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Dante; a dramatic poem online

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sweeps,
Broad'ning Its lordly course to open sea.
The Nerl, BlanchI, Guelph and Ghlbelllne
May Influence some towns, but they should

merge
Into one mighty stream of thought and act,
One grand, harmonious whole, one Italy,
Bearing Its wealth. Its might, In glorious

trumph

* Persons excommunicated were buried with extin-
guished and inverted torches.



128 Dante Act III

To the great tossing ocean of the world.
If we would earn proud line In history,
We must attempt the greatest conquest

known —
The conquest of ourselves. We come — to-
day —
Devising how we best can peace secure,
For Florence, now with discord rent.

{^Draws out a paper.^
And I with my colleagues this paper bring
Here to be signed : an ordinance by which
The inciters of these party feuds be banished,
As baleful to the welfare of this town.

CORSO.

Banished? And who dares banish us?
Dante.

Thy speech

Betrays thine own perception of the wrong

Thou hast done Florence.
Dal Colle.

We can no more lay claim to our own souls,

If one man's breath blows us without these
walls.
A Citizen.

What say the Priors?
CORSO.

Ay, let them speak.



Act III Dante 129

A Prior.

As spokesman for the rest, I do attest
That we agree with Dante's reasoning.
My name shall witness this.
[He signs. 'I
Other Priors.

And mine.
[Signs,]

And mine.
[Signs,]
First Prior.

And thus we hope to lessen future bloodshed.
Dal Colle.

Whose name stands written on that fateful
list?

CORSO.

The Florentines should best decide who'll

drink
From foreign wells — who'll eat an exile's

bread.
Dante.
The matter Is decided by the people.

CORSO.

Then needs no tremor shake these legs of

mine ;
The people's choice, the soldiers' friend, the
man



130 Dante Act III

Who risked his head on Campaldino's plain
For our town's sake, needs be her trusty
friend.
Soldiers.

Ay, ay, thou art our friend. Long live the
Baron !
GuiDO.

[PFho has been talking zvith his men.']
Then long live strife, deceits and lying words.
CORSO.

Thou rascal!
Dante.

Your quarrel end without these walls.
CORSO.

What— I?

GUIDO.

I, Dante?
Dante.

Both of ye must hence.
A Citizen.

What ! Dante's friend share fate of Dante's
foe?
GUIDO.

And thus does Dante prove his love for
friends.
Dante.

Before the Paradise of friendship stands



Act III Dante 131

An angel with a mighty flaming sword,
And ' Duty/ ' Justice/ are his warning words.
Ere heart of mine can give one beat for thee,
It needs must throb an hundred times for

Florence.
Yet — O, my Guido, if thou couldst but know
How much my heart doth daily throb for

thee,
*Twould ease thy pain at turning face from
home.
Guido.

Prate of thy love when thy acts prove that
love.
Dante.

Necessity, not malice, prompts my acts;
A mightier will than ours controls this day.
'Tis Florence speaks, beseeching peace!
'Tis Florence speaks, and In that name de-
part!
CoRSO. [Fiercely.']

Not I! The lily-livered poet may.
Let Guido carol loveless odes beyond
Our gates; but I remain. Fm planted here
To stay by people^s will —

[Murmurs among the crowd.]
Ay, let them speak!



132 Dante Act III

People.
We want the baron! Long days to Corsol
We need Donati ! Never banish him !
GuiDO. {To the people,']

Behold your hero's work! A stab in the
back!
[GuiDO, aided by retainers, pushes aside
the crowd that concealed Marco's body
from view.]
CORSO.

At times, perforce, justice must stain our
hands.
GuiDO.

Say ' hate ' 'stead ' justice,' as nearer to the

truth,
If truth can lodge near thee.
Dante. [Seeing corpse for the first time,"]
O, Marco murdered!
[The murmuring crowd changes and now
threatens CoRSO.]
A Prior.

There lies an honest man; true friend to
Florence I
A Citizen.

The poor throughout the town will miss his
dole.



Act III Dante 133

Second Citizen.

Ay, banish the man who murdered Marco.
Street Cries.

Banish him! Banish Corsol

Let the Priori banish him !
Dante. {Conquering his emotion.']

[ToCORSO.]

