wishes of impertinent. I speak of the impertisome little minds; and I confide in the nence of those who mention such conjudgment to which your impartiality ditions to me ; for in your letter, dic. and prudence will lead you. Your tated by judgment and discretion, there nephew and mine has written to me, is no such thing. Is such an invitawhat indeed had been mentioned by tion, then, to return to his country