Paradiso -- Canto IX

Cunizza, Folco



1 Clemence may be the wife of Charles Martel, although she had already died in 1295, or his daughter.

3 Charles’s son lost the kingdom of Naples to Robert, the brother of Charles.










22 Cunizza da Romano (d. 1279?), sister of Azzolino III, had four husbands and numerous affairs. Romano is between the Marsh of Treviso and Venice (l. 44).








37 Folco of Marseilles is mentioned here: he speaks next (l. 82).





46 The Paduan Guelphs, who had occupied the city of Vicenza were defeated there in 1314 by Can Grande della Scala, the ruling Ghibelline and Dante’s patron.

50 Rizzardo da Cammino, son of Gherardo and lord of Treviso, was assassinated there in 1312.

52 Allessandro Novello, the bishop of Feltro from 1298 to 1320, turned over Ghibelline refugees from Ferrara to Pino della Tosa, an agent of Robert, king of Naples, and Pino had them beheaded.

54 Malta was a papal prison near Lake Bolsena.
















82 The speaker is Folco of Marseilles (d. 1231), a troubadour Provencal poet who later became a Cistercian monk and bishop of Toulouse.

85 In the basin of the Mediterranean, the sun at its zenith over Jerusalem, Folco claims, would have Gibraltar as its horizon.

89 The Ebro is a river in Spain, the Macra another in northern Italy.

92 Bougie in Algeria is directly across from Marseilles. Caesar’s army conquered Pompey’s at Marseilles in 49 B.C. (l. 93).


97 Dido’s passion for Aeneas wronged the memory of her husband Sychaeus and of his wife Creusa.

100 Phyllis, from near Mount Rhodope in Thrace, hanged herself when her bridegroom Demophoon failed to appear for their wedding.

101 Hercules loved Iole, and his jealous wife Dejanira sent him the shirt of Nessus which consumed him in fire (see Inferno XII, l. 67, and note).