Proud man-, we only banish thee from home.
Beware thy sins exile thee not from Heaven !

CORSO.

I fear not Heaven, nor hell, nor Church, nor
devil !
And that I

[Snapping his fingers.']

For thy short-lived authority!
Dante.

To kennel, cur! There gnaw thy rotten

bones;
Leave men alone.. A thing like thee knows

not
The love of home. And all thy country's

woes
Are less to thee than battling ants in sand.
Thou only feelst what touches thy thick hide.
*Justice and Mercy scorn to notice thee,
*And men but throw a glance at thee and
pass.

*Dwina Comedia.



134 Dante Act III

[Guards seize CoRSO.]
\^A Monk, with crucifix held aloft, comes
out of the Church, Two ladies support-
ing Beatrice follow. They pause and
Beatrice sinks to the ground between
them, GiovANNA joins them, Falco
and Dante rush to her side.]
Dante.

Speak, Vanna, is Bice — nay ! nay ! be silent,
Lest with thy words my heartstrings snap In
twain !
Falco.
O Beatrice, my fairest flower!

[He bows his head weeping at her feet.]
Giovanna.

Ay, weep, Falco, weep, for nevermore shall

we
Be gladdened by sweet Bice's voice on earth.
Dante. [Who has been gazing at Beatrice
as though dazed.]
Beatrice — Madonna — Beloved !

[He kneels beside her and tries to put his
arms around her,]
Giovanna.

Stay, stay ! Intrude not on a father's rights.
Dante. [Wildly.]

Away ! there are no rights as strong as love's.



Act III Dante 135

She Is but mine, still mine — though dying,
mine.
GlOVANNA.
Yet thine no more, unless thou'lt claim the
dead.
Dante.

Dead! My Beatrice dead! My soul es-
caped from me
While still I live !
[He kisses Beatrice.]
Dead! Beatrice!
[He swoons.']

Curtain



ACT IV: Scene L

Entrance to a cemetery near Florence, Enter
a hand of Pilgrims, chanting. They escort
Francesca and Dante*s daughter, Bice, who
are also in Pilgrim garb. The scene is in fad-
ing twilight,

Francesca.

Beneath these sombre pines, my Bice, rest;
Thy will o'erleaps thy strength, and far our
goal.
Bice.

Though twice as far and high before me rose
Range upon range of purple hills beyond
That must be scaled ere Dante could be

reached,
And every step left crimson stain behind;
rd gladly on, all toll as naught to me.
When It win bring me to my father's side.
Francesca.

And all my steps are weighted with the

thought
Of mine. I am unfathered by grim deeds,
Unsexed by treason, treachery and lies.
Dal Colle's dead, with all his guilt upon him,
136



Scene I Dante



137



Without a moment spared for prayer, struck

down
Amidst the riot fostered by his friends —
Bice. [Crossing herself.']
Pray for his soul,

Forgotten be his sins. He was thy father.
Francesca.
And Marco, slain before his eyes lies there.

[Indicating cemetery.']
The moment that we tarry here, I'll kneel
Beside my Marco's grave.
A Pilgrim.

Madonna Cesca,
Stay not too long, for night is falling fast.
[Francesca and Bice enter the cemetery. '\
Second Pilgrim.

Alas, that Dante's daughter
Should find these times too perilous for home !
[Enter two Travellers.]
First Traveller.

Greetings, good pilgrims! Whither are ye
bound?
First Pilgrim.

Away from here, to other stranger shrines.
Second Traveller.

We hasten to renew our love for Florence;



138 Dante Act IV

For twelve long months we loitered In far

Spain,
And now return to greet old friends again.
Second Pilgrim.

May Heaven grant you find your friends
alive !
First Traveller.
What mean ye? Has plague swept o'er the
city?
Second Pilgrim.

A plague of ruffians, ruthless in their crimes.
First Traveller.

Our Priors — what do they?
Second Pilgrim.

Alas, the Priors
Were driven forth when Corso ventured

back!
His speech Inflamed the soldiers, caught the

people.
Red riot ruled for days. A council then
Was held, and Bianchi banished — Dante
first!
First Traveller.

Dante! Durante Allighieri banished!
First Pilgrim.
O, fortune has not smiled of late on Flor-
ence;



Scene I Dante 139

The city's rife with strife. Sedition breeds

In every court. Peace-loving citizens

Must leave. Their only safety lies In flight.

