Canto X

And now advance we by a narrow track
Between the torments and the ramparts high,
My Master first, and I behind his back.
'O mighty Virtue,[352] at whose will am I
Wheeled through these impious circles,' then I said,
'Speak, and in full my longing satisfy.
The people who within the tombs are laid,
May they be seen? The coverings are all thrown
Open, nor is there[353] any guard displayed.'
And he to me: 'All shall be fastened down
When hither from Jehoshaphat[354] they come
Again in bodies which were once their own.
All here with Epicurus[355] find their tomb
Who are his followers, and by whom 'tis held
That the soul shares the body's mortal doom.

Things here discovered then shall answer yield,
And quickly, to thy question asked of me;
As well as[356] to the wish thou hast concealed.'
And I: 'Good Leader, if I hide from thee
My heart, it is that I may little say;
Nor only now[357] learned I thus dumb to be.'
'O Tuscan, who, still living, mak'st thy way,
Modest of speech, through the abode of flame,
Be pleased[358] a little in this place to stay.
The accents of thy language thee proclaim
To be a native of that state renowned
Which I, perchance, wronged somewhat.' Sudden came
These words from out a tomb which there was found
'Mongst others; whereon I, compelled by fright,
A little toward my Leader shifted ground.
And he: 'Turn round, what ails thee? Lo! upright
Beginneth Farinata[359] to arise;
All of him 'bove the girdle comes in sight.'
On him already had I fixed mine eyes.
Towering erect with lifted front and chest,
He seemed Inferno greatly to despise.

And toward him I among the tombs was pressed
By my Guide's nimble and courageous hand,
While he, 'Choose well thy language,' gave behest.
Beneath his tomb when I had ta'en my stand
Regarding me a moment, 'Of what house
Art thou?' as if in scorn, he made demand.
To show myself obedient, anxious,
I nothing hid, but told my ancestors;
And, listening, he gently raised his brows.[360]
'Fiercely to me they proved themselves adverse,
And to my sires and party,' then he said;
'Because of which I did them twice disperse.'[361]
I answered him: 'And what although they fled!
Twice from all quarters they returned with might,
An art not mastered yet by these you[362] led.'
Beside him then there issued into sight
Another shade, uncovered to the chin,
Propped on his knees, if I surmised aright.
He peered around as if he fain would win
Knowledge if any other was with me;
And then, his hope all spent, did thus begin,
Weeping: 'By dint of genius if it be
Thou visit'st this dark prison, where my son?
And wherefore not found in thy company?'
And I to him: 'I come not here alone:
He waiting yonder guides me: but disdain
Of him perchance was by your Guido[363] shown.'
The words he used, and manner of his pain,
Revealed his name to me beyond surmise;
Hence was I able thus to answer plain.

Then cried he, and at once upright did rise,
'How saidst thou--was? Breathes he not then the air?
The pleasant light no longer smites his eyes?'
When he of hesitation was aware
Displayed by me in forming my reply,
He fell supine, no more to reappear.
But the magnanimous, at whose bidding I
Had halted there, the same expression wore,
Nor budged a jot, nor turned his neck awry.
'And if'--resumed he where he paused before--
'They be indeed but slow that art to learn,
Than this my bed, to hear it pains me more.
But ere the fiftieth time anew shall burn
The lady's[364] face who reigneth here below,
Of that sore art thou shalt experience earn.

And as to the sweet world again thou'dst go,
Tell me, why is that people so without
Ruth for my race,[365] as all their statutes show?'
And I to him: 'The slaughter and the rout
Which made the Arbia[366] to run with red,
Cause in our fane[367] such prayers to be poured out.'
Whereon he heaved a sigh and shook his head:
'There I was not alone, nor to embrace
That cause was I, without good reason, led.
But there I was alone, when from her place
All granted Florence should be swept away.
'Twas I[368] defended her with open face.'
'So may your seed find peace some better day,'
I urged him, 'as this knot you shall untie
In which my judgment doth entangled stay.
If I hear rightly, ye, it seems, descry
Beforehand what time brings, and yet ye seem
'Neath other laws[369] as touching what is nigh.'
'Like those who see best what is far from them,
We see things,' said he, 'which afar remain;
Thus much enlightened by the Guide Supreme.

