Dispute with Forese Donati - I

Dante a Forese Donati
Chi udisse tossir la malfatata
moglie di Bicci vocato Forese,
otrebbe dir ch’ell’ha forse vernata
ove si fa ‘l cristallo, in quel paese.
 
Di mezzo agosto la truove infreddata:          5
or sappi che de’ far d’ogni altro mese...;
e non le val perché dorma calzata,
merzé del copertoio c’ha cortonese.
 
La tosse, ‘l freddo e l’altra mala voglia
non l’addovien per omor ch’abbia vecchi,     10
ma per difetto ch’ella sente al nido.
 
Piange la madre, c’ha più d’una doglia,
dicendo: “Lassa, che per fichi secchi
messa l’avre’ ‘n casa del conte Guido!”
 
Forese a Dante
 
L’altra notte mi venne una gran tosse,
perch’i’ non avea che tener a dosso;
ma incontanente che fu di’, fui mosso
per gir a guadagnar ove che fosse.
 
Udite la fortuna ove m’addosse:                   5
ch’i’ credetti trovar perle in un bosso
e be’ fiorin coniati d’oro rosso;
ed i’ trovai Alaghier tra le fosse,
 
legato a nodo ch’i’ non saccio il nome,
se fu di Salamone o d’altro saggio.             10
Allora mi segna’ verso ‘l levante:
 
e que’ mi disse: “Per amor di Dante,
scio’mi”. Ed i’ non potti veder come:
tornai a dietro, e compie’ mi’ vïaggio.
 
Dante to Forese
Who heard her cough—that poor, ill-fated wife
of Bicci, as Forese known to us,
he’d surely say she maybe spent the winter
up in the northern town where crystal’s made.
 
You catch her, in mid-August, with a cold:                  5
so you can guess the other months, alas!
In vain, when sleeping, she still wears her socks,
having no blanket on, or one too short.
 
Her cough, her cold, and all her other fears
are not because she is advanced in years                  10
but only for some lack inside her nest.
 
Weeping for many a reason, her poor mother
says, “If she were Count Guido’s maid, and earned
a few dry figs, it would be so much better.”
 
Forese to Dante
 
The other night I had a coughing spell,
for there I was, with nothing I could wear;
but, as the new day dawned, I then and there
went out to look for work, where’er it be.
 
Now hear what fortune had in store for me:                 5
I thought I had found pearls inside a ditch
or lustrous florins coined in russet gold;
instead one Dante amid graves I saw.
 
I saw him bound with a mysterious knot—
the deed of Solomon or some old sage.                     10
I crossed myself while facing toward the east;
 
but, “Please, for Dante’s sake.” I heard him say,
“Untie me!” but as I could not see how,
I turned around and simply walked away.

Notes:

Dispute with Forese Donati
 
Who heard her cough—that poor, ill-fated wife Forese to Dante / (Chi udisse tossir la mal fatata
The other night I had a coughing spell / (L’altra notte mi venne una gran tosse
 
Forese Donati died in 1296. These sonnets of vituperation and abuse were exchanged between 1293 and 1296. Forese’s brother Corso Donati was the head of the Black faction in Florence responsible for his own sister’s abduction from a convent (Paradiso 4) and many evil deeds against the White faction, while he was leader of the Blacks (Purgatorio 24). Forese, married to Nella, was a close friend of Dante as can be seen in their encounter in Purgatorio 23-24. They may have broken off their friendship for a while as these sonnets exemplify. They are written in the typical Florentine slang, speech and humor. In the first sonnet Dante alludes to Forese’s lack of marital performance both sexually and in terms of wealth. In their encounter in Purgatorio 23, Dante, however, makes amends by speaking most tenderly of Nella. 
 
Forese replies (L’altra notte mi venne una gran tosse) admitting that he is poor, but strikes back by alluding to Alighiero Secondo, Dante’s own father, who was a money lender. He also accuses him of not having made some restitution or of not having been avenged by his son, Dante himself. This is the probable explanation of Forese’s “mysterious knot” of Solomon. For the first see the episode of Geri del Bello in Inferno 23.

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