First Traveller.
This news to us bears tragic import, father.

Second Pilgrim.

My sons, betake ye to another town
Until these feuds have spent themselves In
blood.

Second Traveller.

To stand almost upon the threshold of
Our homes and then turn back!

First Traveller.

Better than death!

First Pilgrim.
Or torture ! Corso spares nor young nor old
Of those who favor Dante !

Second Traveller.
We are loyal
And could not turn his enemies. Alas,
That Florence so repays the debt she owes
Her greatest man!

First Traveller.

We will not wander far.
But in some village bide till we can send



140 Dante Act IV

Some message unto friends. Farewell, good

father,
We crave thy blessing.
Second Pilgrim.

May the Lord protect
Your journeylngs. Farewell.
[Exeunt Travellers.]
First Pilgrim.

We may encounter
More travellers to turn back upon the road.
A Young Pilgrim.

Is Rome to be our goal? Is Boniface
The Bianchrs friend? Solve me this riddle

now;
Are we lost flies In priestly web,
Or are we little spiders to be gorged
On sacred Fly's domain ?
An Old Pilgrim.

I love not jests.
Pm but a pilgrim, not a politician.
To lapse into such idle sophistries.

First Pilgrim.

Those well-fed Politicians — woe to them I
A starving ass is fairer sight to me;
For, at his worst, the beast Is but an ass.
While politician oft is ass and devil.



Scene 7 Dante



141



Second Pilgrim.

We are too near the blackened ruins of pal-
aces.
Dino, vile Corso's tool, doth spy abroad.
Fagot and steel may lurk In every shadow.
We must be gone!

[Re-enter Francesca and BiCE.]
So gentle ladles, come I
Francesca.

Ay, let us go. Farewell, thou fatal Flor-
ence!
Bice.

Farewell, O beauteous Florence that Dante

bore
And yet rejects him from her breast at last.
[Pilgrims pass out, chanting softly,]
[Enter Uberto and Antonio, in monks'
robes, carrying a bundle. They are fol-
lowed by several young Noblemen.]
Uberto.

Here dwell at least some peaceful Floren-
tines,
Who seek no fight since last with death they

strove.
Here, side by side, they lie untroubled now.
Though once they hotly clashed their hands
to thighs,



142 Dante Act IV

And wrote with sword red answer to a scoff.
The traitor years too swiftly steal our

strength,
And leave us barely time with trembling lips
To say Amen to lifers short prayer.
A Youth.

Uberto,
Why hast thou brought us to the Campo

Santo?
Why were we told to meet in council here?
Uberto.

I fain to-night would see my friends once

more,
Ere parting from my home.
Youth.

Is this farewell?
Uberto.

Lest evil days o'ertake two gentle pilgrims
I follow in the friar's wake ; until
Their Mecca's reached, I'll guard the wan-
derings
Of Cesca and Beatrice my liege lady.
A lustrous sorrow crowns her loveliness.
Betrayed by Boniface, betrayed by Florence,
Her father roams a weary wanderer,
Well nigh a beggar, through most parts
where one



Scene I Dante 143

Melodious tongue is heard. Still proud and

brave
He challenges misfortune and bears its

wounds ;
Is driven by blasting breath of poverty
To divers ports — a barque sans sails, sans

rudder.
I go to join our Dante. Will ye come?
Antonio.

I follow thee. My sword is thine till death.
Uberto. [To the others.]

What, none but we to join the banished

Dante?
Has he then spent his years in vain for you?
Did he not sing to move your sluggish souls,
Teaching the higher life for dally needs?
'A Noble.

And singing of Spring and happy lovers, aye

Dante
Was erstwhile yclept the baker^s happy poet.
So friendly was he with the lower herd.
Uberto.

For shame to carp at foibles of the great,

Be imitator rather of his virtues.

And draw his shining robe o*er travel

stains,
He won in marching on to victory.



144 Dante Act IV

\_He draws his sword and holds it up.'\
Here solemnly I consecrate my life
To highest knighthood, true to Dante's

creed ;
To be defender of all woman's honor,
To succor weak and helpless, lead chaste life.
Be true to friend and just to enemy.
Fight for home, for Mother, Church and

Florence,
For unity in all loved Italy.
A Noble.

