Paradiso -- Canto XVI

Cacciaguida on Florence








10 The poet employs the plural voi, instead of tu, in addressing his ancestor Cacciaguida as a sign or respect, and Beatrice’s reaction is compared to that of the Dame de Malebaut who came upon Guinevere and Lancelot in their first amorous colloquy.







25 Saint John the Baptist was the patron saint of Florence, as Mars was the pagan patron.







37 Those born with Mars under the sign of Leo the Lion have warlike dispositions.







49 Cacciaguida begins a survey of old-line families, great in his day, that have died off or degenerated by marriages with baser stock. These nobles have been replaced by backwoods folk from Certaldo (l. 50), Trespiano (l. 54), and other hamlets; among these low-born Snopses, Dante mentions Baldo d’Aguglione, a politician, and Fazio dei Morubaldini of Signa, a lawyer, as two typical swindlers (l. 56).



61 This person has not been identified.

64 Montemurlo, a castle north-west of Florence, was sold by the Ghibelline Counts Guidi to the city in 1254.

65 The Cerchi clan, leaders of the White Guelphs, came originally from Acone in Val di Sieve.

66 The Buondelmonti had a castle in Valdigreve which Florence took over: the family moved to the city with dire consequences (see ll. 135-147).

73 Luni and the other cities are given as examples of dead and dying municipalities.











88 The Ughi are among Florentine families that were illustrious in Cacciaguida’s day.






98 Berti dei Ravignani won praise in the previous canto (ll. 112-114), and Count Guido Guerra, although among the sodomites, receives honorable mention in Inferno XVI, ll. 34-39.

100 The Della Pressa, Galigaio, the Pigli (whose arms bore a grey fur or vair), are other distinguished families of the past. The Chiaramontesi were accused of fraudulently measuring salt (l. 105). The Uberti were once high-minded, but ambition, like that of Farinata's, has undone them (ll. 109-110). The same has happened to the Lamberti clan whose arms feature golden balls.

112 Cacciaguida continues with his list of families fallen from grace: the Visdomini, Tosinghi, and Donati. The Adimari clan have worked their way up into the social register through clever marriages (ll. 115-120).




126 The della Pera were an old noble family of Florence.

129 Hugh of Brandenburg, Marquis of Tuscany, died on Saint Thomas’ Day, December 21, 1006.

131 Giano della Bella, though of noble birth, supported populist movements, like the reforms in 1293.

140 The Buondelmonti (see l. 66) provide the climax of Cacciaguida’s speech. When Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti, a Guelph, refused to marry the daughter of the well-born Ghibelline Amidei family (l. 136), a death sentence was passed on him in 1215, and a century of civil strife began (see also Inferno XXVIII, l. 106, and note).





147 Buondelmonte was murdered at the foot of the mutilated statue of Mars.

152 The standard of Florence showed a white lily on a red background; her foes turned the banner upside-down as a sign of defeat, and the Guelphs reversed the colors on their standard, making the lily red (l. 154).

