Purgatorio -- Canto XXIV

Bonagiunta da Lucca

 

Notes.

 

 

 

 

8 Statius delays his ascent out of deference to Virgil.

10 Piccarda Donati, Forese’s sister, dwells in the sphere of the moon (Paradiso III).

 

 

 

 

19 Bonagiunta Orbicciani degli Overardi, poet, judge, and orator, came from Lucca (l. 35).

21 Pope Martin IV (1281-85), a Frenchman, died from an overindulgence of eels.

 

 

 

29 Ubaldino della Pila (d. 1291), a Tuscan Ghibelline and father of Archbishop Ruggieri, was a known glutton. Boniface is probably the member of the Fieschi family who was Archbishop of Ravenna from 1274 to 1295.

31 Messer Marchese of Forlė, a magistrate for Faenza in 1296, explained his heavy drinking by an even heavier thirst.

37 Gentucca may be a lady from Lucca who befriended Dante in exile. Bonagiunta predicts her future kindness to the poet in lines 43-48.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

56 Guittone d’Arezzo, the notary Giacomo da Lentini, and Bonagiunta himself were poets who followed the earlier lyric style of Italian poetry, in contrast with the "Sweet New Style" developed by Dante and the Florentines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

82 Corso Donati, Forese’s brother, headed the Black Guelphs who came to power in Florence in 1301; he was himself condemned to death in 1308 and, trying to flee, slipped from his horse and was killed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

116 This is the tree of knowledge of good and evil at the summit of the mount in the Garden of Eden. Other reins against gluttony include the examples of the drunken centaurs (l. 123) defeated by Theseus and Gideon (l. 125) who chose his troops by the way they drank from the stream: those who knelt were disqualified (Judges 7:4-7).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

139 This is the angel who wipes out one more P from Dante's forehead and gives him direction to continue on his journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

151 Dante paraphrases the beatitude Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam (Matthew, 5:6).

          Not talk our pace, nor pace our talk slowed down,
          But we by rapid conversation picked up speed,
          Just like a ship propelled by a fair wind.
 
          And shades, who looked as if they died again,
5        Through sockets of their eyes gaped out at me,
          Seeing in me a man who was alive.
 
          And I, continuing my speaking, said,
          "He climbs perhaps more slowly than he would
          Since he’s preoccupied with someone else.
 
10       "But tell me, if you know, where is Piccarda?
          Tell me too if I see persons of note
          Among this group that stares at me so hard."
 
          "My sister — whether more beautiful than good
          I do not know — already is in triumph,
15       Rejoicing in her crown on high Olympus."
 
          This he said first, and then: "It’s not forbidden
          Here for us to name each other, since
          Our features are so shrunk by abstinence.
 
          "There," and he pointed, "is Bonagiunta,
20       Bonagiunta of Lucca; and behind him,
          His face more shriveled up than all the rest,
 
          "Is he who in his arms held Holy Church —
          He came from Tours — and he by fasting purges
          The eels of Bolsena and Vernaccia’s wine."
 
25       He named me many others, one by one,
          And at their naming all appeared content,
          So that at this I saw not one black look.
 
          I saw — hungrily biting their teeth on air —
          Ubaldin da la Pila and Boniface
30       Who shepherded many people with his staff.
 
          I saw Messer Marchese, who once enjoyed
          Leisure to drink at Forlė with less thirst,
          And yet he never could feel satisfied.
 
          But as a man who looks and prizes one
35       More than another, so I marked him from Lucca
          Who seemed to want to know the most about me.
 
          He murmured, and I heard something like "Gentucca"
          Come from his lips where he could feel the pang
          Of justice which so strips them of their flesh.
 
40       "O soul," I answered, "you seem so desirous
          To speak with me, do so that I may hear you,
          For by your speech you satisfy us both."
 
          "A woman is born and wears no veil as yet,"
          He then began, "who’ll make my city please you,
45       No matter how men may find fault with it.
 
          "You shall stride forward with this prophecy:
          Should you have misconstrued my murmuring,
Events to come will make things clear to you.
          "But tell me if I see before me here
50       The one who framed the new rhymes which begin:
          ‘Ladies who have intelligence of love.’ "
 
          And I told him, "I am one who, when Love
          Inspires me, takes note, and in the manner
          That he dictates to me, I set it down."
 