Uberto, thou art right; I'll follow thee.
Several.

I pledge to follow where our Dante leads.
Uberto.

Then cloak thine armor with these friar's

robes
To mingle with the pilgrim throng anon.
[Uberto and Antonio open the bundle;
they take out Monk^s robes. These are
put on the young men.]
A Youth.

By the Holy Rood, I love adventure!
Another Youth.

And I a just revenge on some must take.
Uberto.

Forget thy private wrongs, forego thy hate,



Scene I Dante 145^



Till with one voice we Florentines can cry
Shouting defiance at all foreign rats
Who gnaw Into the stronghold of our rights.
For love of justice, not for sport we fight;
As free men swear ye all to follow me,
Pure, loyal knights vowed to a noble life.

The Young Nobles.

By the three Kings we swear It, we swear It !

Uberto.

Hush, I hear a step.

[ They conceal themselves. It grows dark.
Enter CoRso, Donati and Three Fol-
lowers.]

CORSO.

Art sure Uberto came this way to-night?
A Follower.

He left the city with a friend but now,

And DIno said the. Campo Santo was

Their trysting place.
CoRsd.

Ay, DIno serves me well

As fox to watch this hunted lion's whelp.

The price he asks is Beatrice's hand.

Gemma, In safety housed, demands but peace;

Uberto rears his youthful crest and crows

Defiance to my will — this arrogance



ii6 Dante Act IV

Shall be stamped out, tho' Bice whines for

him.
But like a shell I'll grind him with my heel,
Ashes and axe and flood, for all damned

BlanchI
My hand can reach — Uberto falls the first.

[To a Follower.]
Guard well that gate, lest he pass unawares.

envious night, that hides my destined prey
Still from my itching blade. The cursed

fool!
[Follower crosses to gate.]
Not till my foot rests on his lying throat
Can my hot thirsting for revenge be sated.

Uberto. [Aside.]

1 know 'tis Corso mutters, so beware I
A skulking figure glided to the gate ;

We are surrounded. Courage, friends, unite.
And strike a blow to-night for liberty.

[Aloud.]
Are strangers here?

[Uberto advances,]

Corso.

The cub comes to his doom.

Uberto.
A voice of friend or foe ?



Scene I Dante



147



CORSO.

Be that thy answer.

[CoRSO strikes at Uberto.]
[To his men.]
Ho, fellows; scatter wide these praying saints.
Uberto. [Fighting.]

Each pilgrim's rosary to-night is steel.

[The Young Men throw back their hoods
and rush to the attack, Uberto wounds
CoRSO, and a companion runs him
through. Fight barely discernible in the
dark.]
CoRSO.

O, death to reach me through a boy — a boy I
[He dies.]

[CoRSo's Men jiee.]
Uberto.

To thee our thanks to-night, most gracious
Lord!
\^All stand with bowed heads bared.]
Now, onward, friends, and be our watchword
' Dante;
All.
Ay, Dante I Dante! Dante I

Curtain



ACT IV: Scene II

Ducal Palace at Verona, A large entrance
hall; on one side steps lead out into the dusk
of the Garden; on the right is an alcove with
heavy tapestries, looped hack; in the alcove is
a wide casement with a deep window seat. Ink
horn and script lie on the latter. In the rear
is a door leading to the street.

The curtain rises on a group of pages sitting
on the steps to the alcove with hawks fettered.

Enter Jester and Giotto.
First Page.

My hawk much faster flies than thine; his

eyes
Shine like the jewel In the Ducal ring.
Second Page.

Mine faster flies — thou knowest It — mark

this;
How strong his wing; how sharp his beak.
First Page.

Like Dante's.
[They laugh,']
Jester.

Stealing my jokes? Hatch thine own eggs,
Cuckoo.

148



Scene II Dante 149

First Page.

Nay, not thy jokes. They're stale as last

year's fish.
Who cracks thy nuts of wit, finds dust within.

[Jester tumbles the Page over,']

Jester.

There, lick the dust, thou most rampageous
urchin.

Second Page. [To Giotto.']

As friend of Dante, urge him smooth his

scowls.
The Prince 111 brooks the poet's moodiness.

Giotto.