To know them present or approaching, vain
Are all our powers; and save what they relate
Who hither come, of earth no news we gain.
Hence mayst thou gather in how dead a state
Shall all our knowledge from that time be thrown
When of the future shall be closed the gate.'
Then, for my fault as if repentant grown,
I said: 'Report to him who fell supine,
That still among the living breathes his son.
And if I, dumb, seemed answer to decline,
Tell him it was that I upon the knot
Was pondering then, you helped me to untwine.'
Me now my Master called, whence I besought
With more than former sharpness of the shade,
To tell me what companions he had got.
He answered me: 'Some thousand here are laid
With me; 'mong these the Second Frederick,[370]
The Cardinal[371] too; of others nought be said.'
Then was he hid; and towards the Bard antique
I turned my steps, revolving in my brain
The ominous words[372] which I had heard him speak.

He moved, and as we onward went again
Demanded of me: 'Wherefore thus amazed?'
And to his question I made answer plain.
'Within thy mind let there be surely placed,'
The Sage bade, 'what 'gainst thee thou heardest say.
Now mark me well' (his finger here he raised),
'When thou shalt stand within her gentle ray
Whose beauteous eye sees all, she will make known
The stages[373] of thy journey on life's way.'
Turning his feet, he to the left moved on;
Leaving the wall, we to the middle[374] went
Upon a path that to a vale strikes down,
Which even to us above its foulness sent.


[352] _Virtue_: Virgil is here addressed by a new title, which, with the
words of deep respect that follow, marks the full restoration of Dante's
confidence in him as his guide.

[353] _Nor is there, etc._: The gate was found to be strictly guarded,
but not so are the tombs.

[354] _Jehoshaphat_: 'I will also gather all nations, and will bring
them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat' (Joel iii. 2).

[355] _Epicurus_: The unbelief in a future life, or rather the
indifference to everything but the calls of ambition and worldly
pleasure, common among the nobles of Dante's age and that preceding it,
went by the name of Epicureanism. It is the most radical of heresies,
because adverse to the first principles of all religions. Dante, in his
treatment of heresy, dwells more on what affects conduct as does the
denial of the Divine government--than on intellectual divergence from
orthodox belief.

[356] _As well as, etc._: The question is: 'May they be seen?' The wish
is a desire to speak with them.

[357] _Nor only now, etc._: Virgil has on previous occasions imposed
silence on Dante, as, for instance, at _Inf._ iii. 51.

[358] _Be pleased, etc._: From one of the sepulchres, to be imagined as
a huge sarcophagus, come words similar to the _Siste Viator!_ common on
Roman tombs.

[359] _Farinata_: Of the great Florentine family of the Uberti, and, in
the generation before Dante, leader of the Ghibeline or Imperialist
party in Florence. His memory long survived among his fellow-townsmen as
that of the typical noble, rough-mannered, unscrupulous, and arrogant;
but yet, for one good action that he did, he at the same time ranked in
the popular estimation as a patriot and a hero. Boccaccio, misled
perhaps by the mention of Epicurus, says that he loved rich and delicate
fare. It is because all his thoughts were worldly that he is condemned
to the city of unbelief. Dante has already (_Inf._ vi. 79) inquired
regarding his fate. He died in 1264.

[360] _His brows_: When Dante tells he is of the Alighieri, a Guelf
family, Farinata shows some slight displeasure. Or, as a modern
Florentine critic interprets the gesture, he has to think a moment
before he can remember on which side the Alighieri ranged
themselves--they being of the small gentry, while he was a great noble,
But this gloss requires Dante to have been more free from pride of
family than he really was.

[361] _Twice disperse_: The Alighieri shared in the exile of the Guelfs
in 1248 and 1260.

[362] _You_: See also line 95. Dante never uses the plural form to a
single person except when desirous of showing social as distinguished
from, or over and above, moral respect.

[363] _Guido_: Farinata's companion in the tomb is Cavalcante
Cavalcanti, who, although a Guelf, was tainted with the more specially
Ghibeline error of Epicureanism. When in order to allay party rancour
some of the Guelf and Ghibeline families were forced to intermarry, his
son Guido took a daughter of Farinata's to wife. This was in 1267, so
that Guido was much older than Dante. Yet they were very intimate, and,
intellectually, had much in common. With him Dante exchanged poems of
occasion, and he terms him more than once in the _Vita Nuova_ his chief
friend. The disdain of Virgil need not mean more than is on the surface.
Guido died in 1301. He is the hero of the _Decameron_, vi. 9.