55       "O brother, now I see," he said, "the knot
          That held the Notary, Guittone, and me
          Short of the sweet new style which I am hearing.
 
          "I clearly note how your pens follow closely
          After the one who dictates to your hearts,
60       Which surely did not happen with our pens;
 
          "And anyone who thinks to probe more deeply
          Will find no further difference between styles."
          And, seemingly contented, he grew still.
 
          Just as the birds that winter by the Nile
65       Sometimes form a dense flock in the air,
          Then fly on faster and line up in a file,
 
          So all the people who were there, turning
          Away their faces, sped up their pace once more,
          Made lighter by their leanness and desire.
 
70       And as a man who is worn out with running
          Lets his companions pull ahead, and walks
          Until the panting in his chest has eased,
 
          So Forese then let that holy flock
          Pass by and fell behind with me, to ask,
75       "When shall it be that I’ll see you again?"
 
          "I do not know how long I’ll live," I answered,
          "But my return here cannot be so swift
          But that my heart shall come to this shore sooner,
 
          "Because the place where I was put to live
80       Is stripped of goodness more from day to day
          And seems to doom itself to dismal ruin."
 
          "Be calm," he said, "for I can see the man
          Who’s most to blame dragged off by a beast’s tail
          Down toward the valley of the unforgiven.
 
85       "The beast with every stride runs on faster,
          Always picking up speed until it strikes him
          And leaves his body hideously disfigured.
 
          "Those wheels," (he turned his eyes up to the skies)
          "Have not long to revolve before you see
90       Clearly what my speech cannot tell plainly.
 
          "Now you stay back, for time is precious here
          In this kingdom, and I lose too much time
          By walking with you this way at your pace."
 
          Just as a horseman sometimes bolts ahead
95       At a gallop from a troop that’s riding
          And runs to win the honor of first combat,
 
          So he left us behind with longer strides,
          And I remained on my road with those two
          Who were such mighty marshals in the world.
 
100     And when he’d sped so far in front of us
          That my eyes followed in pursuit of him,
          Even as my mind pursued what he had said,
 
          The branches of another tree appeared
          To me not far away, fruitful and green,
105     For I had only then turned round the corner.
 
          Beneath the tree I saw people lift their hands
          And cry I know not what up toward the leaves
          Like foolish and obstreperous small children
 
          Who beg, while he they beg from answers nothing,
110     But, to make their hankering the keener,
          Holds what they crave aloft and will not hide it.
 
          Then they drew off as if they now knew better,
          And straightway we arrived at the huge tree
          Which turns aside so many prayers and tears.
 
115     "Pass on ahead: do not come any nearer.
          The tree from which Eve ate is higher up,
          And from its stock this tree was cultivated."
 
          I know not who spoke this among the branches;
          And so, Virgil, Statius, and I, drawn close,
120     Journeyed along the side where the cliff rises.
 
          "Remember," the voice said, "those wretched creatures,
          Born of a cloud, who, when they drank their fill,
          Fought Theseus with their horse-and-human chests;
 
          "And those Hebrews who showed their haste in drinking
125     So that Gideon refused them as his comrades
          When he came down the hills to Midian."
 
          So, huddling tight to one side of the path,
          We passed, hearing the sins of gluttony,
          Followed by its miserable rewards.
 
130     Then, with more room along the lonely road,
          A thousand steps and more had borne us onward,
          Each of us lost in wordless meditation.
 
          "Why do you three walk here in thought, alone?"
          A sudden voice called out. At that I started,
135     Just like a frightened, timid animal.
 
          I raised my head to see who it might be,
          And never in a furnace was there seen
          Glass or metal so glowing and so red
 
          As one I saw who said, "Should it please you
140     To mount on high, here must you make the turn:
          All those who seek for peace pass through this way."
 
          His countenance had robbed me of my sight,
          So that I turned and followed my two teachers
          Like one who makes his way by listening.
 
145      And as, in harbingering the dawn of day,
          The May breeze stirs and freshens with its fragrance,
          All teeming-full of flowers and the grass,
 
          So I felt the wind grazing my forehead
          And clearly felt the flutter of his wing
150     Which made me sense the aroma and ambrosia.
 
          And I heard uttered: "Blessed are they whom grace
          Enlightens so, the love of taste enkindles
          No overindulgent longings in their breasts,
 
          "Hungering always only after justice!"
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