Those scowls are born of base ingratitude,
And triple crown of pain ; Beatrice's death,
The failure of an embassy — then exile —

Second Page.
The. first was eased by Dante wedding
Gemma.

Giotto.

Her brother's Infamy gave her to Dante,
His heart Is In the grave of Beatrice,
Though wife and babes and friends claimed

e'er his love,
-When- Dante first found haven In these walls,



150 Dante Act IV

*Each wish was granted ere he asked, but

now
Can Grande treats him oft less courteously.
Page.

The Princess wife may answer for such sin.
Giotto. [Cautiously S\

Her Highness Is both wondrous, wise and
fair.
Page. [Laughing.']

And comprehends thy keen diplomacy.

[Jester approaches Giotto with a low
how.]
Jester.

Ho I High Day to thee I
Thou puissant father of fat ciphers, hall I
Hall to paternity of nothings I
Giotto.

Lies I
Jester.

Nay, truths, proud painter; didst not make

thee great
**WIth one round O? With cipher, zero,

naught
'Conceive It, fashion it and bring It forth ?

* Divina Comedia.
**Vide Appendix.



Scene II Dante 151

Shall not posterity swear by thine O?

[Singing.']
Sing ho!
Giotto's O
Brought fame
To his name.
Giotto.

Madonnas meek and holy children may

[Crosses himself.]
Keep Giotto's name alive some centuries;
And may they, too, his body keep alive;
We artists need to live like other folk.
Jester.

We jesters need to live like other folk.
If brush and chisel warm and feed thee, jokes
Are food and fuel for me. So room for the
fool!
[He turns away and dances a few steps to-
ward the Pages.]
First Page.

'Tis time to feed the hawks, come Beppo,
come.
Jester.
Ay, feed these majesties who rule this Court.
[Exit, with Pages laughing.]
Giotto.

How all this royal roystering



152 Dante ActlV^

Discordant falls upon one poet's ear —
Can Grande has too diverse aims to-day,
This statesman skilled and soldier bold, doth

stretch
Domains throughout the north, and holds

the trust
Of Vicar-General ; yet with friends he lays
His rank aside and wastes whole days In pleas-
ure,
His love of learning shared with love of
hawks.

[Giotto seats himself and reads.]
[Enter Dante slowly.]

Dante.

Most bitter are the tears that dew the bread
Of beggary, spoiling each savory dish
That's doled in charity, arousing thirst
For satiate waters of sweet liberty.

[Pause.]
Ah, had I Midas' touch to turn these trees
To glistening gold, I'd hew them limb from

limb,
And send them swift into the niggard hands
That ope so slowly to remove my wants.
They'd clasp these fast and firm, flinging as
fuel



Scene II Dante 153

The golden boughs upon their household

hearths,
Feeding their fire of wanton luxuries
With my hard gilded thanks.

Down, down, thou dream
To thy dominion, shared with silent sleep.
What am I now to prate of gold? A stone
That reckless rolls adown the hill of life;
A feather tossed on winds of charity;
A broken straw, scarce crediting the truth
That once its stalk upheld rich golden grain.
And proudly planted root in native soil.
Gaunt visaged poverty, dull-eyed, lean-
limbed.
With shriveled skin, o'erlapping sunken

paunch,
And ribs like ridges in a ploughed field—
Thou fearful spectre shadowing my steps.
Where shall I turn to flee thy dread embrace?
The laboring hind who delves his plot of

earth
Scarce heeds the spectral shade o'er threshold

thrown,
Save when crops fail and sickness steals his

hoard
Of hard-earned ducats, and at throat he feels



154 Dante Act IV

The tightening grip of want's cold hand and

wakes
Dreading the dawn will bring this ghost his

guest.
But foes, familiar, seem at length half

friends;
Old griefs in some lives grow to daily needs.
Mixed with his crop of fears, a tender hope
Buds slowly with a promise of fresh joy.
And whispers Fortune's smiles may sun him

out
Of hurnble home into a larger sphere;
But hath no pangs for proud prosperity
He once enjoyed. He neither feels nor

knows
The anguish of regret o'er glory gone.
Eating my vitals like the Spartan fox.
My glutton grief still clamors for fresh food.

O Beatrice! Only thy pure soul

Can soothe my restless spirit's agony.