115 Rahab, the harlot who hid the Israelite spies in Jericho, was spared when Joshua captured the city (Joshua 2).







127 Folco claims that Lucifer founded Florence whose coins are stamped with a lily (l. 130).




134 The Decretals are the texts of canon law approved by the Vatican.

          Lovely Clemence, when your Charles had shed
          Light in my mind, he told me of the plots
          That would defraud his offspring; then he added,
          "Keep silent, and allow the years to roll":
5           So I can say no more than that real tears
          Shall follow on the damage done against you.
          And now the life within that holy light
          Had turned it once more to the sun that fills it,
          As to that Good which is the wealth of all.
10       Ah, misguided souls and impious creatures
          Who turn your hearts away from such a Good,
          Lifting your faces up to vanity!
          But look! another of those splendors came
          Toward me and, growing brighter outwardly,
15       Showed me a sign of wishing to please me.
          The eyes of Beatrice, firmly fixed on me
          As they had been before, gave me assurance
          Of her own dear assent to my desire.
          "Come, blessed spirit," I said, "let me have
20       A speedy answer to my wish, and proof
          That I can mirror in you what I think."
          At that the light, which was still new to me,
          Out of the depth from which welled up its song,
          Went on as one delighted to do favors:
25       "In evil Italy there lies a region
          Which runs between the Rialto and the springs
          Of both the Brenta and Piave rivers.
          "A hill looms there (it is not very high)
          From which there once came down a firebrand
30       That waged a huge assault against the country.
          "From one same root both he and I sprang up.
          Cunizza I was called, and I blaze here
          Because the light of this star conquered me.
          "Yet happily I here forgive myself
35       The reason for my lot, nor does it grieve me,
          Although this may seem strange to common people.
          "This brilliant and beloved jewel who
          Stands closest to me in this heaven of ours
          Left lofty fame behind: before it dies
40       "Five times this century shall have passed away.
          See how man should make himself so excellent
          That his first life might leave life after it!
          "And today’s crowd, enclosed by the Adige
          And Tagliamento, have no thought of this,
45       And, though they are whipped hard, do not repent.
          "But soon it shall befall that Padua
          At the marsh, since people shun their duty,
          Will stain the waters red that wash Vicenza.
          "And where the Sile and Cagnano join
50       One plays the lord and holds his head up high
          While all the time the net is laid to catch him.
          "Feltro shall yet moan for the treachery
          Of its besotted shepherd — a crime so shameful
          That for the like none went to Malta prison.
55       "Huge would be the bucket that could hold
          The blood of the Ferrarans: whoever had
          To weigh it ounce by ounce would be worn out!
          "This vat the generous priest shall offer up
          To prove himself a supporter of his party:
60       Such gifts befit the country’s way of living!
          "Up there are mirrors — you could call them Thrones —
          From which in judgment God beams down on us
          So that we think it good to say these things."
          Here she grew still and had, I thought, the likeness
65       Of turning now to other things by wheeling
          Where she took up the place she’d left behind.
          The other bliss, whom I already knew
          To be beloved, became before my sight
          A sparkling ruby struck by rays of sunlight.
70       Through their rejoicing, souls gain brilliance there
          On high, as here a smile gains light, but below
          Shades darken outwardly as minds grow sad.
          "God sees all, and your sight sinks into his,"
          I said, "blissful spirit, and for this reason
75       No wish may hide itself away from you.
          "Why does your voice, then, making heaven glad
          Forever with the song of these blest flames
          Which make themselves, with their six wings, a cowl,
          "Not fulfill the longing which I feel?
80       I surely would not wait for you to ask
          Were I in your mind as you are in mine."
          "The largest valley in which water spreads
          Out from the sea that girdles all the world,"
          He then began to speak these words to me —
85       "Stretches its opposing shores so far
          Counter to the sun’s course that its zenith
          Lies where at first the sun formed its horizon.
          "I had my dwelling on that valley’s shore,
          Between Ebro and Macra whose short course
90       Divides the Tuscans from the Genoese.
          "With almost the same sunset and same sunrise
          Stand Bougie and the city I am from,
          Which once made its port warm with its own blood.
          "Folco I was called then by the people
95       Who knew my name, and this heaven having once
          Signed me at my birth now bears my signal.
          "For Belus’s daughter Dido did not burn,
          In wronging both Sychaeus and Creusa,
          More than I burned, before my locks were clipped;
100     "Nor the girl from Rhodope when beguiled
          By Demophoon, nor Hercules himself
          When he enshrined Iole in his heart.
          "But here we don’t repent; instead, we smile,
          Not for the fault, which never comes to mind,
105     But for the Power that ordered and foresaw.
          "Here we look wondering at the art that love
          Makes beautiful, and find the good through which
          The world below turns to the world above.
          "And that you may take with you all your longings,
110      Which have been born within this sphere, fulfilled,
          I am obliged to go on with my discourse.
          "You want to know who is within this light
          Which glitters in this manner next to me,
          Just like a sunbeam on the crystal water.
115     "Now you should know that Rahab rests inside
          And that, as soon as she joined with our order,
          She sealed it in the loftiest degree.
          "She was swept upward through this heaven, where
          The shadow-cone of your earth casts its point,
120      Before any other soul, by Christ in triumph.
          "It was most fitting to leave her in a heaven
          To be a palm of the high victory
          Won by his one and by his other palm,
          "Because she lent her help to Joshua
125      With his first glory in the Holy Land —
          That little touches the Pope’s memory.
          "Your city, which was planted by the One
          Who first turned his back upon his Maker and
          Whose envy has provoked so many tears,
130      "Produces and spreads far the cursed flower
          Which caused the sheep and lambs to go astray
          Because it changed the shepherd to a wolf.
          "This is why the Gospel and Great Doctors
          Are tossed aside, and only the Decretals
135     Are studied, as their scribbled margins show.
          "On them the pope and cardinals pore intently
          And never turn their thoughts to Nazareth
          Where Gabriel unfolded wide his wings.
          "The Vatican, however, and the other
140      Choice parts of Rome which are the burial ground
          Of the brave soldiery that followed Peter
          "Will soon be freed from this adultery."
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