          O our inept nobility of blood!
          If you make people glory in you here
          On earth where our affections grow infirm,
          I shall no longer be surprised at it,
5        Since there where appetite is not contorted,
          I mean in heaven, I too gloried in you!
          Plainly you are a mantle that soon shrinks,
          So that, if cloth's not let out day by day,
          Time will go round and round you with his scissors!
10       With formal "You" which was first used in Rome
          And which her offspring hardly favor now,
          I once again began to choose my words
          When Beatrice, who stood slightly to one side,
          Smiled, and seemed to me like her who coughed
15       At the first fault they tell of Guinevere.
          "You are my father," was my opening word;
          "You give me my full confidence to speak;
          You so raise me I am more than myself.
          "So many streams fill up my mind with joy
20       That now my mind rejoices in itself
          That it can bear this gladness and not burst.
          "Tell me then, dear root from which I spring,
          Who were your forefathers and what the years
          Which were recorded in your early youth?
25        "Tell me of the sheepfold of Saint John,
          How large the flock was then and who the folk
          Within it worthy of the highest places?"
          As at the breathing of the winds a coal
          Quickens into flame, so did I see
30       That light glow brighter with my reverent words.
          And as it grew still lovelier to my eyes,
          So with a sweeter and a softer voice,
          But not in today’s idiom, he said,
          "From that day whereon Ave was first uttered
35       Unto that birth when my now sainted mother
          Was lightened of me with whom she had been ladened,
          "This fiery planet came five hundred times
          And fourscore to the Lion to rekindle
          Its radiance beneath the burning paw.
40       "My forebears and I had our birthplace there
          Where those who run within your annual race
          First reach the farthest parish of the city.
          "Thus much to hear suffices for my forebears;
          For who they were and whence they hither came,
45       Silence is more honorable than speech.
          "All those fit to bear arms who at that time
          Were present there between Mars and the Baptist
          Were but the fifth of those who now are living.
          "But then the citizenry, whose blood now mixes
50       With Campi and Certaldo and Figline,
          Ran pure down to the lowest artisan.
          "O how much better were it that those folk
          Of whom I speak were neighbors and you shared
          Galluzzo and Trespiano for your boundaries
55      "Than to have them within and bear the stench
          Of Aguglione’s boor and Signa’s churl
          Whose eye by now is keen for bartering!
          "For had the folk who in this world are most
          Degenerate not been a stepmother to Caesar
60       But, like a mother, been kindly toward her son,
          "Then one who has become a Florentine
          And trafficker and trader would have lived
          At Simifonti where his grandsire begged.
          "The counts would still possess Montemurlo,
65       The Cerchi would be in Acone parish,
          And the Buondelmonti still in Valdigreve.
          "Confusion of its persons has been ever
          The prime source of malignance to the city,
          As an excess of food is to the body.
70       "And a blind bull falls to the ground more headlong
          Than the blind lamb, and frequently one sword
          Cuts more deeply and oftener than five.
          "If you consider Luni and Orbisaglia,
          How they have perished and how after them
75       Chiusi and Senigallia now follow,
          "No longer will you find it strange or hard
          To hear how families finally come to fail
          When even cities meet a fatal end.
          "All things pertaining to you have their death,
80       As have yourselves, but some conceal their end
          By lasting long, whereas your lives are short.
          "And as the wheeling of the moon in heaven
          Veils and unveils the shore unceasingly,
          In such a manner Fortune deals with Florence;
85       "Wherefore it should appear no wondrous matter,
          What I shall tell of the great Florentines
          Whose reputation is obscured by time.
          "I saw the Ughi and the Catellini,
          Filippi, Greci, Ormanni, Alberichi,
90       Illustrious families, already in decline.
          "And I saw too, as grand as they were ancient,
          Dell’Arca with Della Sannella — also
          Soldanieri, Ardinghi, and Bostichi.
          "Above the gate which at the present time
95       Is laden with new felony so heavy
          That jettison will soon drift from the ship,
          "The Ravignani lived, from whom descended
          Count Guido and whoever since that day
          Has taken the high name of Bellincione.
100     "Already Della Pressa knew the way
          To rule, and Galigaio had already
          The gilded hilt and pommel in his house.
          "Great was the vair of Pigli arms already,
          Sacchetti, Giuochi, Fifanti, and Barucci,
105     Galli, and those who blush for the false bushel.
          "The stock whence the Calfucci sprang was great
          Already, and the Sizii and Arrigucci
          Were raised already to the curule chairs.
          "O what grand men I saw who are now ruined
110     By their own pride! Lamberti’s globes of gold
          Festooning Florence in all her mighty feats!
          "So did the fathers of the Visdomini
          Who, when a vacancy comes in your church,
          Fatten by stalling in the consistory.
115     "The overweening breed that plays the dragon
          To one who runs off, but to one who shows
          His teeth — or purse — is docile as a lamb
          "Were on the rise already, but so low
          That Ubertin Donato was not pleased
120     To have his father-in-law make them his kin.
          "Already Caponsacco had come down
          To the market from Fiesole; then Giuda
          And Infangato were good citizens.
          "One thing I tell, incredible but true:
125     You entered the small circuit of old walls
          Through a gate named for the Della Pera.
          "Each one who bears the handsome coat of arms
          Of the great Baron whose name and whose renown
          The feastday of Saint Thomas keeps alive
130     "Had knighthood from him and its privilege,
          Though he who borders those arms now with gold
          This day is siding with the multitude.
          "There the Gualterotti and Importuni dwelt
          Already, and the Borgo would be quiet still
135     If they had rid themselves of their new neighbors.
          "The house from which your weeping has its birth,
          The Amidei, in their just resentment
          Slaying you and ending your glad life,
          "Was honored for itself and for its consorts.
140      O Buondelmonte, how ill of you to fly
          From plighted troth at promptings of another!
          "Many who now mourn would have rejoiced
          If God had thrown you to the Ema river
          The first day you arrived before the city!
145      "But it was fitting, in her final peace,
          That Florence should then sacrifice a victim
          Unto the broken stone which guards the bridge.
          "With all these folk and all the others with them
          I saw Florence in such assured repose
  150    That she still had no reason to lament.
          "With all these folk I saw her populace:
          So glorious, so righteous, that the lily
          Had never hung reversed upon the lance,
          "Nor yet been dyed vermilion by division."
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