One thought of thee drives sin and sorrow

far.
As morning sun dispels the summer mist.
Out of my endless grief, a monument
Shall rise, bearing thy name, to honor thee,
Such as no woman ever had before.



Scene II Dante 155

And none shall ever know again on earth.

[He stands absorbed in thought.^

Giotto.

[Shuts his book, rises and crosses to
Dante.]

Still meditating on thy poem, Dante?

How deep are thy thoughts digging into hell ?
Dante.

The hell I rhyme Is here. This earth affords

The stuff from which one can create all hells.
Giotto.

Poor earth — the scape-goat of the preachers !
Dante.

ThouVt right. The fault Is less the world's
than man's.

Mark Florence, how she weeps as slave, when
she

Might reign as Queen — through evils crushed
to earth,

Poisoned by vice ; the asp hid in her breasi:.
Giotto.

Hard words from townsman, Prior and Am-
bassador.
Dante.

Erst all these things; but now a wanderer,



1^6 Dante Act IV

Bereft of children, wife and lands. Hast
thou

Forgot that I am banished, Giotto— Ban-
ished !

Dost thou not know the meaning of that
word ?

To live forever out of sight and sound

Of all we love; to bear a felon's curse;

To tread all paths save one that leads to
home;

To live and die unloved, misjudged, un-
blessed !

[Dante pauses.']

And have the children babble on the street
That Dante stole, as Prior, public funds !
Giotto.

That's the worst crime they could have forged
on thee.
Dante.

What matters how the blow falls, so It comes?
All sharpened swords behead, though one

from Rome
And one from Syria date — ^we die the same.
Ay, theft and murder or arson let them

charge,
And rape and sacrilege — so I am banished,



Scene II Dante 157

What matters It by what foul means 'tis

done?
Though at the reckoning It may later count.

Giotto.

We need thee, Dante. Since thy exile, Flor-
ence
Is rife with knavery. Men, callous grown,
Are flaunting out their sins In public high-
ways,
As lousy beggar grins In sun-warmed rags.
And loathsome lepers count their hideous

sores.
Thy banishment was due to treachery.

Dante.

When wily Corso gained the PontIff*s ear
It was BlanchI who sent me to Rome,
Trusting that poet's wit and eloquence
Could win the Holy Father's sympathy
And favorable hearing for our cause.
But Corso lingered, embassy being o'er;
As midwife marks with silken skein the wrist
Of elder twin lest he lose heritage.
So marked he well with sacred cord of Rome;
His love of power that twined It with his

feint
At patriotic zeal. He prayed aloud;



158 Dante Act IV

* ' When the Vale was sending to the Seven

Hills
Fresh fuel from the Forest to the Altar,
Each stick of wood be an Isaac meekly bound,
For sacrifice, as savory offering
Unto the God of Justice'; but the Pope
Suggested that in the Pontlfic thicket
A ram might now be caught, a cause evolved
To rivet rival factions' feuds, creating
A stopgap for the leakage of his power.

Giotto.

By one weak act of clemency we saw
Our gold in stranger hands, our houses razed.
The Priors driven forth and Florence fired.
May the Lord out of our future Paradise
Keep Corso.

Dante.

Fear not, he's pledged to Hell already.
Giotto, our enemies may laugh and gloat
Over the blackened ruins of our homes
And lord it grimly o'er our lands; yet free
Beyond the traitors' grasp my kingdom lies.

\_Touching his manuscript.']
To-day we weep the lost; to-morrow men
Forget we lived. Peace to our ashes then.

*Vide Appendix.



Scene II Dante 159

The vast tribunal of uncounted dead

Dusts dancing feet of wantons; but fresh, full

life
Makes men forget all trace of past. My

name
May live —
Giotto.

Forever, Dante I
Dante.

Ay,
Perchance as poet, that one reads in shade
To carefully replace on silent shelf.
For moths to flirt with and the dust caress.
As man, with heart to bleed, who'll think of

me?
A shade 'mid shadows are we at our best
Living or dead but shadows in the sun I
Giotto.

Thy shadow lengthens o'er all Italy!
Bethink thee, friend, thou must exert thy

power
And sway the masses from thine exile roost.
Dante.

How win a waiting crowd afar be moved
When men beside me fail to mark my words ?


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