[364] _The Lady_: Proserpine; _i.e._ the moon. Ere fifty months from
March 1300 were past, Dante was to see the failure of more than one
attempt made by the exiles, of whom he was one, to gain entrance to
Florence. The great attempt was in the beginning of 1304.

[365] _Ruth for my race_: When the Ghibeline power was finally broken in
Florence the Uberti were always specially excluded from any amnesty.
There is mention of the political execution of at least one descendant
of Farinata's. His son when being led to the scaffold said, 'So we pay
our fathers' debts!'--It has been so long common to describe Dante as a
Ghibeline, though no careful writer does it now, that it may be worth
while here to remark that Ghibelinism, as Farinata understood it, was
practically extinct in Florence ere Dante entered political life.

[366] _The Arbia_: At Montaperti, on the Arbia, a few miles from Siena,
was fought in 1260 a great battle between the Guelf Florence and her
allies on the one hand, and on the other the Ghibelines of Florence,
then in exile, under Farinata; the Sienese and Tuscan Ghibelines in
general; and some hundreds of men-at-arms lent by Manfred.

Notwithstanding the gallant behaviour of the Florentine burghers, the
Guelf defeat was overwhelming, and not only did the Arbia run red with
Florentine blood--in a figure--but the battle of Montaperti ruined for a
time the cause of popular liberty and general improvement in Florence.

[367] _Our fane_: The Parliament of the people used to meet in Santa
Reparata, the cathedral; and it is possible that the maintenance of the
Uberti disabilities was there more than once confirmed by the general
body of the citizens. The use of the word is in any case accounted for
by the frequency of political conferences in churches. And the temple
having been introduced, edicts are converted into 'prayers.'

[368] _'Twas I, etc._: Some little time after the victory of Montaperti
there was a great Ghibeline gathering from various cities at Empoli,
when it was proposed, with general approval, to level Florence with the
ground in revenge for the obstinate Guelfism of the population. Farinata
roughly declared that as long as he lived and had a sword he would
defend his native place, and in the face of this protest the resolution
was departed from. It is difficult to understand how of all the
Florentine nobles, whose wealth consisted largely in house property,
Farinata should have stood alone in protesting against the ruin of the
city. But so it seems to have been; and in this great passage Farinata
is repaid for his service, in despite of Inferno.

[369] _Other laws_: Ciacco, in Canto vi., prophesied what was to happen
in Florence, and Farinata has just told him that four years later than
now he will have failed in an attempt to return from exile: yet Farinata
does not know if his family is still being persecuted, and Cavalcanti
fears that his son Guido is already numbered with the dead. Farinata
replies that like the longsighted the shades can only see what is some
distance off, and are ignorant of what is going on, or about to happen;
which seems to imply that they forget what they once foresaw. Guido was
to die within a few months, and the event was too close at hand to come
within the range of his father's vision.

[370] _The Second Frederick_: The Emperor of that name who reigned from
1220 to 1250, and waged a life-long war with the Popes for supremacy in
Italy. It is not however for his enmity with Rome that he is placed in
the Sixth Circle, but for his Epicureanism--as Dante understood it. From
his Sicilian court a spirit of free inquiry spread through the
Peninsula. With men of the stamp of Farinata it would be converted into
a crude materialism.

[371] _The Cardinal_: Ottaviano, of the powerful Tuscan family of the
Ubaldini, a man of great political activity, and known in Tuscany as
'The Cardinal.' His sympathies were not with the Roman Court. The news
of Montaperti filled him with delight, and later, when the Tuscan
Ghibelines refused him money he had asked for, he burst out with 'And
yet I have lost my soul for the Ghibelines--if I have a soul.' He died
not earlier than 1273. After these illustrious names Farinata scorns to
mention meaner ones.

[372] _Ominous words_: Those in which Farinata foretold Dante's exile.

[373] _The stages, etc._: It is Cacciaguida, his ancestor, who in
Paradise instructs Dante in what his future life is to be--one of
poverty and exile (_Parad._ xvii.). This is, however, done at the
request of Beatrice.

[374] _To the middle_: Turning to the left they cut across the circle
till they reach the inner boundary of the city of tombs. Here there is
no wall.