Poems of Correspondence

Dante a Messer Betto Brunelleschi
Messer Brunetto, questa pulzelletta
con esso voi si ven la pasqua a fare:
non intendete pasqua di mangiare,
ch’ella non mangia, anzi vuol esser letta.
La sua sentenzia non richiede fretta,           5
né luogo di romor né da giullare;
anzi si vuol più volte lusingare
prima che ‘n intelletto altrui si metta.
Se voi non la intendete in questa guisa,
in vostra gente ha molti frati Alberti             10
da intender ciò ch’è posto loro in mano.
Con lor vi restringete sanza risa;
e se li altri de’ dubbi non son certi,
ricorrete a la fine a messer Giano.
Dante to Messer Betto Brunelleschi
Messer Brunetto, this young lady’s glad
to come and spend the Easter there with you—
oh, not an Easter at your table set,
for one eats not, who cares but to be read.
Her sentences are easy on your thought,          5
and shun the place of noisy troubadours;
in fact, herself she flatters more than not
before someone’s opinion she endures.
If you refuse to take her as she is,
many a Brother Albert in your midst                 10
will understand what’s placed now in his hand.
Stay without laughing with such people, and,
if they themselves have doubts about all this,
to Messer Giano’s home go in the end.


Messer Brunetto, this young lady’s glad / (Messer Brunetto, questa pulzelletta)

The historical identity of this Betto Brunelleschi is hard to establish. Contini opts for one Brunetto Brunelleschi who slew one Pazzino de’ Pazzi as mentioned in Dino Compagni’s Cronica (II,xxvi), a violent man of the Black faction.

2-3. “Easter,” meant a religious feast in general. “Pasqua di mangiare,” here translated as “Easter at your table set,” meant Easter of Resurrection. Dante is poking irony at Betto and his companions as bon vivants and lacking in intelligence.

“A Brother Albert,” means a good interpreter, derived from Albert the Great who was an excellent interpreter of Scriptures and Aristotle.“Messer Giano” probably alludes to Vieri di Torrigiano de’ Cerchi, but some held that this was Jean de Meung, the author of the second part of the Roman de la Rose. Both names, frate Alberto and messer Giano, are used ironically as if to say: if you do not understand, go ask these masters.

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